Picky Eater Or A Sign of Pediatric Feeding Disorder

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Experiencing war times during breakfast, lunch or dinner is not uncommon for a mom who is caring for a child or a toddler. This “picky eating” behavior is nothing but normal and it is as common as potty training a kid.

According to the British Journal of Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, selective eating or “picky eating” is the little-studied phenomenon of eating a highly limited range of foods, associated with an unwillingness to try new foods. Common in toddlers, it can persist into middle childhood and adolescence in a small number of children, most commonly boys. When this happens, social avoidance, anxiety and conflict can result.

Picky eating is due to an occurrence of the change in a kid’s tastebuds during the developmental years, this follows changes in food preference. This brings about the difficulty of encouraging the kids to eat and finish their meals. This behavior is usually outgrown during puberty and adolescence. However, there are instances of picky eating which harms and inhibits normal growth and development. Although most parents may not see or realize this, it gives clue to a more severe condition of pediatric feeding disorder.

Peter Girolami, Director of the Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program in Maryland commented that “the difference between a fussy eater and a child with a feeding disorder is the impact the eating behavior has on a child’s physical and mental health.”

Up to 10% of all children and infant are affected with pediatric feeding disorders—contrary to what most others think. Children who are known to have pediatric feeding disorders do not receive enough calories and nutrients that will give way to healthy and timely growth and development. In this light, experts emphasize the importance of distinguishing a picky eater from a kid with pediatric feeding disorder, where the former may consume a restricted diet but may still receive adequate nutrition, while the latter does not receive the adequate calories and nutrients necessary for growth and development.

The following are the signs and symptoms of pediatric feeding disorder:

-       An abrupt change in eating habits lasting longer than 30 days

-       Delayed development of skill set necessary to self feed or consume higher textures

-       Weight-loss or failure to gain appropriate weight

-       Choking/coughing during meals

-       Unexplained fatigue, loss of energy

-       Disruptive behavior during mealtime

Feeding disorders need to be diagnosed and treated the earliest time possible since the longer it goes untreated, the more complicated the case may become. In rare cases, some kids may even require tube feeding because of the extent of damage that has been contracted. Nutritional deficiencies like anemia may occur and developmental lags like difficulty of walking, growth hampers, and sometimes sensorimotor problems.

There is no one-shot treatment approach for pediatric feeding disorder as it greatly varies from one kid to another. Biological and social treatments need to be employed because the treatment should be holistic.

According to Dr. Girolami, “It’s not a one-size fits all model. Our team of leading professionals addresses the many causes of feeding disorders and their associated complications so we can give the child and family the best care available.”





  1. Pediatric Feeding Disorders are also very common in children on the autism spectrum. I have seen children as young as 19 end up in the hospital with serious medical conditions related to, and a result of a poor diet. It is important to treat this problem early, and there are a variety of different treatment models designed to do so.

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