Eating Concerns



Pediatric Dysphagia
It is assumed that the incidence of feeding and swallowing disorders is increasing because of the improved survival rates of children with complex and medically fragile conditions (Lefton-Greif, 2008; Lefton-Greif, Carroll, & Loughlin, 2006; Newman, Keckley, Petersen, & Hamner, 2001) and the improved longevity of persons with dysphagia that develops during childhood (Lefton-Greif et al., 2017).


Good nutrition during childhood is essential for growth and development, health and well-being.

Premature babies and small for gestational age start small, and although they do tend to catch up as they get older, children born very early still tend to be smaller and lighter than their classmates. However, as our knowledge of nutrition continues to develop, and with extra supplements available to support premature babies' dietary needs, this may change.

For some babies born premature feeding and swallowing can be challenging from birth and can persist will into teenage years.

Picky eaters are children that only eat certain foods, usually it is seen as just a phase and children will eat when they are hungry, however sometimes it means something more serious such as ARFID. ARFID which means avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder can happen to premature babies that spent time in NICU and had tubes in their nose and mouth.  Someone with ARFID are convinced that food is dangerous and can lead to death. They can have high anxiety around new foods and will only eat a very bland diet with fewer than 20 foods. They can miss out on vital food groups and texture of food.

Social life can be impacted greatly for teenagers as they might avoid social events that involve eating. It In school they might avoid school lunches. This can also lead to weight loss, nutitional deficiencies, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders.


Bringing your teenager to a therapist, dietitian, occupational therapist or a speech and language therapist that specialises in AFRID that can help with exposure and anxiety around it. Pressuring a teenager to eat can often have a negative effect which may leave the teenager dreading meals. Instead the goal should be to help the teenager to grow in confidence with food and eating.

As parents we can feel very anxious about our teenagers eating habits, especially if leading to weight loss and depression. Talking to a therapist specialising in ARFID will reduce the anxiety as they become educated about the issue. Also joining a Facebook group page on ARFID or talking to parents in similar situations will help.

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Disclaimer: This publication by Miracle Babies Foundation is intended solely for general education and assistance and it is it is not medical advice or a healthcare recommendation. It should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment for any individual condition. This publication has been developed by our Parent Advisory Team (all who are parents of premature and sick babies) and has been reviewed and approved by a Clinical Advisory Team. This publication is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Miracle Babies Foundation recommends that professional medical advice and services be sought out from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your personal circumstances.To the extent permitted by law, Miracle Babies Foundation excludes and disclaims any liability of any kind (directly or indirectly arising) to any reader of this publication who acts or does not act in reliance wholly or partly on the content of this general publication. If you would like to provide any feedback on the information please email [email protected].