Feeding Therapy: Common Feeding Disorders in Toddlers

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Feeding therapy helps children with feeding disorders. Parents may notice signs of these feeding disorders in several areas of their daily mealtime regimen. They can come from a physical reason such as acid reflux, or it can be due to developmental or psychological reasons. Whatever the cause, our feeding therapists at Sensory Solutions are here to help.  

Autism, sensory processing disorder, and motor deficits are also associated with feeding disorders, but there are many other reasons that your toddler might need feeding therapy.  

Reasons why toddlers should seek feeding therapy:

  • You have a known picky eater that will only eat a minimal amount of food.
  • Feeding time takes a very long time, such as 30-40 minutes a sitting
  • Perhaps when they were infants, they had issues with the suck, swallow and breathe patterns and continue to show these signs into their toddler years.
  • Your child shows negative mealtime behaviors such as pulling away from food, refusing too easily, shutting down, or throwing tantrums at mealtimes.
  • Your child was on G tube feedings and is now ready for oral feedings but has difficulty transitioning.
  • Pushes food away and won’t give it a chance.
  • Refuses to try or rarely will try new foods.
  • Frequently vomits after eating or drinking.
  • Gags and chokes cough or gets congested during feeding time.
  • Irritable and fussing at feeding time.
  • Struggles to control food in the mouth for chewing and swallowing.
  • Avoids food flavors, temperatures, or textures.  
  • Is having issues going from puree baby food to solid foods due to texture.
  • Has problems with certain food consistencies and swallowing.
  • Swallows food in large, whole pieces and doesn’t take the time to chew properly.  

Feeding issues can start when they are a baby.

It can start with newborn swallowing problems. Perhaps the baby wasn’t fully developed or was a premature birth, and the swallowing sensation didn’t come as naturally as it would in a fully developed baby. This can leave children to lag behind others of their age.  

Swallowing problems can also develop due to how the child is fed as they mature. It would be best if you offered different types of foods and textures throughout their development. Also, eating time shouldn’t be full of distractions that can cause the toddler not to eat. Distributed mealtimes can lead to the child not eating or developing good eating habits.  

Evaluation and treatments for pediatric feeding disorders 

At the beginning of feeding therapy, we will use general observation to gauging your child’s feeding progress. A feeding evaluation from the caregiver will also give insight into what is going on.  

You should always consult your pediatrician if you feel that your child is showing a feeding disorder. Often, they will ask the caregiver to keep a journey of what meals were eaten and what was offered. They will also want to know what food was swallowed and what was aspirated. 

There are a variety of reasons a child might need feeding therapy. For toddlers, it’s typically hypersensitivity to textures or rigid food preferences. There could also be some motor issues that impact the child’s ability to chew and swallow properly.  

What to expect from feeding therapy

As we begin feeding therapy, we will create a customized plan for your child. During this plan, the therapist will address the underlying causes of their feeding issues.  

The goal is to provide what the child needs to have a successful mealtime. At Sensory Solutions Therapy, we will address:

  • Oral Skills
  • Food Orientation
  • Improvement of the overall eating experience.

Please know that feeding therapy is a process. If your toddler is having issues with chewing, swallowing, and breathing simultaneously, this will be the first approach.  Making feeding times more enjoyable without gagging and choking will help tremendously. During this time, it might be necessary to work with your toddler to improve their oral muscles.  

Each case is different and unique to that particular child’s needs. How long this process will take will be on how quickly the toddler picks up their newfound skills.

Addressing food orientation issues

Food orientation such as texture and moving from puree to solids can cause toddlers issues as well. This can be due to a whole host of reasons. 

To help toddlers overcome these obstacles, we like to work with different colors, textures, smells, and tastes.  

First, they must get familiar with different foods, and they need to be allowed to explore these foods on their terms. Combining these new foods with fun games can also get the toddler to try different things.  

First, allow your child to touch and smell the food. Perhaps squeeze it between their fingers. While we are taught not to play with our food, remember, this is all very new to the toddler. Play is how they learn and develop. 

Typically, it follows the child’s pace by not rushing or pushing them into something they don’t want to do. Feeding therapy should be fun but challenging for your toddler. This will allow them to grow and develop while having a good time doing it.  

When you make eating a fun experience, your child will want to engage more with it. This is why we first must address any motor issues that may be causing problems.

Nobody will want to eat if it makes them gag and choke.  

There are a variety of reasons why this development is lagging. However, with feeding therapy, the child will be properly taught how to chew, swallow, learn what to do with their tongue, and more.  

Things to do at home to help your child’s progress.

Parents will also be given things to work with your child at home. This extends the feeding therapy outside of the office into your natural environment. Still, to be successful, parents and caregivers must get on board with what the feeding therapists have to say.  

Following our feeding therapist’s suggestions can help your child’s progress exponentially. 

Feeding Therapist’s suggestions might be:

  • Keeping a food log of what is actually swallowed and tried.
  • Continuing to encourage exploring different food types.
  • Tactics to help with negative behavior at mealtime
  • Feeding strategies to try at home for your picky eater.

Having a picky eater can be frustrating, but by understanding the underlying causes of their struggle, we can address these issues and make feeding time a happy time again.

Sign up today to schedule your child’s feeding therapy free phone assessment

Discover out how easy it is to get started with Sensory Solutions Therapy by scheduling your initial phone consult.

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