Stay informed with the latest updates on coronavirus (COVID-19). Find out more >>

Feeding Development and Difficulties

What is a feeding difficulty?

  • The term feeding difficulties is a broad term used to describe a variety of feeding or mealtime behaviours perceived as problematic for a child or family.   

    This may include behaviors such as:  

    • Picky eating
    • Food fussiness
    • Food refusal
    • Food neophobia
    • Restricted variety of foods
    • Food fads
    • Limited, excessive or variable appetite
    • Prolonged mealtimes
    • Disruptive mealtime behaviours

    To some extent these behaviours are all considered to be part of typical feeding development and are usually transient.  Children displaying a significant number of these behaviours or displaying a behaviour to a greater extent for a prolonged period may be considered to have a ‘Feeding Difficulty.  In other words, it is not merely the presence of a behaviour but the severity and duration of behaviours that signifies a problem.

    Standard definitions of these terms are lacking however behaviors are generally considered to exist on a continuum from typical to more complex feeding and mealtime behaviour problems.  For examples, click here.

    The term feeding difficulties is also used to describe children with oral motor difficulties in ingesting & swallowing foods and or fluids.  This may be combined with other difficult mealtime behaviours.

    There have been many attempts to classify feeding difficulties but due to the complex nature of their development there is as yet no consensus on a preferred system [1-3].