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My Child Is a Picky Eater

Dealing With Feeding Disorders in Children

Eating together is a very important opportunity for communication within the family. It is always a good chance to show children love and care and to find out about their likes and dislikes. But to some parents, it’s too much of a hassle.

As an oro-motor consultant, I often receive complaints like, “my daughter starts to cry at every mealtime,” or “my son has never touched meat or chicken.”

Most of the time, parents don’t take it seriously and see it as if their children are merely asking for more attention. While in some cases this might be the case, sometimes those children might really be having some form of feeding disorder.

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A feeding disorder in infancy or early childhood is defined as the failure of a young child to gain weight over time, not because of a medical condition, but because he or she does not take in the proper amount of nutrients.

Feeding disorders include problems with sucking, chewing, or swallowing food. Some of the causes include:

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  • Premature neonates who are tube-fed for a long time
  • Difficulty with the movement of the mouth or the tongue (oro-motor disorders)
  • Children with sensory problems (for example, a child who does not like a specific texture of food)
  • An attempt to get more attention
  • Children with behavioral disorders

My Child Is a Picky EaterSigns and Symptoms of Feeding Disorders

  1. Showing difficulty with breast feeding or bottle feeding (he or she can’t efficiently hold the nipple while feeding)
  2. Showing difficulty in coordinating breathing with eating and drinking
  3. Being unable to chew hard food (3 years and above)
  4. Drooling excessively. Drooling is accepted till 2 years of age
  5. Taking too long to eat compared with children of the same age
  6. Showing stiffening of the body during eating
  7. Refusing different textures of food (for example, only pureed foods or crunchy cereals)
  8. Chewing food with an open mouth
  9. Frequent coughing, choking, or gagging during meals
  10. Frequent spitting up or even vomiting
  11. Crying when the mother starts to bring the food
  12. Sticking to a few types of food that are easy to eat

Diagnosis of feeding disorders is usually done after the child is carefully examined and excluding any medical condition that might be causing the disorder. Growth curve and head circumference are recorded in the process.

Laboratory results can also be taken into consideration although it is often normal in such cases.

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About Ghada Ibrahim
Ghada Ibrahim: has a master's degree in oro-motor problems and treatment of children with special needs. She works in Cairo University Hospital in the Speech and Language Department since 2000.