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The complexity of feeding problems in 700 infants and young children presenting to a tertiary care institution.

BACKGROUND: Feeding problems are common in infants and young children. A multidisciplinary team approach contributes to better patient care. However, few quantitative data on multidisciplinary feeding assessment of children have been published. OBJECTIVES The first aim of this study was to characterize the etiology of feeding difficulties in 700 children referred for assessment of severe feeding difficulty. The authors differentiated medical, oral, and behavioral categories. The second aim was to assess the prevalence of prematurity and dysmaturity in the patients and their relationship to the type of feeding problem.

METHODS: Clinical data from 700 children aged less than 10 years who were examined for severe feeding problems were analyzed.

RESULTS: Close to 50% of the children had a combined medical and oral condition underlying their feeding difficulties. More than half of the children were examined for gastrointestinal conditions, particularly gastroesophageal reflux disease. Behavioral problems were more frequently seen in children aged more than 2 years. The results indicate that oral sensory-based feeding problems are related to past medical intervention. Children with feeding disorders had a significantly lower birthweight for gestational age. Preterm babies were overrepresented in this population.

CONCLUSIONS: A multidisciplinary team approach is essential for assessment and management because combined medical and oral problems are the most frequent cause of pediatric feeding problems. A significant relationship was found between the type of feeding problem and age. Infants born preterm and/or with a birthweight below the tenth percentile for gestational age are at greater risk for developing feeding disorders.

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