Whether a child is under one year old or five years old, he or she may suffer from feeding problems. Feeding problems include lack of desire to eat, inability to eat, and inability to gain healthy amounts of weight. These problems are also known as “failure to thrive.” In the large amounts of research done regarding the way young children eat and why they may or may not eat in a healthy manner, medical experts have uncovered many different types of feeding problem causes, including behavioral, emotional, physiological, and neurological causes.
Behavioral Feeding Problem Causes
Though eating may seem like a very natural and intuitive behavior, different conditions and practices can increase the chance of a child developing feeding problems. An obvious cause of feeding problems is underfeeding. If a child is not given the opportunity to eat adequate amounts of healthy and good-tasting foods, they will not be able to eat enough to grow.
In addition, overfeeding can also be a cause of feeding problems. If food is too readily available, provided too often, or provided in every situations when a baby is crying or distressed, it can lead to unhealthy eating habits. Overfeeding can result in a child gaining more weight than is healthy. In some cases it can even result in a child not gaining enough weight when the overfeeding causes diarrhea, spitting up, or vomiting.
With newborns, a change in the taste of a mother’s milk can lead to change in a baby’s appetite. That is why it is important for mothers to pay attention to their own diet, medication, and skincare products.
Emotional/Mental Feeding Problem Causes
Of all the causes of feeding problems, emotional and mental problems may be the least appreciated and understood. A common reason why a child may refuse to eat or not eat enough is if he is afraid of choking. This often happens if the child had a traumatic choking experience at a young age. Additionally, fear of constipation can lead to feeding problems if a child has had painful and traumatic constipation in the past.
Research also indicates that depression and lack of emotional care and attention can result in feeding problems. Children can suffer from emotional deprivation at even a very early age, so it is important that a child receives care and affection in order to prevent feeding problems. Fear and stress can also affect a child’s appetite and result in serious feeding problems, so parents should try to make feeding time a non-stressful and fun experience.
Physiological Feeding Problem Causes
There are some children who desperately want to eat more, but they are physically unable to do it because of problems with their digestive system. One of the most common causes of feeding problems is gastroesophageal reflux. This is caused when the esophageal flap at the roof of the stomach is unable to prevent stomach acids from leaking into the esophagus. This causes burning and sensitivity in the esophagus and it makes eating and drinking more painful for a child.
Other physiological causes of feeding problems include chronic constipation, gastroenteritis, and allergies. If a child has issues with his ability to eat and chew food easily and without pain, this may also affect their feeding and result in inadequate weight gain.
Neurological Feeding Problem Causes
In order to eat properly, a child must be able to control his jaw, lips, and tongue. Neurological conditions can cause oral motor dysfunction that affects a child’s ability to chew and swallow. Some neurological and cognitive conditions that can cause feeding problems include cerebral palsy, encephalopathy, meningitis, and autism. These conditions may be congenital, develop over time, or may be the result of brain injury or serious trauma.