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Healthy Balance

Helping Children with Feeding Problems

When we think of kids refusing to eat, we often think of the typical picky eater who wants candy, not vegetables. Or a toddler who suddenly shuns a favorite food. But for babies, toddlers and kids who were born prematurely, have birth defects or autism, feeding problems can go beyond that. They might experience:

Children who were born prematurely or have autism may have feeding problems.
Toddlers with feeding problems may gag on food or have issues with textures.
  • Painful swallowing
  • Gagging
  • Uncomfortable acid reflux
  • Food going into the lungs instead of the stomach
  • Sensitivity and pain from different food textures

UVA Children’s Hospital speech language pathologists start working with babies while they’re still in the neonatal ICU. “They’re going to be looking at what type of nipple to use, how to position the baby, how not to overwhelm the baby,” explains Polly Bickley, director of the Encouragement Feeding Program. Once babies get older, the pathologists help them transition to purees and solid foods and look at issues like painful eating or gagging.

In this week’s podcast, Bickley explains how her team diagnoses these feeding problems and works with kids and their families.

Listen to the podcast:

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