The Role of Reflux in Developing Unusual Eating Patterns
It is clear that many infants and children with GERD develop negative associations with feeding due to the reflux pain that feeding has caused them. If their pain is not managed adequately, the infant or child may develop secondary behavioral symptoms of food refusal, selectivity and oral sensitivity which can negatively impact growth and maturation and can lead to delayed acquisition of feeding skills. Infants and children with GERD may be hypersensitive to tactile sensations therefore do not explore objects with their mouths, which can lead to a lag in the development of the oral sensori-motor skills required for feeding. Introduction of spoon feeding may be delayed due to lack of readiness skills or noted increase of symptoms with introduction of solid foods. Young children also may have difficulty advancing to textured foods and may gag or choke while feeding. These symptoms (i.e., food refusal, selectivity and oral sensitivity) put stress on the feeding relationship between the young child and caregivers and may lead to counter-productive feeding practices.
The associations that infants and children make between the pain of GERD and feeding can remain even long after the pain of GERD has subsided. Young children may also be taken off medication when the obvious symptoms of reflux disappear yet their reflux may continue silently (meaning that stomach contents go into the esophagus but does not result in vomiting) and cause continued feeding problems. Therefore it of reflux, especially pain relief, before attempting a feeding intervention program. Although feeding therapy can be effective in addressing many types of feeding difficulties, without effective pain management, oral-motor, sensory and behavioral feeding interventions may yield disappointing, ineffective results.
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