Health: Feeding Problems In Infancy And Childhood

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Dr Fergus Leahy

Consultant Paediatrician, Dr Fergus Leahy, on feeding problems in infancy and childhood…

Feeding problems are a very common occurrence in infancy and childhood.  Common definition of feeding problems is the inability or refusal to eat certain foods.

Feeding problems may lead to negative nutritional, developmental and psychological outcomes.

Feeding problems in the 1st year.


• Colic
• Reflux
• Constipation
• Ill child
• Any cause of breathlessness such as chest problems or heart problems
• Inadequate winding
• Breastfeeding problems
• Inadequate Milk, cracked nipple
• Tongue-tie rare (cause of feeding problems)
• Allergic to cow’s milk
• Teething

Infants should be allowed to feed themselves as soon as they are physically able to do so.

• at 6 months can hold a little
• at 9 months can hold cup and crackers
• at 11-12 months can use spoon

These are often interfered with and feeding problems often result from excessive parental insistence on eating and subsequent anxiety of parents and child if child fails to heed the insistence.

Mothers often interfere with these processes to avoid messiness.  These are an important part of overall development and are to be encouraged.

After one year of age, children’s likes and dislikes should be respected.  Forcing other foods leads to feeding problems.  Most children will have adapted a pattern of 3 meals/day and 2-3 snacks.

Rate of growth decreases about end of 1st year and nutritional intake decreases accordingly.  Temporary periods of particular food/total food refusal are common.  Parents should be reassured that this is normal and force feeding leads to feeding problems.

After 2 years of age, child’s diet should not differ from that of adults.   Likes and dislikes should be respected – if they are not, feeding problems ensue.

Chaotic/rushed mealtimes/ TV on/ etc. can lead to feeding problems.  If a child is allowed to “graze all day” it  may lose out on routine of 3 meals a day and will not feel hungry.

It must be noted that if mother is suffering from depression her perception of feeding problems may be exaggerated and so mother may need treatment.

The first few years are the most important years where the habits of a lifetime can be formed in your child’s life so take time to consider the decisions made with regards food, a balanced diet introduced early to become the norm for your child so start as you mean to continue.

• Dr Fergus Leahy FRCPCH(Lond), FRCP (Can), FCCP (USA), FRCP (Irl) D.C.H. (Lond), M.Sc (Paeds) is a Consultant Paediatrician, available appointment at the Scotia Clinic. Call  (066) 7181100

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