Feeding Problems
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An occasional gastrointestinal problem can influence the appetite or food absorption of small children, and lead to several feeding problems. Generally these are normal occurrences, but sometimes can become real serious and can greatly disrupt a child's ability to consume vital nutrients that are essential for its growth and development.

This feeding problem affects both boys and girls. In fact these problems are common in small babies and often they require medical attention as they stop the child from thriving.

Causes of Feeding Problems

Different feeding problems have different causes. But the more general causes are as follows:

Age of the child

New motherhood and hence the inability of the new mother to properly feed the child.

Anatomical difficulties which might be present in the child.

General illness that may require lack of appetite.

Infections which might be preventing the child from eating food.

Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GORD)

Coeliac disease

Cystic fibrosis

Inflammatory bowel disease and

Food intolerance

Emotional and social disorders in toddlers which might have an effect on his/her appetite.

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia in young girls

Types of Feeding Problems

The different types of feeding problems seen with children are as follows:

Spitting Up:

Burping up or spitting up of food is a common phenomenon with small children. It is the effortless return of swallowed food or milk through the mouth, or even the nose sometimes, after feeding. Since the infants cannot sit upright during and after feedings, almost all of them spit up. Another reason for this is that the valve (sphincter) that separates the esophagus and stomach remains immature and is thus unable to retain all of the food in the stomach.

Vomiting:

The more uncomfortable and forced throwing up of food is vomiting. It can neither be effortless or normal, nor can it be controlled. In infants vomiting is most often the result of acute viral gastroenteritis. Vomiting can also be a result of any infections elsewhere in the body, like the ear or urinary tract infections.

Sometimes it also results from medical disorders. Vomiting can also be caused by certain life-threatening diseases, like meningitis, intestinal blockage, and appendicitis. So if a child is continuously throwing up immediate attention needs to be taken and the medical practitioner must be contacted.

Overfeeding:

Overfeeding occurs when a child gets to take more food and nutrients than what is needed by him. This happens generally when either a child is given a bottle of milk always to stop crying, or to keep him engaged; or if he is pressed to eat more than he can consume. This might lead to consequences line obesity, etc.

Underfeeding:

Underfeeding is as harmful as overfeeding. This leads to a lack of nutrition in the child that can hamper its growth and development process. This can occur either if the child is uninterested in food or due to poverty.

Dehydration:

Excess fluid loss in the form of vomiting and diarrhea, and also inadequate fluid intake, leads to dehydration. This is particularly harmful for a child as this leads to loss of important minerals from the body, and can eventually lead to fatal consequences like seizure, brain malfunctioning, kidney problems, etc. More minor consequences are lethargy; fall in the blood pressure, sleepiness, lack of activity, etc.

Symptoms Of Feeding Problems

The symptoms of feeding problems vary largely, but the common symptoms include:

Abdominal pain

Behavioral problems

Colic

Constipation

Crying before or after food

Diarrhea

Failing to gain weight normally

Lack of appetite

Refusal of food

Regurgitating or vomiting

Treatment of Feeding Problems

Generally most feeding problems cure by themselves, especially when the baby grows.

But if it persists, and it affects the weight of the child, doctors should be consulted.

Other forms of helps or remedies are as follows:

Take good care of the child

Try not to make food an issue with older children

Be as flexible as you can in adapting to the eating habits that suit them.

Try a wide range of foods for fussy eaters

Give more frequent, small meals.

Emphasize on health rather than weight gain.

Take advise from midwives, health visitors or local National Childbirth Trust groups.

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