Spitting up, refusing to try new foods and occasionally turning up their noses at feeding times, is normal but consistently refusing food and water, vomiting and allergies may indicate an underlying medical condition that requires attention. Common feeding problems that affect infants include sucking, prolonged chewing without swallowing, holding food in their mouth and grabbing food. Infants who are unable to close their mouths in order to keep food inside may also be said to be suffering from feeding problems.
Feeding problems could be triggered by medical conditions like a cleft palate, premature birth, respiratory problems, low birth weight etc. or by non-medical reasons such as the child’s feeling of being unloved or stressed. Symptoms of feeding problems vary from infant to infant. However, some of the common symptoms exhibited are:
Problems with chewing
Refusing to eat foods or drink liquids
Long feeding times
Coughing or gagging while feeding
Difficulty with breast or bottle feeding
Nasal stuffiness while eating
Poor weight gain
Recurring respiratory infections
Vomiting or excessive spitting up of food
Arching the back while feeding
Disinterest in feeding
Though feeding problems are minor in most cases, it is important to consult a doctor if this behaviour continues over a period of time. This is because the child may be suffering from an underlying medical condition or could be at an increased risk of suffering from dehydration, aspiration and lung problems. It could also lead to delayed physical and mental development, speech problems and cognitive issues.
Feeding problems are addressed in many different ways. The first step to dealing with feeding problems is to change the texture and temperature of food being given to the baby. In addition, try changing the posture of the baby while feeding.
In some cases, mouth exercises may be needed to strengthen the mouth muscles. Chewing exercises and tongue movement may also help reduce feeding problems.
Encourage your infant to try different types of food by including different textures in their daily meals. Alternating food textures and liquids can make it easier for the infant to swallow the food. Do not force your child to eat in a hurry but let him or her take their own time.
In cases where the infant is not gaining weight, the doctor may suggest nutritional changes and a specific diet to help gain weight. In emergency cases, hospitalisation may also be required and your baby may be given a feeding tube to ensure he or she receives adequate nutrition.