Feeding Difficulty in Children- How Common Is It?

It is often assumed that eating is a natural instinct children are born with and that difficulties in this area are rare. Not so. Various studies into boy wont eat his vegetablesfeeding disorders have identified a wide variety of prevalence statistics. It is known that some children are at an increased risk for feeding difficulty; those who are born prematurely, experience early medical complications, or children with neurological disorders. But even for children without any medical or developmental diagnoses, feeding may be a very tricky skill to acquire.

Currently available data suggests the incidence of children who experience feeding difficulty is as follows:

  • Manikam & Perman, 2000: Pediatric feeding disorders are common. 25% of children are reported to present with some form of feeding disorder. This number increases to 80% in developmentally delayed children.
  • Lewinsohn et al 2005: up to 45% of children at 36 months of age exhibit some “picky eating” as defined by food refusal, or accepting food one day and denying it another.
  • Emond, Emmett, Steer, & Golding, 2010: This study compared the eating habits of children diagnosed with Autism to a sample of typically developing children at multiple ages. Children with ASD experienced feeding difficulty much more frequently and to a greater degree. Using a parent-completed questionnaire, typically developing children were identified as “very choosy” eaters as follows:
    • o 15 months: 5.4%
    • 24 months: 9.5%
    • 38 months: 15.5%
    • 54 months: 13.9%

Parents of picky eaters, the underlying message here is: you are not alone. If your child is experiencing feeding difficulty, seek out the advice of a professional- your pediatrician, an occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, and nutritionist are among the qualified individuals who can help you to better understand and navigate the factors that impact your child’s feeding abilities.

Resources:

Emond, A., Emmett, P., Steer, C., & Golding, J. (2010). Feeding symptoms, dietary patterns, and growth in young children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 26, 337-342.

Lewinsohn et al. (2005). Prblematic eating and feeding behaviors of 36-month-old children. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 38, 208-219.

Manikam, R., & Perman, J. (2000). Pediatric feeding disorders. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, 30, 34-46.

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