What Is a Feeding Clinic?

Birthday cake.
Thanksgiving turkey.
Christmas ham.

No matter how you slice it, food is an important part of our lives. Eating is how we celebrate, comfort and mourn. Feeding and eating are how we measure a child’s success and failure at birth and for years to come. Can you recall a time when you wrote down exactly how many ounces your son or daughter drank? Or a time when your pediatrician discussed where your child fell on the growth chart? Children are often measured by how they eat.

For some children, eating is a challenge. Their parents are often plagued with worry about how little their child eats. For these families, Good Shepherd offers the Pediatric Feeding Clinic.

What is a feeding clinic?

The Good Shepherd Feeding Clinic is held every Friday in the Dornsife Pediatric Suite on the South Allentown campus. The purpose of a feeding clinic is to:

  • Thoroughly assess a child’s feeding and eating skills
  • Offer suggestions and support to families
  • Make referrals for appropriate therapies

Parents and caregivers are asked to complete an intake packet prior to arrival to offer the evaluation team a glimpse into their child’s daily routine with regard to mealtimes and food preferences, as well as a snapshot of the child’s medical history. At the time of the feeding evaluation, a speech therapist and an occupational therapist interview the parent while his or her child plays freely. This is a good time for the parent to share his or her fears, concerns and goals.

Once the therapy team has a better sense of the parent’s concerns, the therapists invite the parent and child to sit together to eat a snack, which consists of the child’s favorite and not-so favorite foods and drinks. The evaluation team watches snack time from a two-way mirror outside of the room to provide the child with a natural experience – minimizing any stress or anxiety.

What if the child doesn’t eat anything during the evaluation?

It is okay and often happens. The therapists can make many observations about a child’s feeding and eating skills just by watching how a child interacts with food – even if he or she does not eat it. Does the child cry? Does he walk away? Does he gag and cough?

The therapists also try to observe how the family responds to the child’s behavior. Does dad try to make a game out of eating? Does mom try to bargain for a bite? Does the child react by sitting down or taking a bite? All of these observations are clues. Good Shepherd’s therapists use the clues to develop strategies to help the child and family have more successful mealtimes.

How is a child treated?

Just as no two children are alike, no two treatment plans are alike. A treatment plan is customized for each child to meet the goals of the family. Family goals come in all shapes and sizes. For example, some parents may want their son or daughter to sit at the dinner table, while others may want their child to eat more than just hot dogs and chicken nuggets.

Meeting a family’s goal may include weekly feeding therapy sessions with “mealtime homework” between sessions. Other treatment plans may include a 12-week trial of weekly therapy to gently introduce a new routine to the child and family. Meeting a family’s goal may even include a referral to Good Shepherd’s inpatient feeding program, if necessary.

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s feeding and eating skills, the Good Shepherd Feeding Clinic team would be more than happy to help. Call 610-776-3578 or Request an Appointment.

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