What You Need to Know About Eating Problems in Children

Does your child have a feeding problem?

It is important that your child eat enough to grow and be healthy. There are many possible reasons why your child may not eat. He may have stomach or breathing problems, or his muscles may be weak or he may be very sensitive to how foods feel in his mouth. Sometimes there may be no clear reason why your child refuses to eat.

If your child has a feeding and swallowing problem, he may:

  • Not eat or drink

  • Cough and choke when eating

  • Get food in his lungs, called aspiration

  • Make mealtimes stressful for the whole family

  • Not eat at school or with friends

How Can a Speech-Language Pathologist Help?

Speech-language pathologists, or SLPs, work with children who have speech, language, and swallowing problems. SLPs work in schools, hospitals, and clinics, and can even come to your home. An SLP can offer an evaluation to find out what is causing your child’s feeding and swallowing problems.

What Happens During an Evaluation?

Your will talk with the SLP about the problems your child is having. She will also ask for information from your doctor about your child’s health and will look at how your child moves her lips, tongue, and jaw, and watch her nurse or eat. Other professionals will work together as a team and may recommend tests to look at your child’s lungs or stomach. Your child may also have special tests to study her swallowing. If you don’t understand what is going to happen or why your child is having a test, be sure to ask.

Some tests involve giving your child food or liquid mixed with barium. You may hear different names for this swallowing test such as:

  • Videofluoroscopic swallowing study

  • Modified barium swallow study

  • Cookie swallow

  • Esophagram Another test involves putting a small lighted tube down your child’s throat. You might hear this called:

  • Fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing, or FEES

  • Endoscopy

Will Treatment Make a Difference?

Your SLP can work on feeding and swallowing in different ways and show you how to help your child eat. This can include:

  • Using different positions when eating

  • Trying different ways to feed your child or have him eat

  • Trying food and liquids that are easier to swallow

  • Keeping mealtime as stress-free as possible

  • Finding ways to get your child to try different foods

Let’s Talk Permission is granted for unlimited copying of “Let’s Talk.” © American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2010 8064-35




Sandy Dorsey, President, All About Speech, Little Voices, Big Conversations. 

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