Approximately 25 percent to 35 percent of children have a feeding aversion problem to some degree, according to Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Infants, considered from newborns to 12 months old, might exhibit the problem sometime in the first year of life. If you're concerned about your baby's eating habits, or lack thereof, talk with her pediatrician regarding treatment, which varies depending on age.
Symptoms of feeding aversion in infants vary in severity, and your infant may display some or all of them. In general, feeding aversion is characterized by the refusal to eat certain foods. A younger infant may refuse formula but accept breast milk, while an older infant may refuse foods with a chunky texture but happily eat those that are smooth. Some babies who will eat food at room temperature might refuse food that is too cold or too hot. Some infants display signs of anxiety when offered a new food, gag on foods, refuse to eat unless at home or refuse new foods.
In many cases, infants with feeding aversion outgrow the condition. In the meantime, it is important to ensure that your infant is getting enough nutrients to grow and develop. Children's Memorial Hospital recommends food transitioning, which involves offering foods that are similar to favorites or serving new foods with ones that your infant tolerates. For example, if your infant enjoys applesauce, try mixing in a small amount of another fruit puree and gradually increasing that amount until he learns to enjoy other flavors. If your baby eats macaroni and cheese, try adding steamed peas to it before serving. This allows you to expose him to new foods combined with the familiarity and comfort of an old favorite.
In severe cases of feeding aversion, your infant is at risk of failure to thrive or other conditions caused by lack of nutrients. This may result in other health problems and developmental delays. For infants who eat very little or eat only a small number of foods, pediatricians may prescribe vitamins and minerals to fill in nutritional gaps.
Not all infants are ready to begin solid foods at the same time. Most babies are ready between 4 and 6 months, but if your infant has feeding aversion, you may need to wait even longer. Talk to your child's pediatrician about the right time to start her on infant cereal, and stick with formula or breast milk until she is ready. Some infants with feeding aversion have a health condition that causes it. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, cerebral palsy, dysphagia, muscle dysfunction in the digestive tract or an obstruction in the intestines are some problems that may lead to feeding aversion. In these cases, your infant's pediatrician develops a feeding plan that takes into consideration her physical and developmental restrictions.
- Children's Memorial Hospital: Extreme Food Sensitivity, Feeding Aversion/Disorder
- Keep Kids Healthy: Food Refusal in Children
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: Treating Children With Feeding Disorders
- Zero to Three: Sensory Food Aversions in Infants and Toddlers
- RD411: Feeding Issues: Treating Severe Food Aversion and Extreme Food Selectivity
- Baby Center: Introducing Solid Food