Pediatric Feeding Disorder is More Than a “Phase”

Jason KeilMarch 23, 2021
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Feeding Matters advocates for pediatric feeding disorder.

Most parents learn to deal with picky eaters, but some children find it difficult to eat no matter what’s on their plate. Sadly, it’s not a phase they grow out of. Such children could be struggling with pediatric feeding disorder (PFD), defined by the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition as the “inability to consume sufficient food and liquids to meet nutritional and hydration requirements.”

The condition isn’t widely known, but thanks to the advocacy efforts of local organization Feeding Matters, parents and pediatricians have been working together to identify and research the spectrum of symptoms associated with the condition, from children getting upset at mealtime to vomiting and gagging frequently. According to CEO Jaclyn Pederson, not everyone has the tools for a proper diagnosis.

“We often see conversations stopping and families being dismissed at pediatricians’ offices because there isn’t a common language for them to talk about what happens at mealtime,” she says. If left untreated, PFD can lead to malnutrition, which creates and compounds a host of other health issues, from stunted growth to poor dental health.

The organization developed and posted a questionnaire on its website (feedingmatters.org) that parents can discuss with their pediatrician. And last year, it was confirmed that PFD would be included in the upcoming edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) manual, allowing physicians to diagnose PFD formally and lead to improved insurance coverage for treatments.

“We’ve only recently begun putting our foot on the gas about PFD as a condition,” Pederson says.

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Eating is instinctual only in the first few weeks of life. After that, it is a learned behavior. Early intervention is critical.

• When children are unable to eat, they cannot thrive cognitively, physically or emotionally.

Eating is the body’s third priority. Only breathing and keeping one’s head up are of greater importance.

• Eating is the only bodily task that requires the use of every organ and all of the senses.

• Eating is more difficult than walking or talking.

A single swallow requires the use of 26 muscles and six cranial nerves.

Source: Bass & Morrell, 1992 Feeding Matters

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