In order to maintain lifelong health, it is important for children to have a good relationship with food. Unfortunately, many children have difficulty with eating enough nutritious food to help them grow and be healthy. This trouble may stem from physical, sensory or occupational difficulties, which can be improved with the help of our professional therapists.

At Building Futures, we want to give every child the opportunity to grow, be healthy and achieve independence. If your infant is having trouble with breastfeeding or if your child is having trouble at mealtimes, call us at (318) 255-7550 to schedule an evaluation.

What Exactly is Feeding Therapy?

Feeding therapy refers to the tools and techniques that a qualified occupational or speech therapist uses to help a child improve their ability to eat. If your child is not eating enough, it’s likely they are not getting enough of the nutrients that will help their body grow and aid in their development. Sometimes the issue isn’t that the child can’t eat, it’s that they struggle tolerating foods of different textures and consistencies.

Our feeding therapy sessions will involve practicing the skills your child needs to be able to eat successfully. These skills may include chewing, swallowing, motor control, coordination and tolerating sensory input, depending on your child’s specific circumstances. Feeding therapy may also involve finding and practicing the use of assistive devices that will enable your child to eat independently.

Signs Your Child May Need Feeding Therapy

The best way to know if your child needs feeding therapy is to schedule them for an evaluation with our specialists. If you aren’t sure, there are a few signs you can be on the lookout for to determine if your child needs help. These signs include:

  • Difficulty latching to the breast or bottle
  • Trouble chewing and/or swallowing
  • Difficulty using utensils or cups
  • A cleft lip or palate
  • Sensory processing disorder
  • Severe picky eating
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Poor coordination
  • Delayed growth or failure to thrive
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Pharyngeal dysphagia
  • Choking or vomiting when eating
  • Pocketing food

Infant Feeding Therapy

You know how important it is for your baby to drink enough breastmilk or formula every day. But did you know that occupational and speech therapists can help if your baby has trouble with breastfeeding or bottle feeding.

Our therapists at Building Futures can assess your baby to determine the cause of their feeding troubles. Some of these troubles may include:

  • Tongue or lip ties
  • Jaw weakness
  • Cleft lip or palate
  • Incoordination (“suck-swallow-breathe”)
  • Down syndrome
  • Prematurity
  • Reflux

Once the cause has been determined, we will create a personalized treatment plan designed to address your child’s needs. With routine therapy sessions, encouragement and practice, we can help your baby learn to feed properly and get the nutrients they need for healthy development.

Why You Should Choose Us

At Building Futures, we believe that every child deserves to lead as happy and healthy a life as possible, no matter their circumstances in life. We work to empower children and families every day with encouragement, support and tools to help them succeed in their goals. Our team truly believes that we help build a better future for children, one step at a time. If your child is having trouble with feeding, we want to help!

Our therapists are proud to work with our patients to help them achieve their goals, maintain their health, and develop skills that will benefit them for their whole lives. You want the best for your child and so do we. The first step toward building their better future is to call and schedule your appointment. Call today!

Monroe: 318-388-8414

Ruston: 318-255-7550

10/10 recommend Lactation consultant and OT Anna Dearman at Building Futures! My breastfed 2-month-old has been struggling with lots of gas and discomfort for the last month. This has resulted in constant fussiness throughout the day which has left me feeling terrible for my hurting baby and defeated at times. After trying probiotics and going through several bottles of gas drops, we decided to get an evaluation to see if he was latching appropriately at the breast. Anna performed an oral motor assessment and observed him while breastfeeding. She was then able to help me find a feeding position that encouraged a better latch to prevent air from being swallowed and ultimately prevent gas. After this one evaluation, I have already seen improvements in my baby’s feedings such as being able to complete an entire feed without becoming fussy and squirming at the breast! Anna also referred us to a dentist to help address some structural issues but I’ve already noticed an improvement and haven’t even seen the dentist yet! Cannot recommend Anna enough!!

– G.S.J.

I am truly thankful and blessed for all the Therapists at Building Futures. My son has been receiving therapy there for about 5 years now and the staff and therapists are extremely friendly, loving, understanding, and informative. They set goals for my child and come up with a plan that works for him and he’s been making nothing but progress and moving forward since he’s been at Building Futures! I love the progression my son has made. They make therapy so fun with the amount of energy they display! The environment is so energetic and playful! They are the absolute best! I love them!

– P.F.

Pediatric Feeding Therapy Frequently Asked Questions

According to a WebMD study, about 20% of kids face problems with eating before they reach the age of seven. They may try to eat but find themselves gagging, having trouble swallowing, or moving the food around in their mouth. Drinking from a straw or handling a cup or utensils is frustrating. They avoid certain types of food, because they can’t handle the texture.

Even babies can have feeding challenges: for some, trying to drink from a breast or bottle is almost impossible. It’s frustrating for you but imagine how frustrating it is for the child.

Sometimes kids outgrow these challenges, but sometimes they continue to struggle. Obviously, not getting the right nutrition impacts their growth. They may lose weight and become malnourished. Social relationships and their education suffer. They may even fight against eating because of the frustrations they face at the dinner table.

Most of us take eating for granted, but there are certain skills involved. Having a problem with those skills may stem from an illness, a little slowness in their growth, a cleft lip, cerebral palsy, etc. The good news is these can all be improved. 

Feeding therapy sessions strengthen oral skills like controlling and coordinating chewing, swallowing, sipping, sucking and more. If they struggle with utensils, they learn to master them. And if they’ve avoided different foods and textures, Feeding Therapy helps them find the fun and adventure in new things! 

Feeding therapy determines what’s getting in your child’s way, then provides them the tools to take in the healthy food that they need to be their best. 

It can vary from child to child. We start by first evaluating their current diet, medical history, and oral skills (like chewing, drinking, swallowing). That helps us plan sessions tailored to do the most for them. We can provide more specific details after we better get to know your situation.

Keeping all that in mind, a feeding therapy session is typically once a week, and runs anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. During that time, your child does playful exercises that introduce him/her to different skills, foods and textures. Each session builds their confidence and abilities in eating independentlyand develops their curiosity about all the delicious food choices available to them.

For babies challenged by drinking from breast or bottle, our therapists have successful feeding techniques. We work with you and your little one to access the nutrition that helps them develop into their best little selves.

The simplest answer is, “Until the goals that you’ve set have been reached.” 

Your child’s situation is unique, and his/her needs are important to us; each therapy plan is tailored to address them. Generally speaking, Feeding Therapy sessions are scheduled for every one to two weeks, and last for 30 to 60 minutes each. We also give you things to do at home that support and enhance what’s being achieved in feeding therapy sessions. 

Consistency in doing this additional work will make a big difference in how rapidly your child progresses and thus, when formal sessions can wrap up. We’re a team until both you and your child have the confidence to continue moving forward on your own. By then, you’ll have the tools, knowledge, and techniques to maintain and improve on what he/she has mastered. And we’re always available if you need to “check in” for a refresher!

The most important thing to convey to them is that it’s fun! We approach each session as a form of play (kind of a variation on “playing with your food”). 

The goal of feeding therapy is to help your child improve their relationship with food, their  overall nutrition, and skills with things like using utensils. The simplest explanation is that you want them to enjoy mealtime and to grow big and strong. 

This is where knowing your child’s personality comes in handy. Tap into the things they love. Maybe they’re interested in superheroes, ballerinas, or race cars; framing the goals within their interests will make it more relatable (“You’re going to learn the secret to how Aquaman got so strong…”).

If they have a challenge like difficulty in swallowing which stresses them out, let them know they’ll learn new “tricks” to fix it.

If you’re really stuck, get in touch. We’ve guided many parents through this process, and have helpful ways to talk to kids about it.

We start with your child’s medical history, their regular diet, and your particular areas of concern. We’ll also look at the skills your child has around feeding (are they a messy eater? Do they choke or gag a lot?). We’ll want to know their current food preferences, mainly in the areas of texture, flavors, and colors. What do they insist on eating? What do they avoid at all costs? Everyone has their personal preferences; we’re determining if a resistance to certain foods stems from something else. 

We’ll ask about their access to food and drink at school. And since social elements can affect eating patterns, we’ll want any insights on how your child reacts in particular food-centered settings such as the family dinner table.

If your child coughs or chokes, or says it feels like food is sticking in his throat, a check for a condition called “dysphagia” may be recommended. Babies may exhibit this by arching their body or stiffening up during a feeding.

The purpose of a pediatric feeding evaluation is to get a full picture of your child’s relationship to food and the physical act of eating. Then, as a team, we can improve on it and help them to thrive.

Feeding therapy isn’t merely teaching a child “how” to eat. It’s about making the whole experience physically easier, less stressful, and a lot more enjoyable. Food is such a wonderful part of life, and your child deserves everything that it brings to the table (pun intended). We have proven strategies that encourage even the pickiest eater to try a wider range of foods (and maybe even like them). If they have a sensitivity to certain food textures and consistencies, we work to lower that resistance. 

Obviously, we address any particular physical challenges that may interfere with enjoying food or getting the nutrition that helps them be their best. These include things like chewing, swallowing, and handling utensils. Overall, we want your child to have a healthier diet, more confidence in eating on their own, and to truly enjoy mealtime with family and friends.

We tailor our treatments specifically to your child, but a typical feeding therapy schedule is generally once or twice a week. Each session may last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Your child’s schedule may be slightly different; we’ll discuss that in greater detail with you once we’ve learned what your specific goals are.

Of course, this work isn’t limited to just what we do during the appointment. We consider you, your child, and the therapist as a team. Working together, we’ll overcome any difficulties your child is dealing with. You’re given simple techniques to use at home. These reinforce and build on what we’re doing during our appointments. Don’t forget to offer lots of encouragement and praise with every achievement!

Pediatric feeding therapy (“PFT”) is typically classified under “Other Health Impairment.” Sometimes it’s classified as “occupational therapy.” If PFT is related to other disabilities, you may qualify for reimbursement for those challenges. It all boils down to your particular plan. 

Most carriers will at least cover the costs of an initial evaluation. Typically, a speech therapist is involved in making a diagnosis.

There’s a wide variety of things that can contribute to the need for pediatric feeding therapy. Because of this, your carrier may have certain “exclusions” that may be hard to find on their website or in the paperwork.

It’s a smart idea to contact your carrier directly to find out exactly what is and isn’t covered, and under what terms. Building Futures can also help. We work with the following carriers and our experienced staff know their way around the process. We’ll get you the information you need.

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Vantage
  • UnitedHealthCare
  • Aetna Better Health
  • AmeriHealth Caritas
  • Louisiana Healthcare Connections
  • Healthy Blue
  • United Healthcare Community Plan

There’s no one-size-fits-all cause for a Pediatric Feeding Disorder (PFD). In fact, medical experts have yet to agree on a single comprehensive definition. However, the National Institutes of Health have boiled it down to four related areas that may (or may not) overlap to result in a PFD.

  • Medical: impairments to the upper GI tract, the lungs, or a congenital heart problem. Neurological issues such as autism or cerebral palsy often contribute to a PFD.
  • Psychosocial: A PFD may develop from things like irregular or chaotic mealtimes, misinterpreting when a child is “full,” over or under-controlling behavior around food. If the child has a bad experience with a certain food, they will create ways to avoid it. Cultural beliefs may affect their relationship to food. And of course, challenges with things like language and socialization are a possible contributor. 
  • Feeding Skills: These range from poor coordination with utensils to physical problems in swallowing, drinking, or chewing.
  • Nutritional Factors: By only eating or drinking certain foods, kids risk malnutrition.  This has a cascading effect on their physical and mental development (or lack thereof).

Parents play a crucial role in feeding therapy. You’re the one who best knows how skilled your child is at things like chewing, sipping, swallowing. You know what they will (and won’t) eat and the food textures or consistencies that have been problematic. Understanding this, plus your family’s lifestyle, are key ingredients in the therapy process.

As we progress, you’ll be a vital source of information: how are the techniques working at home? What new behaviors are you seeing? It’s helpful to keep a food log of what your child is eating, how he/she reacts to new foods and how they act at mealtime. Of course, when they show progress, show lots of enthusiasm!

We’ll teach you how to positively address mealtime behavior issues and encourage them to try the new foods they’re learning about. If they need a little extra help, we’ll show you alternative methods for feeding that will make mealtime less stressful for them.

We know how frustrating these challenges can be. Our goal is to not only build your child’s comfort and confidence around mealtime, but yours as well. We give you all you need to help your child continue building a healthy relationship with food…for life.

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