Feeding disorder of infancy or early childhood is a disorder in which 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 and to get proper nutrition. He or she may lose enough weight to cause harm.
The cause of feeding disorder is unknown, but the disorder results in bonding problems between the child and the caregiver. There also can be problems with the child's sleep-wake patterns. Infants or children who do not get enough sleep may not have the energy to eat or interact. Problems with feeding may also be a symptom of a developmental disability.
If symptoms occur repeatedly for at least a month, the child may have feeding disorder. An infant with feeding disorder:
The healthcare provider will do a physical exam and take a medical history to rule out other medical conditions. He or she will ask about the child's eating and sleeping patterns, overall mood, mood while eating, and history of weight loss. A trained specialist, usually a nurse, will watch the caregiver feed the infant or child
Depending on how severe the symptoms are, the healthcare provider will decide how best to treat the child. The child may need to be treated in the hospital.
Treatment usually involves a team approach. The team always includes the caregiver and may include a pediatrician, a nutritionist, a social worker, child psychiatrist, and a physical or occupational therapist. The goal of the team is to enhance the bond between the child and the caregiver.
The infant or child may need to be fed through an IV (a tube placed in a vein) or an NG tube (a tube placed in the nose) until he or she can eat normally.
It is important to stay in touch with the healthcare provider to inform him or her about any significant changes in the child's feeding behavior.
Children with this disorder who are not treated may get very sick and even die. Studies show that children who don't get the food they need to grow and develop normally may suffer in the following ways:
Most children with this disorder who are treated do well and develop normally over time.