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Feeding Developmental Delays: What You Should Know And Expect

by on 27/09/2023 831

Taking care of children who have developmental delays can be tough. Feeding, as a basic part of a kid's growth and well-being, is not only about nutrition but also plays an important role in their overall growth. Recognising the signs and underlying causes is vital to provide early support and to find the right professional advice.

If you're a parent or caretaker facing this challenge, this article will help you understand the meaning of feeding developmental delays, their causes, and what to expect when dealing with them.

What Is Feeding Developmental Delays?

Feeding developmental delays are conditions that affect a kid's ability to consume food or liquids in a way that is safe for their age. These delays include:

  • Chewing or swallowing issues
  • Disorders of restricted food intake
  • Avoidant food intake

Feeding disorders can be tricky because they might result in any of the following:

  • Weight loss
  • Vitamin deficit
  • Essential supplements
  • Medical intervention
  • Problems with energy and daily functioning

Children with untreated swallowing difficulties run the danger of choking if they cannot take food or liquids safely.

Causes Of Feeding Developmental Delays

Feeding problems may be caused by a variety of conditions but usually fall into one or more of the following categories:


Feeding Developmental Delays Might Be Caused by Environment

Children do better when they follow routines which involve a mealtime schedule. When food is provided at the same place and at roughly the same time each day, kids understand that it is time to eat. This motivates them to focus on eating while also helping them in learning their hunger cues.

Distractions from the environment could make feeding more difficult. Mealtimes should always be enjoyable. If mealtimes become stressful, kids will strive to avoid them and may experience worry and fear. The goal is to make children feel safe and at ease during mealtimes so they can build a healthy connection with food.


Numerous medical problems can impair oral-motor growth, suppress appetite, and create negative food associations. Food avoidance can result from digestive disorders such as:

  • Chronic reflux
  • Constipation
  • Food allergy-related side effects (dermatitis)

Occasionally, kids cannot protect their airways when swallowing their food, which is known as aspiration. Aspiration can cause pneumonia and chronic infections when it happens frequently.

Other medical issues that cause feeding developmental delay include:

  • Medication side effects
  • History of tube feedings
  • A medical diagnosis that affects cognitive and physical growth

Oral Motor

The muscles in a baby's lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw should get stronger as they grow and develop, and they should work in unison so that the baby can go from sucking to chewing—a child's risk of choking increases if their oral-motor development is compromised.

As a result of their fear of choking, individuals may avoid specific foods and favour softer textures.

What Are The Signs Of Feeding Developmental Delays?

A feeding developmental delay can have a wide range of signs and symptoms. The signs can vary from moderate to severe and alarming. The following are usually thought to be warning signs:

    • Refusing to eat or becoming fussy
    • Ingesting any solids or liquids with reluctance
    • Vocal cord dysfunction; oral or sensory issues
    • Throwing fits or acting in some unruly manner when asked to eat
    • Dislike to a variety of foods; refusal to accept certain food groupings or textures
    • Food neophobia
    • Extended meal times
    • Delayed development of self-feeding capabilities
    • Eating while choking, gagging, or throwing up
    • Gastronomy (g-tube) or nasogastric (ng-tube) dependency
    • Constipation or persistent stomach aches
    • Inability to gain weight or chronically slow development
    • Malnourishment

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Feeding Developmental Delays

Parental involvement is one of the initial stages in managing a feeding developmental delay. Any signs of a feeding issue should be mentioned to a paediatrician by the parent or caretaker. An evaluation of a presumed condition will involve an assessment of the following:

    • Medical history
    • Development patterns
    • Developmental past or problems
    • Current eating routines

Multiple steps may be included in the ongoing procedure, such as:

    • Dietary intake assessment by a registered dietician
    • Observation by a doctor or nurse practitioner with expertise in feeding disorders
    • Review by a clinical or child behaviour psychologist
    • Evaluation of oral motor skills by a speech-language pathologist

Special testing and examinations may include the following procedures:

  • Barium or endoscopic test to measure swallowing capacity
  • Gastrointestinal tests to rule out GI tract disorders
  • Postural examinations performed by a paediatric physical therapist or occupational therapist

A doctor may need to perform blood tests to assess nutritional status or to check for underlying medical issues that may be causing eating delays.

Rehabilitation for feeding developmental delays includes some of these treatments:

  • Feeding therapy
  • Special skills training
  • Occupational therapy

These treatments enable children to develop feeding abilities through the following activities:

  • Clinic activities
  • Individual intense feeding and swallowing therapy
  • Group feeding practice

Supporting Your Child Through These Challenges Will Help Them Tremendously In The Future

It can be difficult to navigate feeding developmental delays, but with the correct information and awareness, parents and other caretakers can significantly impact a child's growth and well-being.

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