Pediatric AR: First Line of Defense Against Food Refusal

  • In my previous post we talked about the basics of food refusal and some of the consequences like dehydration and Failure to Thrive.  While no treatment modality will fit all children there are some basic tips that might help.

    First and foremost, to eliminate food refusal you have to make sure that the child is no longer in pain.  In most instances it is believed that acid reflux babies learn that feeding means pain and so they stop eating.  It may be that a basic formula change will help your child to feel better and eat more.  Some children may also need medications to treat the pain.  Work with your child's physician to find the right combination of treatments that will get the pain under control.

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    Sometimes it can be helpful to have someone else try to feed the baby.  For example, if Mom has been the one dealing with the food refusal and feeding issues let Dad or Grandma try.  Not only does this give the primary caregiver a break but it may also help the infant to form new associations with feedings.  Often the primary caregiver is stressed, and rightfully so, at feeding times.  A helping but not-so-nervous hand can be a huge help.

    Many parents express to me that their child "dream feeds" better than at any other time.  By all means, continue to let them feed this way if it is working.  You can also mimic this time by making sure that all feeding times are peaceful and relaxing.  It can help to minimize any loud noises or interruptions whenever possible and make sure baby is comfortable.  Some children are very sensitive to any sensory stimulation and will be distracted from feeding if those things are not eliminated.

    If your child is taking in some nourishment but not enough calories there are ways to "beef up" their feedings.  This can be done by increasing the calories in the milk baby is getting.  There are hypoallergenic products on the market like DuoCal that can be added to expressed breast milk or formula to get more bang for your buck in each ounce of milk.  Some pediatricians will also allow mixing the formula to a slightly higher concentration to increase the child's caloric intake.  Be sure to check with them first because you need precise instruction as to not throw off the child's electrolyte balance.

    If you try all of these things and have seen no results your child's physician may discuss the use of temporary tube feedings.  Tune in next time as we discuss those options.

Published On: March 06, 2012