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Fixing Medical Issues
Before treating an infant feeding disorder head-on, it is important to treat as many underlying medical issues as possible. For example, tube-fed infants can develop a feeding disorder if they do not eat orally for a length of time. Although therapy can begin while the tube is still in, the child cannot learn to eat effectively until the tube has been removed. Other digestive system disorders, such as abnormalities in the esophagus, constipation, or pyloric stenosis (blockage near the stomach), should be resolved as well before resorting to other treatments.
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Changes in environment
When treating infant feeding disorders, it is important to adjust the environment so that the baby or toddler is best able to eat effectively. This may require different positioning during feeding times, as well as changing the pacing of the feedings. A change of pace will give the baby plenty of time to swallow between bites or sucks without overwhelming him or her with food, but it will also provide enough food to hold their attention span. A different type of feeding utensil or special adaptive feeding device may also be used to control the food bolus size. An infant may use a specialized bottle and nipple for the same reason, as well as to control the pace of the feeding and the sucking method required.
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Speech and Other Therapies
Speech and other therapists may work with a feeding-disabled baby in order to deal with any underlying issues. For example, some children have sensory issues, which can manifest themselves as oral defensiveness and aversion to having materials in their mouths. Therapists can work to break through this defensiveness through very slowly adjusting tastes and textures until the child is able to tolerate each one. In addition therapists may work on oral motor strengthening and coordination, especially in the laryngeal and pharyngeal areas, through oral-motor therapy.
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When treating infant feeding disorders, the food given to the child should be modified very slowly. The treatment will need to make up for any vitamin and mineral deficiencies the child may have from malnutrition. Also the number of calories and amount of liquid intake should be slowly increased.
Toddlers will need diet modifications to ensure that they are comfortable with different amounts, textures, temperatures, consistencies, and tastes of healthy food. These modifications will often progress slowly, as children become accustomed to each level of food.
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Prevention and Maintenance
Parents and caregivers can prevent feeding disorders before they begin, and they can follow the same techniques to maintain healthy eating after the treatments have finished. They should attempt to feed their infant a wide range of textures and flavors at a young age, and definitely before 18 months, making sure that plenty of child-friendly healthy food is available. They will also need to limit unhealthy foods, as well as juices. Filling children up on juices provides plenty of calories, but they dampen their appetites and prevent them from eating well. Force feeding or coaxing children to eat their foods through games or other methods is not recommended, as this can lead to eating disorders later in life
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