A feeding disorder of infancy or early childhood is the failure of a young child to gain weight over time because he or she does not take in the proper amount of nutrients. However, no medical condition is causing the problem.
See also: Poor feeding in infants
Feeding disorders are diagnosed when the infant or young child appears malnourished and the problem is not caused by a medical condition (such as cleft palate, congenital heart disease, or long-term lung disease), or a disorder that causes mental retardation.
The cause of these disorders is often unknown, but they can result from a variety of factors such as poverty, dysfunctional child-caregiver interactions, or parental misinformation about appropriate diet to meet the child's needs.
The child will be evaluated for any medical illness that could cause or contribute to the problem. Evaluation of the growth curves for height, weight, and head circumference is important in any evaluation of feeding or weight problems.
Laboratory and imaging studies may be used to complete the medical workup but often are normal in children with growth problems.
Depending on the severity of the condition, the following measures may be taken:
A short period of hospitalization may be required to accomplish these goals.
There is no quick cure for the majority of infants and children with feeding disorders. Most feeding disorders are mild and self-limited. A multidisciplinary approach involving pediatricians, outreach nurses, dietitians, social workers, behavior specialists, and parents is needed to improve the child's well-being and nutritional status.
Childhood malnutrition can permanently stunt mental and physical development if it is severe and long-lasting. Early treatment can prevent such complications.
Call for an appointment with your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child's appetite, behavior, development, or growth.
Following recommended guidelines for nutrition can help ensure adequate caloric and fluid intake for an infant. Regular well-child visits to your pediatrician can help identify any feeding and growth problems early and can prevent permanent damage related to malnutrition.