Having your child or baby not eat can be such a stressful and scary problem for a parent to face. Many parents don't know what to do, and use the "wait and see" approach. They often put off treatment in the hope that the baby or child will outgrow the eating problems.
Some children do outgrow these problems, while the majority continues to struggle with various feeding problems with or without tube placements.
Long periods of time with an untreated feeding disorder can make treatment more difficult.
As long as the feeding issue continues the child may be dealing with poor health as well as developmental delays, especially in the case of severe feeding problems.
There is help out there if you know where to look.
Avenues of treatment of an eating disorder include seeing an individual practitioner or going to a clinic that specializes in eating disorders in children and babies.
Medical professionals may be able to treat feeding / eating problems. They can diagnose medical issues such as reflux, aspiration, and other medical problems and may be able to resolve these medical issues. Physicians are also able to diagnose anatomical abnormalities.
Once these issues are resolved, some or all of the feeding issues may be eliminated. When physical problems are ruled out or resolved and feeding problems persist, feeding therapy may be the next step.
Feeding Clinics and What to Look For
There are feeding clinics across the country which can deal with some of these feeding issues. Some have better success rates than others.
Check Feeding Clinic Success Rate
If your child does suffer from a feeding problem, make sure to call several clinics and request information on clinic goals and how they compare to yours. Always make sure to ask what the success rate of the clinic is and how the success rate is calculated.
Find Out Which Techniques the Feeding Clinic Utilizes
Feeding Clinics use different combinations of approaches to feeding therapy within a team environment. Interdisciplinary Clinics may use medical doctors, speech therapists, occupational therapists, pediatric nutritionists / dieticians, social workers, physical therapists or psychologists to treat your child's feeding / eating disorder.
There are many theories and paradigms as to why children refuse to eat, which are employed by feeding clinics to treat food refusal. Sensory issues and genetic speculation seem to be some of the most commonly attributed reasons for children and babies not eating or drinking adequate portions of food or formula. Sensory issues stem from the field of occupational therapy, where as geneticists will tie in genetic abnormalities to eating behaviors.
There are many quasi-scientific theories of food refusal that are currently being used as models to diagnose and treat children who suffer from pediatric feeding disorders. They are generally easy to spot through careful examination of peer reviewed articles on the particular theory or paradigm that one wishes to try.
Snake oil has been around for centuries, and continues to plague the treatment of health related matters.
One should always thoroughly investigate the practitioner or group of practitioners to determine whether the orientation of the service provider is that of an empirically driven model or one that is more in the realm of quasi-science. It does take much research to determine such things.
Taking a practitioner's word at face value should never suffice.
Individual Feeding Specialists
There are also individual feeding therapists, such as occupational therapists, speech pathologists, and behavioral feeding specialists, who will work with your child's feeding issues on a routine basis.
Each discipline has a different philosophy, different feeding goals and different ways to get your child to eat.
Always research your feeding specialist. Make sure that your specialist is actually producing results that coincide with your goals, and that the goals are being met within the amount of time that you think is reasonable.
What to Look for in Feeding Therapy
A good therapist / feeding clinic (intensive feeding program) will achieve feeding goals in a matter of weeks or a few months. If it takes longer consider switching to another feeding clinic or therapist who can do the job in a timely manner. A competent feeding therapist / specialist will never suggest tube placement (unless the child is not safe to eat by mouth). A competent feeding therapist / specialist will always take care of the problem. Poor therapy can not only delay the proper intake of nutrition, but can also lead to a tube placement.
Time is not on your side if you have a child who is not eating or is on a feeding tube. Ineffective therapy can also make a situation, such as picky eating, worse. As long as kids are not eating, their global development may be delayed. Make sure to demand competence from anyone working with your child.