Feeding Difficulties

Feeding requires the complex interplay between a child’s sensory, motor and physiological systems that is governed by the brain, respiratory system, cardiac and gastro-intestinal system. A disorder influencing any one of these systems can result in a child experiencing a feeding disorder. Furthermore, because eating is embedded in our social lives, cultural practices and relationships there is a strong emotional component to feeding and eating too. Adequate nutritional intake is paramount to adequate growth, development and health. A disruption to the eating process can be catastrophic to not only the child concerned but the family too.

Many children have difficulty with weight gain, taking in a variety of foods and enjoying eating experiences. These children are often described as having failure to thrive, fussy eating, dysphagia, etc.

Let’s unpack a few of these terms:

Failure to Thrive

Failure to thrive is the term given to a child when he/she does not grow according to growth curve standards. Their road to health card usually shows them “falling off” growth lines and parameters. They are often described a undernourished or have poor weight gain.

Fussy Eating

Fussy eating is a condition whereby a child is selective about the type of food he/she will eat, usually resulting in poor health and lower than required weight gain. It is important that fussy eating is differentiated from typical neophobia which is common in young children. One should be concerned about fussy eating when the child’s restricted eating habits influences their diet, nutrient intake and is disruptive to the family’s lifestyle.


Dysphagia is the medical term for a swallowing disorder. Dysphagia can affect anyone from any age and results in signs and symptoms such as coughing, choking, turning blue, food refusal and poor weight gain. A number of disorders or diseases can cause dysphagia. These can either be permanent or temporary.

If you are concerned about your child’s growth, weight gain, eating habits, or your child has been diagnosed with any of the above mentioned conditions it is recommended that you undergo an assessment by a feeding therapist (call us at Thrive for assistance) to determine the way forward to ensure that your child and your family is given the opportunity to thrive.