What should I do if I have poor feeding?

Symptom Database

Feeding difficulties can be a cause for concern, especially when it comes to infants who are unable to communicate their needs effectively. Poor feeding, inadequate nutrition, and feeding challenges can lead to malnourished infants and undernourishment. If you are facing such issues with your child, it is important to understand the potential causes and take appropriate steps to address them. In this article, we will explore what you can do if you have poor feeding.

Understanding Poor Feeding

Poor feeding refers to insufficient food intake or difficulties in feeding. It can manifest in various ways, such as refusal to eat, frequent spitting up, gagging, or choking during feeding, and slow weight gain. There can be several underlying reasons for poor feeding, including:

  • Oral motor difficulties: Infants may have trouble coordinating the movements required for sucking, swallowing, and breathing.
  • Reflux: Gastroesophageal reflux can cause discomfort and pain during feeding, leading to feeding aversion.
  • Sensory issues: Some infants may have sensory sensitivities that make feeding challenging.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as tongue-tie or cleft palate, can interfere with proper feeding.

Identifying the Problem

When faced with poor feeding, it is crucial to identify the underlying problem to address it effectively. Here are some steps you can take:

Observe feeding patterns:

Pay attention to your child’s feeding habits. Note any specific behaviors or patterns that may be contributing to the feeding difficulties. Keep a record of the amount of food consumed, duration of feeding sessions, and any signs of discomfort or distress.

Consult a healthcare professional:

If you suspect that your child’s poor feeding is not improving or is causing significant weight loss, it is important to seek medical advice. A healthcare professional can conduct a thorough evaluation and recommend appropriate interventions.

Addressing Poor Feeding

Once you have identified the cause of poor feeding, you can take steps to address the issue. Here are some strategies that may help:

Oral motor exercises:

If oral motor difficulties are the root cause, working with a speech therapist or occupational therapist can be beneficial. They can provide exercises and techniques to improve your child’s oral motor skills, making feeding easier.

Positioning and pacing:

Proper positioning during feeding can make a significant difference. Ensure that your child is in an upright position, with adequate support. Additionally, pacing the feeding sessions by taking breaks and allowing your child to rest can help prevent fatigue and discomfort.

Modifying the feeding environment:

Creating a calm and distraction-free environment can help reduce sensory overload during feeding. Dimming lights, minimizing noise, and using soft music can create a soothing atmosphere that promotes better feeding.

Feeding therapy:

In some cases, specialized feeding therapy may be necessary. This therapy involves working with a trained professional who can guide you through specific techniques and strategies to improve your child’s feeding skills.

When to Seek Medical Help

While addressing poor feeding at home is possible in many cases, there are instances where medical intervention is necessary. It is important to seek medical help if:

  • Your child is losing weight or not gaining weight adequately.
  • There are signs of dehydration, such as decreased urine output or dry mouth.
  • Your child is consistently refusing to eat or experiencing severe feeding aversion.
  • There are concerns about your child’s overall growth and development.

Remember, every child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. It is essential to consult with healthcare professionals who can provide personalized guidance based on your child’s specific needs.


Poor feeding can be a challenging issue to navigate, but with the right approach and support, it can be addressed effectively. By understanding the potential causes, identifying the problem, and implementing appropriate strategies, you can help your child overcome feeding difficulties and ensure they receive the nutrition they need for healthy growth and development. Remember, seeking medical advice when necessary is crucial to ensure your child’s well-being. With patience, persistence, and professional guidance, you can help your child thrive.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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