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Keywords:

  • childhood feeding problems;
  • paediatric feeding disorders

Objective:  The correlates of specific childhood feeding problems are described to further examine possible predisposing factors for feeding problems. We report our experience with 349 participants evaluated by an interdisciplinary feeding team.

Methods:  A review of records was conducted and each participant was identified as having one or more of five functionally defined feeding problems: food refusal, food selectivity by type, food selectivity by texture, oral motor delays, or dysphagia. The prevalence of predisposing factors for these feeding problems was examined. Predisposing factors included developmental disabilities, gastrointestinal problems, cardiopulmonary problems, neurological problems, renal disease and anatomical anomalies.

Results:  The frequencies of predisposing factors varied by feeding problem. Differences were found in the prevalence of the five feeding problems among children with three different developmental disabilities: autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Gastro-oesophageal reflux was the most prevalent condition found among all children in the sample and was the factor most often associated with food refusal. Neurological conditions and anatomical anomalies were highly associated with skill deficits, such as oral motor delays and dysphagia.

Conclusions:  Specific medical conditions and developmental disabilities are often associated with certain feeding problems. Information concerning predisposing factors of feeding problems can help providers employ appropriate primary, secondary and tertiary prevention measures to decrease the frequency or severity of some feeding problems.