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Sensory based feeding difficulties

Most babies or toddlers go through a phase of fussy or picky eating, it is common part of development and usually occurs when they are about two or three years old. Your baby or child is discovering themselves and exerting some control over what they eat and do. Sometimes fussy or picky eating is not just temporary and you can find your baby or child only accepting a very limited variety of foods or liquids of a particular texture or consistency.

If you think your baby or child is choosing foods or liquids specific to a texture or consistency they could have sensory based feeding difficulties. Diets which are very restrictive or exclude particular foods groups can cause nutritional deficiencies, malnourishment, developmental delay and faltering growth. If your baby or child’s behaviours are not treated, they may worsen and develop into something more serious.

If you think your baby or child has sensory based feeding difficulties our specialist dietitians can help. To book an assessment please contact us.

What are the symptoms of sensory based feeding difficulties?

Most babies and children refuse some food at some point, it is perfectly normal. Sensory based feeding difficulties can be a problem if they are continually refusing new foods or solid foods. Symptoms of sensory based feeding difficulties are:

Albie with food on face with mum and Saffron laughing

It is important your baby or child includes all food groups otherwise they could be at risk of malnutrition; increasing their risk of developmental delays, illness, and infection. If your baby or child is showing one or more of the symptoms above they could have sensory based feeding difficulties.

What are the causes of sensory based feeding difficulties?

The causes of sensory based feeding difficulties are not fully known. It is likely that a range of different factors can influence a baby or child’s development of sensory based feeding difficulties. Sensory based feeding difficulties can be caused by a history of cardiac problems, digestive or gastroesophageal problems from birth which has caused the child to associate food with pain, even if it wasn't the direct cause. Other causes include children on the autistic spectrum or children who have been force fed. Our dietitians are experts in the field of paediatric nutrition, they will ensure your baby or child is receiving the energy and nutrients they need to grow and develop, whilst treating their sensory based feeding difficulties through a bespoke treatment plan that will fit into your lifestyle. We have a multidisciplinary team of dietitians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech and language therapists to ensure we treat all aspects of your child’s sensory based feeding difficulties.

What do you assess for sensory based feeding difficulties?

Most healthcare professionals will not assess a baby or child with fussy or picky eating unless they are presenting with associated symptoms such as malnutrition, faltering growth or developmental delay. At the Kids Feeding Team we understand your frustrations and can assess, diagnose and treat your baby or child’s feeding difficulties before it progresses to something more serious. Our multidisciplinary team can assess your child to ensure they have a safe swallow and the ability to feed. We will assess your child and give an individualised treatment plan to overcome their sensory based feeding difficulties.

Albi on weighing scales with Saffron

What is the treatment of sensory based feeding difficulties?

Each baby or child is different and requires a individualised treatment plan according to the symptoms they are presenting with and the behaviours they are exuding. Depending on your baby or child’s severity, they may benefit from a multidisciplinary team which involves being assessed by a speech and language therapist physiotherapist too. Our specialist team will give you a step-by-step progressional plan focusing on a sensory based feeding hierarchy to slowly introduce a more varied diet of different textures, food groups and flavours. Advice will include elements of behaviour recommendations for parents and how to react to your baby or child’s feeding difficulties. The goal of treatment is to encourage the child to accept a variety of difficult textures and flavours so they get adequate nutrition and hydration. This is reached through a treatment plan of different ways to interact, touch, taste, smell and chew food which helps the baby or child rediscover their relationship with food.

If you think your baby or child is showing any of the symptoms above, they could benefit from seeing our specialist feeding team. To see if they can help please contact us.

Make a referral

To refer a child to our services this can be done online, or by calling 0161 820 8262 or emailing office@kids

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