Stories about: feeding difficulties

Answers to parents’ biggest questions about feeding and swallowing concerns

Baby transitions from bottle to solid foods

Most kids have experienced challenges with food at some point, whether that means eschewing veggies or refusing anything but chicken nuggets and pizza. But for children with airway disorders and other conditions that affect chewing or swallowing, mealtime isn’t just frustrating. It can be uncomfortable — and even dangerous.

If your child is experiencing difficulty drinking or eating, or is aspirating, your first step should be to make an appointment for a clinical evaluation, says Kathryn Davidson, a speech-language pathologist in the Feeding and Swallowing Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. Depending on the results, your child’s clinician will likely recommend certain strategies to make mealtime more palatable. Here, Davidson answers some questions for parents of kids with feeding and swallowing challenges.

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What are the healthiest options for my baby’s first solid foods?

Best solid foods for baby.In an effort to prevent food allergies, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended introducing white rice cereal as an infant’s first food for years. Bland rice cereal was felt to be unlikely to cause digestive problems or allergies. Doctors suggested delaying a baby’s exposure to some of the more common food allergy triggers—milk, eggs, fish and nuts—until a child is between 1 and 3 years old, because they worried that exposure too early would stress a child’s immune system and increase the risk of developing allergies.

However, during the years that these recommendations were in effect, the number of children with food allergies skyrocketed. And, during this same time period, the rates of childhood obesity multiplied.

Is this a coincidence? Probably not.

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Our patients’ stories: treating Sean’s feeding difficulties

Dan’s son Sean was born prematurely, with a long list of medical concerns. Because Sean was so fragile at birth he was unable to feed himself during infancy, which led to feeding problems as a toddler. Here, Dan describes the hurdles he and his family faced during Sean’s younger years, and the important role Boston Children’s Hospital’s Growth and Nutrition Program played in helping Sean eat solid foods.

By Dan Francis

Sean as a baby, with his feeding tube

For the first five months of my wife Jean’s pregnancy, things were going smoothly. But at the 20-week mark a routine ultrasound showed that our soon-to-be born son Sean was small for his gestational age and there was a low amount of amniotic fluid surrounding him in the womb. Jean was told to stay home from work and get as much bed rest as possible. Five weeks later another routine check-up showed that the bed rest hadn’t been enough; her blood pressure was now elevated (called preeclampsia) and could potentially hurt the baby. That’s when everything got serious.

We spent the next three weeks in the hospital while doctors and nurses monitored Jean and the baby. Doctors determined that a complication with the placenta was restricting the baby’s nutrients and he was only receiving about half of what he needed. Based on the discovery it was decided that the baby’s only chance for survival would happen outside the womb. A C-section was scheduled, and though he came into the world early, we were delighted to meet Sean.

Because he was premature and very small, Sean was born with several health problems. His lungs, heart and digestive system were all in danger of developing serious complications, but despite it all, Sean held on. It was amazing. He could almost fit in the palm of my hand, and still he had a fight in him that’s stronger than you see in most adults.

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