Understanding Swallowing and Feeding Disorders
Swallowing and feeding disorders include different types of conditions that involve how a child sucks, chews, or swallows food and drink.
Feeding disorders are when a child is not eating in a developmentally appropriate way. A child may be unable to close their lips to stop food from falling out of their mouth. Older infants and children may not be able to grab food and bring it to their mouths.
Swallowing disorders (dysphagia) can cause some feeding problems. Swallowing problems are tied to the stages of the swallowing process:
- Oral phase, when sucking and chewing move liquid and food into the throat.
- Pharyngeal phase, when the tongue pushes food to the back of the mouth, where it is squeezed down the throat. The larynx (voice box) and airway close tightly to prevent choking.
- Esophageal phase, when food is squeezed through the esophagus and into the stomach by the relaxing and tightening of muscles.
Risks for Swallowing and Feeding Disorders
Many children with swallowing and feeding conditions were sick at birth or in infancy, when they would normally learn swallowing and feeding skills. The risk for swallowing and feeding disorders is highest in children with: