Poor feeding in infants
Alternative Names: Feeding - infant's lack of interest; Infant - lack of interest in feeding
Poor feeding is when an infant has a lack of interest in feeding or a problem receiving the proper amount of nutrition.
Poor feeding is a nonspecific symptom seen in newborn and young infants. It can result from many conditions, including infection, metabolic disorders, genetic disorders, structural problems, and neurological disorders. Poor feeding is not a sign of the severity of the disease, but it requires close watching of the infant.
Poor feeding is not the same as "picky" eating. Many children between ages 2 and 4 are picky eaters. Parents only need to give children what they like to eat at this age. However, children must continue to drink milk or an appropriate milk substitute.
Causes of Poor feeding in infants
- Any disorder that causes damage to the nervous system or causes muscle weakness
- Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
- Birth-acquired herpes
- Congenital hypothyroidism
- Group B streptococcal septicemia of the newborn (late)
- Hypoplastic left heart
- Infant botulism
- Infection of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)
- Newborn jaundice
- Patent ductus arteriosus
- Premature infant
- Tetralogy of Fallot
- Total anomalous pulmonary venous return
- Tracheoesophageal fistula, a birth defect in which there is a connection between the trachea and the esophagus
- Transposition of the great vessels
- Truncus arteriosus
- Viral gastroenteritis
Watch closely for the development of other signs and symptoms of illness, such as dehydration.
Also watch the child's height, weight, and general development closely for signs of malnutrition or failure to thrive.
When to Contact a Health Professional
Contact your pediatrician if your child does not seem to be eating enough, is consistently losing weight, or if poor feeding is accompanied by other signs or symptoms.
A child who is feeding poorly will often have other symptoms and signs that, when taken together, define a specific syndrome or condition. Diagnosis of that condition is based on a family history, medical history, and a complete physical exam.
Questions your health care provider will ask may include:
- How does the baby (child) eat normally?
- Has the diet been changed recently?
- Has the baby (child) always been a fussy eater?
- Is the feeding getting harder?
- Has the baby been vomiting?
- Does the baby have diarrhea?
- Is there an abnormal stool color?
- Is there gagging or choking?
- Is there coughing?
- Are there other symptoms?
Laboratory studies such as x-rays, gastrointestinal (GI) studies, and blood tests may be ordered to confirm the presence of a suspected disorder.
AFTER THE OFFICE VISIT
Although the health care provider maintains records on your baby, it is a good idea to maintain your own records of office visit findings, test results, and your own observations of your baby's health. You should add measurements that you do at home, such as height and weight.
Bring your records to the health care provider's attention if you notice any problems, or if you have questions about your baby's development.
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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