Skip to main content

5 surefire warning signs your baby will need feeding therapy

Almost every parent knows what it’s like to deal with a toddler who is a picky eater, but dealing with a baby or infant who seems to be particular about what they consume can be worrying for a parent. Being picky about food almost seems like a rite of passage during the toddler years but babies are almost always thrilled when they begin on solid foods, eager to express their likes or dislikes as they try new foods and flavors. While babies may often need to try new foods a few times before they truly enjoy them (we’re looking at you, mushy peas) sometimes there is a real problem that may require feeding therapy.

If you’ve noticed that your baby is struggling to eat and mealtime is becoming more and more stressful, your baby may need feeding therapy. If you’re concerned that your mealtime battles are about more than just picky eating or food aversions and you’re concerned that your baby may not be getting proper nutrition, it may be time to seek professional help. Here are five signs that your baby may need feeding therapy.

baby-feeding-therapy1
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What is feeding therapy?

Feeding therapy is when a professional, typically a trained occupational therapist, speech therapist, or pediatric feeding specialist works with a family to get to the root cause of a baby or toddler’s feeding difficulties. They will then come up with specific therapies that will help the baby not only learn to eat better but to enjoy eating. There are some tell-tale signs all parents can be on the lookout for that can tell them if they should be seeking professional help.

Not gaining weight or growing

While a baby’s weight can often fluctuate, not gaining weight or growing, especially after starting solid foods can be a red flag that there may be an issue that could require feeding therapy, according to Intermountain Healthcare.

Feeding behavior

Arching the back while feeding, continually acting fussy at mealtimes, and spitting up or throwing up often while eating or drinking can also be signs that feeding therapy may be needed. “If your child has one of these symptoms or your child is only eating 5 to 10 different foods, is gagging or unable to transition to different textures of food, or mealtime is overly stressful, I would suggest a visit to a feeding therapist,” Intermountain Healthcare pediatric speech-language pathologist Kimberly Hirte explained.

Difficulties sucking and swallowing

RWJ Barnabas Health warns that abnormal sucking or swallowing can be a sign your baby may need feeding therapy. This can often mean that the baby is having trouble coordinating their sucking and swallowing with their breathing, which can result in not only poor feeding but labored breathing while they try to eat.

baby-feeding-therapy
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Lengthy mealtimes

Most parents have experienced some mealtimes that last longer than most, but Abilities in Action warns that mealtimes that consistently last longer than 30 minutes and/or are a struggle can be a warning sign.

Refuses to try new foods

If your baby refuses to try new foods or often pushes food away, it may be a sign your baby needs feeding therapy, notes Children’s Health Orange County (CHOC).

What does a food therapist do?

Food therapists can work with you and your baby to help them develop the skills needed to eat and drink properly. They can help babies learn to breathe while sucking from a bottle or drinking from a cup as well as help older babies who are transitioning to solid foods learn how to chew properly and feed themselves. “Pediatric feeding therapists are specially trained to help assess your child’s chewing skills and if they are moving their tongue correctly,” Hirte added. “We can teach them to strengthen the muscles in their mouth and help them move their tongue effectively.”

She also noted that for babies who have aversions to different textures, “therapists can help to make feeding time more enjoyable by changing food textures, liquid thickness, feeding positions or methods and can also offer suggestions to improve behavior during eating.”

What can parents do?

It can be incredibly stressful for a parent or caregiver of a baby who is struggling with eating and drinking. While we assume that the ability to eat and drink normally should come naturally, that simply isn’t always the case. A food therapist will not only work with your baby but will also help teach parents and caregivers the tools they need to help outside of therapy. A food therapist will work as a team with parents and caregivers to ensure the baby gets all the support and help they need to help improve their feeding habits.

According to CHOC, feeding therapists will teach parents and caregivers feeding strategies and provide general advice for eating at home, tactics for addressing negative mealtime behaviors, how to continue encouraging the child to eat the new foods introduced during therapy at home, and how to keep a food log of what the child eats and how he or she acts at mealtime and reacts to foods.

Feeding difficulties are more common than many may think. According to one source, 25 percent of all children will experience feeding difficulties during infancy and early childhood and if left untreated these feeding difficulties can affect their overall health and development. If you’re concerned your baby may be experiencing issues feeding speak to your doctor and see if an evaluation by a feeding therapist may help.

Editors' Recommendations

Kelli Catana
Contributor
Kelli is a freelance writer who has covered the world of entertainment, pop culture, parenting, and lifestyle for various…
When do babies start walking? This is what you should expect
This is when you should have the house baby-proofed
Toddler boy walking around

We bribe. We beg. We will set that baby up for those first steps any way we can. But your little one will not start walking before they're ready. When is that? When do babies start walking? It's the next major milestone after crawling, and parents cannot wait to capture the moment their baby discovers they have two feet that will take them anywhere. If you have a baby who's about to become a walker, this is what you should expect before the first step is attempted.
Look for clues to tell when your baby will start walking

First things first — there are markers to watch out for to know your baby is about to walk. If you keep an eye on that little human of yours, they give hints as to when they're ready to start walking. By then, you can obsessively watch them so you don't miss a step.
Your baby will hit these milestones when it's almost time to walk

Read more
Unisex baby names: These are our top picks
Take the stress out of baby naming with these unisex name options
Baby girl with a "hello my name sign is" on her onesie

Unisex baby names are gaining in popularity as parents realize they have more options than ever when it comes to naming their baby. Some parents choose a unisex baby name because they love the name regardless of the gender of their baby, while others choose a unisex name because they are looking to distance themselves from those traditional "boy" or "girl" naming conventions.
Why we love unisex names

Although gender reveals are still incredibly popular, choosing a unisex baby name allows parents to give their baby a name they love, regardless of their sex. Many unisex baby names fall into the less traditional category, which is perfect for parents looking for something a little more unique for their child. If you're making a list of potential names for your baby, here are our favorite unisex baby names for consideration.
Atlas
Atlas is the ideal name for any parent who wants their child to travel the world! This name of Greek origin has swiftly begun to climb the ranks of popularity in the U.S. since 2015. Celebrities like Edward Norton and Shay Mitchell have used this unisex name for their children.
Blair
Although Blair originated as a Scottish surname, it has grown popular as a unisex name in North America.
Chase
This name was more popular among boy names, but now Chase is often used by parents looking for a cool, unique unisex name for their daughters. Chase is giving us those athletic vibes.
Dylan
Like Chase, Dylan was once primarily used as a boy name but has grown in popularity in recent years as a common choice for girls. The Welsh name means "son of the sea," but we can all agree that this is the perfect unisex name for any water baby.
Kai
Kai, often seen as a form of Kaia, is a name of Hawaiian origin dominating unisex name charts. It's simplistic but far from basic and is a beautiful choice for any parent looking for a dreamy unisex name.
Mackenzie
Mackenzie is another name of Scottish origin that has been adopted from the surname and is almost equally popular as a name for both boys and girls.
Paris
Paris is known as the City of Love, making it the perfect name for your baby. Thanks to public figures like Paris Hilton, it may be known more commonly as a girl's name, but it is commonly used for both genders.
Morgan
Morgan is one of the most traditional unisex names, making it great for parents who want a combination of the two. You could probably name as many girls as you could boys Morgan, making it a very popular unisex baby name choice.

Read more
Is swaddling safe? What the experts say about baby wrapping
Find out how to swaddle a newborn safely
Swaddled baby

It's no secret that babies love to be swaddled, but many parents often struggle with wrapping their babies so tightly.   Although your baby may resemble a cute burrito, many wonder if swaddling is safe and what is the right way to swaddle a baby. These questions are quite understandable, as every new parent wants to ensure they're handling their newborn as safely as possible. When it comes to swaddling the correct way, it's best to turn to the experts. We have the information you're looking for from trusted sources below.

Is swaddling safe?

Read more