It’s more than just being a picky eater. For some kids, refusing to eat certain foods can come from anxiety or a history of pain and when left untreated, Feeding Disorders can lead to serious problems.
As a baby, Austin wasn’t eating well.
“He was spitting up a lot and I just attributed it to the fact that he would be a kid that spit up a lot,” his mother, Erin Mandras said.
Even around six months old when doctors told Austin’s mom to start feeding him solid foods, Austin refused.
“Nothing was going from finger to mouth” Erin said.
Austin was getting a majority of his calories and nutrition from a bottle. But it was clear over time with the constant vomiting, something was wrong.
“At that point we were sent to a pediatric allergist who diagnosed him with severe food allergies,” Erin said.
Food allergies weren’t the only issues. Austin had a feeding disorder. Because of the vomiting, Austin associated eating with being sick. He needed to be retrained. That’s how they ended up at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, in their feeding program.
According to Dr. Katz feeding disorders can lead to serious consequences if left untreated.
“The first consequence is the children aren’t getting enough calories and they aren’t growing," Katz said, "The long term side effect is that the kids get unusual relationships with the food and meals and lose the social aspect of eating.”
Nadiya, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder, is also in the feeding program. Her mom Jill Pelovitz said since changing up her diet, the 11-year-old has been working with specialists on textures and consuming pieces of chicken.
“They've provided support that has prevented Nadiya from ever needing a feeding tube. Even with her level of disability we have not had a feeding tube," Jill said.
The Feeding Day Treatment program is a six week program providing intense feeding intervention, where parents can observe each meal. Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital offers a variety of services for feeding disorders to suit a child’s needs.
“We take them from the very beginning where they’ve refused food, try to understand what motivates them, and give them a reward, small rewards for learning to eat. It works because it’s a team effort,” Katz said.
Dr. Katz said it’s important to tell your pediatrician if your child is not eating well and to be specific with them.