Eating Is a Basic Need
By Kimberly Kuchinksi, MD, MPH, FAAPMR
Yes, eating is a basic need, but approximately 25 percent of children have some form of feeding disorder. This number increases to 80 percent in developmentally delayed children. Improper early nutrition can present as growth issues, failure to thrive and susceptibility to chronic illness.
Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital Pediatric Unit's Transitions Feeding Program is an intensive, inpatient program designed to help children with a variety of feeding challenges. The program can help:
- wean children from supplemental tube feedings prevent gastrostomy tube placement in the failure to thrive population
- assist children who have not made nutritional gains in outpatient programs
- improve oral motor function
- work toward decreasing oral aversions
- improve the child’s mealtime experiences
The program also helps to improve safety and efficiency with eating, promote proper nutrition and weight gain and prevent the development of serious health problems or tube dependency in infants and children with a range of feeding disorders.
The primary program goal is to establish developmentally appropriate feeding patterns that can be maintained at home. The program provides gastrostomy tube feeding management and promotes transitions from tube feeding to oral feeding. It also assists children who have had multiple surgeries and those with difficulty transitioning from bottle to solid food.
It’s important to diagnose the root cause of the problem and then treat all aspects of the disorder.
The Transitions Feeding Program uses a developmentally based, child-driven approach. This means custom tailoring a structured program for each child. After treating the medical issues, we teach children not to be fearful of food. We let them play with their food to help overcome oral and textural aversions. A critical part of the success of the feeding program is intense family training to ensure a successful discharge.
A pediatric hospitalist medically manages the patient, along with a board-certified pediatric physiatrist who oversees the intervention team. The multidisciplinary team is the cornerstone of rehabilitation in general, and Good Shepherd employs this model.
Proper feeding practices improve overall patient and family well being. This was never more apparent than with a recent 3-year-old patient who would vomit at the site of food preparation. He was exclusively G-tube fed and had six to eight bowel movements a day. Within one month of treatment he went out to dinner with his family and was sampling food off of their plates.
Left untreated, feeding problems tend to persist and worsen over time. The clinicians at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital Pediatric Unit provide comprehensive rehabilitation care to children up to the age of 21.
Dr. Kuchinski is board certified in pediatrics and in physical medicine and rehabilitation. She provides expert inpatient and outpatient care at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital Pediatric Unit in Bethlehem, PA, where she specializes in the care of children with cerebral palsy, selected developmental disorders, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, acquired and traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries, childhood stroke and concussion management.