Babies are born hungry, but sometimes they have a little trouble learning to eat properly. If your baby is having trouble with breast or bottle feeding or eating solids, a speech language pathologist or occupational therapist may be able to help your baby eat better.
Kimberly Hirte, from Primary Children’s Rehab at Riverton Hospital, joined us to share the signs of improper eating, to watch out for:
- Is not gaining weight or growing
- Refuses to eat or drink
- Spits up or throws up a lot
- Cries or fusses, or arches her back when feeding
- Has trouble breathing while eating or drinking
- Has problems chewing or coughs or gags during meals
- Has a gurgle or breathy or hoarse voice during or after meals
If your child has one of these symptoms and/or mealtime is overly stressful it may be time to see a doctor or speech therapist.
Conditions that may lead to feeding and swallowing disorders
- Being premature or having a low birth weight
- Reflux or other stomach problems
- Breathing problems such as asthma
- Cleft lip or palate
- Muscle weakness in the face and neck
- Medicines that make her sleepy or not hungry
- Autism or sensory issues
- Diagnoses like cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, Down’s Syndrome, meningitis
A speech or occupational therapist can evaluate your baby to find out what may be causing these issues and recommend treatment or therapy and help babies enjoy meal time. There are therapists who see babies with feeding challenges at the Riverton Hospital Primary Children’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Clinic and other Intermountain clinics in Layton, Bountiful, Taylorsville, Riverton, and beginning in May in Murray.
Kimberly also shared a few ways to help meal times pleasant for those older kids who may have a hard time with certain foods or are just picky eaters in general.
What parents can do at home to help meal times be pleasant
- Be positive, fun and creative.
- Offer your child a variety of colorful, age-appropriate, healthy food.
- Model good eating behavior: eat vegetables yourself, don’t eat while watching TV.
- Have a consistent mealtime routine.
- If your child doesn’t like a food, offer it another day. It may take several tries.
- Don’t force your child to eat or make them sit for long periods until they eat something.
Tips for picky eaters
- Present food in a variety of ways, try new containers, cups and utensils or even a muffin tin with several choices.
- Cut food in shapes, use cookie cutters or arrange food in a shape.
- Offer targeted choices: do you want your sandwich cut in squares or triangles? Do you want sweet potatoes or peas?
Call Primary Children’s Outpatient Rehab Clinic at Riverton Hospital at 801-571-3081 for more information and also visit intermountainhealthcare.org.
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