What causes feeding and swallowing disorders?
Feeding disorders can include problems with gathering up food and putting it into the mouth and getting ready to suck, chew, or swallow it. For example, a child who cannot pick up food and get it to their mouth or cannot completely close their lips to keep food from falling out of the mouth, may have a feeding disorder.
Swallowing disorders, also called dysphagia (dis-FAY-juh), can occur at different stages in the swallowing process:
- Oral phase – sucking, chewing, and moving food or liquid into the throat
- Pharyngeal phase – starting the swallow, squeezing food down the throat, and closing off the airway to prevent food or liquid from entering the airway (aspiration) or to prevent choking
- Oesophageal phase – relaxing and tightening the openings at the top and bottom of the feeding tube in the throat (Oesophagus) and squeezing food through the Oesophagus into the stomach.
The following are some causes of feeding and swallowing disorders in children:
- nervous system disorders (e.g., cerebral palsy, meningitis, encephalopathy)
- gastrointestinal conditions (e.g., reflux, “short gut” syndrome)
- prematurity and/or low birth weight
- heart disease
- cleft lip and/or palate
- conditions affecting the airway
- head and neck abnormalities
- muscle weakness in the face and neck
- respiratory difficulties
- medications that may cause lethargy or decreased appetite
- problems with parent-child interactions at meal times