Feeding disorder of infancy or early childhood is when an infant or a child under 6 years old refuses to eat enough to be healthy. It is not due to a medical condition such as a stomach problem. As a result of feeding disorder, the infant or child fails to gain weight normally.
Children with this disorder who are not treated may get very sick and even die. Most children with this disorder who are treated do well and develop normally over time.
The exact cause of this disorder is not known. The risk is greater for children who are:
If symptoms last for at least a month, your child may have feeding disorder. Symptoms may include:
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Your child may have tests to check for other possible causes of symptoms, such as problems with the nervous system, stomach, or intestines.
If your child is an infant, a trained specialist, usually a nurse, will watch you feed your infant.
The first step is usually to increase the number of calories your child eats. This may be done with high-calorie formula or other special foods and liquids. It is important to make sure that your child gets all needed nutrients for healthy growth.
If symptoms are severe, your child may need to be treated in the hospital. Treatment usually involves a team approach. The team may include healthcare providers, a dietitian, a social worker, and a behavior specialist. Your child may need to be fed through an IV (a tube placed in a vein) or an NG tube (a tube placed through the nose into the stomach) until he or she can eat normally.
Changing when and how often your child is fed, the texture of foods, or the position of your child’s body while feeding may help. Do not try to force your child to eat or punish your child for not eating.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your child’s healthcare provider. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.