Many children with feeding issues have underlying disorders that may be difficult to diagnose. Although some are very obvious and will not be missed, others are hard to identify and require skilled experts to make a diagnosis.
Since feeding issues are often a symptom and not in itself the major issue, it is important to rule out any underlying disorders. Most healthy children do not have serious feeding problems although they may be picky eaters. It is important to realize picky eating is not the same as a feeding disorder. Although picky eaters may be thin and insist on eating certain things, most likely if their preferred foods weren't available he would eventually eat something else once he gets hungry enough.
This is the difference between children with feeding disorders and those who are just picky eaters. The child with a feeding disorder would probably starve himself if they foods he usually ate weren't available.
Common underlying disorders with feeding issues as a symptom include:
1. Reflux. Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) happens during or after a meal when stomach contents go back into a tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. Uncomplicated GER occurs often in healthy infants and usually is not something to be concerned with. Most infants with reflux are happy and healthy despite spitting up or vomiting often.
Spitting up usually peaks at around 4 months of age and most babies outgrow reflux by the time they are 1 year old. The problem comes in when your baby is not eating enough to gain adequate weight, has a persistent cough, or refuses to eat. Click on the link above for more information.
2. Delayed gastric emptying. If your child eats very small portions and refuses anything over a certain amount during each meal, she may have gastroparesis, which means her stomach takes longer to empty than it should. Click on the link above to learn more.
3. Constipation. This is a big problem in children with feeding issues many times once the child is no longer constipated they will want to eat. Getting the child on a regular bowel regimen is crucial to them eating, read the article for more information.
4. Failure to thrive. Failure to thrive is usually caused by the child not eating enough to gain weight and can also be a symptom of something more serious, but often goes hand in hand with feeding issues. Failure to thrive is defined as undernutrition and poor growth. This article is a must read for any parent of a child with a feeding issue.
5. Down Syndrome. Children with Down syndrome often have issues with feeding due to oral motor dysfunction and a predisposition to respiratory, cardiac and gastrointestinal problems.
6. Autism. Since children with autism are so sensory defensive, they usually prefer one texture or color food over another. Feeding issues are very common in this population.
7. Tube feeding. This is also usually a result of a feeding issue which caused failure to thrive, however if a child has an nasogastric tube it may irritate her and make oral feeding more difficult. This is a double edged sword and most of the time it is unavoidable, but tube feeds can make feeding problems worse.
8. Food allergies. Undiagnosed food allergies often contribute to feeding problems and make your child very uncomfortable. Although you may not see any overt symptoms of food allergy, when other options have been exhausted it is important to test for underlying food allergies.
Check this page often for new articles on additional underlying disorders that may include feeding issues.