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How Do You Know If Your Child May Have Feeding and/or Swallowing Issues?

As all parents know, it's normal for kids to be picky, tantrum during meals, and be really messy while eating. However, there are also some really important signs professionals look for to see if there may be something more going on. This is especially true for children with complicated medical histories or who are already receiving services for other issues, but they may also occur without a known cause.

***If you have any concerns with your child's swallowing or feeding skills, speak to your pediatrician or other healthcare provider immediately.***

After you contact your healthcare provider, also notify your child's developmental therapy providers, if you notice any of the symptoms below.

Signs and symptoms can happen during or right after eating. Or they may happen over time. Your child may not have all of these signs and symptoms. The signs and symptoms may depend on the age of your child, the severity of the issues, and other medical issues they have.

Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia)

Swallowing disorders are difficulties with moving food/liquid from the mouth, throat, or esophagus into the stomach. They can lead to aspiration (food/liquid entering the airway or lungs) and can result in serious health issues, such as pneumonia.

Symptoms of swallowing disorders may include:

  • Some children who aspirate do not have any signs or symptoms. This is called silent aspiration.

  • Choking or coughing while feeding

  • Crying or fussing when feeding

  • Red face, watery eyes, or facial grimaces

  • Refusing to eat or drink

  • Stopping of breathing or faster breathing while feeding

  • Wet sounding voice or breathing after feeding

  • Slight fever after meals

  • Complaints of food feeling stuck or coming back up

  • Wheezing or other breathing problems

  • Repeated lung or airway infections

  • Not gaining weight or growing

Visit the American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders to find a specialist:

Visit the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders for support and resources:

Feeding Disorders

Feeding disorders include problems with sucking, eating from a spoon, chewing, or drinking from a cup.

Symptoms of feeding disorders may include:

  • Arching the back or stiffening when feeding

  • Falling asleep when feeding

  • Having/ have had problem breastfeeding

  • Refusing to eat or drink

  • Eating only certain textures, such as soft food or crunchy food

  • Taking a long time to eat

  • Pocketing food (which means to hold food in their mouth)

  • Having problems chewing

  • Drooling a lot or have liquid come out of their mouth or nose

  • Not gaining weight or growing

Find a feeding specialist, as well as resources and support:

For more information about swallowing and feeding disorders visit:

Skyrocket Pediatric Therapy Foundation (SPTF) does not provide medical or legal advice or services. SPTF provides general information about developmental disabilities and developmental therapies as a service to the community. The information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals. SPTF has not validated and is not responsible for any information, events, or services provided by third parties. The views and opinions expressed in blogs on our website do not necessarily reflect the views of SPTF.

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