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Definition Return to top
A feeding disorder of infancy or early childhood is the failure of a young child to obtain adequate nutrition, which is reflected by weight loss or a failure to gain weight appropriately for development.
See also: Poor feeding in infants
Causes Return to top
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.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
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.
Treatment Return to top
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.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
There is no quick cure for the majority of infants and children with feeding disorders. Instead, a multidisciplinary approach is required with pediatricians, outreach nurses, dietitians, social workers, behavior specialists, and parents working together to improve the child's well-being and nutritional status.
Possible Complications Return to top
Childhood malnutrition can permanently stunt mental and physical development if it is severe and long-lasting. Early treatment can prevent such complications.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child's appetite, behavior, development, or growth.
Prevention Return to top
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.Update Date: 10/11/2007 Updated by: Deirdre O’Reilly, MD, MPH, Neonatologist, Division of Newborn Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston and Instructor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. Review Provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.