Some of the children that we treat (who don’t have a feeding tube) eat little to no food. Many of these children have been diagnosed as “failure to thrive,” which refers to being under the third percentile for weight.
These children are at risk for a feeding tube placement. Because the use of a feeding tube presents additional problems that are related to not only eating behaviors, but also to the physical well-being of a child, we work quickly to bring the intake to a thriving level. We believe that a feeding tube is unavoidable only if eating by mouth is unsafe.
Intensive vs. Non-Intensive Treatment
Whether intensive or non-intensive treatment is needed for infants or children who are not eating enough volumes of food depends on their level of intake, whether a feeding tube is pending, and where the family is living.
For example, if the level of intake is causing their weight to drop steeply, or a feeding tube has already been scheduled to be placed, we will recommend that treatment be intensive. We will also recommend that treatment be intensive if the parents live out of town; this is so that the treatment can occur uninterrupted.
Sometimes, the complexity of a case becomes clearer after a couple of sessions. If three times per week is not enough, we will recommend intensive treatment until we achieve the expected outcome. When we treat a patient on an intensive basis, no days will be taken off until the treatment and parent training are successfully completed.
Time Frame of Feeding Therapy Completion
Most failure to thrive cases (without a feeding tube) are resolved after four to six weeks of non-intensive treatment (three times weekly), or after two to three weeks of intensive treatment (seven days a week). This time frame also pertains to cases when a child is eating in very small volumes and is not yet diagnosed as failure to thrive.
What We Work On
If your child is not gaining weight at a rate that your pediatrician recommends, our goal would be to increase the volumes and calories of solids and liquids. We would likely forgo focusing on the variety of foods and liquids. This is not to say that variety would not be introduced, but we would prioritize introducing foods and liquids that are calorically dense.