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Feeding and Swallowing Disorders

Some children may choke, gag or cough while eating or drinking. Others may refuse food or not eat enough to grow and develop.

Warning signs

  • Mealtimes that are stressful for parents/caregivers and children because feeding is difficult.
  • Children who need more than 25 minutes to eat age-appropriate foods.
  • Children who only eat certain types of food (e.g. only mashed foods, only crunchy foods).
  • Frequent episodes of coughing, gagging or choking while eating or drinking.
  • Failure to gain weight/height for expected age.
  • Difficulty transitioning from non-oral to oral feeding (e.g., from g-tube).

Things to do with your child

  • Engage children in mealtime preparation. Even very young children can pick out ingredients, help stir and set the table.
  • Ensure foods offered are age-appropriate (for instance, most children are unable to bite and chew solid foods like a cracker until 9 months of age). Know the feeding/eating milestones.
  • Praise children when they try a new food or new texture of food.
  • Make eating a fun family affair by limiting excess noise and distracters, such as toys or TV.
  • Talk and read about food and social events involving food (such as Thanksgiving, birthday parties or the book “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss).