Problem Feeders and Brain Imbalance

Problem Feeding and Brain Imbalance | Dr. Robert MelilloWhile most kids with a brain imbalance are fussy eaters, about 60 percent of them are problem feeders. Problem feeders have a much more difficult time eating than kids who are simply picky eaters. One problem virtually all of them share is weak facial muscles due to brain imbalance.

Brain Imbalance and Problem Feeding

Eating is a motor skill, and if a child has a problem with motor skills as all children with brain imbalances do, they can also have a problem controlling the muscles in the face and mouth. This is often the case in children with a right-hemisphere weakness since the right brain controls the large muscles and dictates muscle tone. This can lead to problem feeding. We use the same muscles in the body to speak and eat. When a child’s facial muscles are weakened by a brain imbalance, it can cause oral-motor delays that make the act of eating physically difficult.  If a child is nonverbal, then eating is surely going to be affected.

Signs and Symptoms of Problem Feeding

About half of the problem feeders we see also have oral-motor skill issues, which are characterized by these symptoms:

  • Loud gulping sounds when swallowing
  • Coughing when trying to eat
  • Appearing to choke when eating
  • Gurgling when swallowing
  • Looking distressed when eating
  • Becoming fatigued as feeding progresses
  • Getting watery eyes while eating or drinking
  • Frequently refusing food
  • Drooling mildly or heavily
  • Having poor sleeping patterns, such as snoring and breathing through the mouth
  • Having frequent illnesses, such as colds, coughs and respiratory infections

Help for Problem Feeders

If your child is a problem feeder with any of these symptoms, you should see a speech therapist for an evaluation. A speech therapist can help correct the physical eating issues and resolve resulting food aversion. Want to learn more about problem feeders and picky eating? Check out Chapter 2 of my book The Disconnected Kids Nutrition Plan.