Children's Feeding Disorders

Sanford Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program

If mealtimes are a struggle for you and your child, the Sanford Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program in Fargo, North Dakota, is here to help. We offer various levels of care for patients from birth through adulthood, across all levels of developmental abilities. This program requires a referral from a provider.

Levels of care include:

  • Outpatient: Our outpatient program is designed for children and adults with mild to moderate feeding difficulties. We offer treatments tailored to the patient and their family. Our services focus on their unique needs and help them develop skills and strategies to be successful with mealtimes.
  • Partial Hospital Program: The partial hospital program is the only intensive feeding program in the Fargo area for children with severe feeding disorders. We help patients 18 years old and younger. The program includes treatment rooms where parents or caregivers can observe our team and their children during feeding sessions. We encourage parents and caregivers to be fully involved in treatment throughout all program phases. Our facility includes a playroom and a nap area.

Children in the feeding disorder programs may have complicated medical histories, neurodevelopmental disabilities, psychological disorders or disruptive mealtime behaviors.

We commonly treat children with conditions such as:

  • Atresia
  • Autism
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Dysphagia (swallowing problems)
  • Failure to thrive
  • Food allergies
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Motility problems

Patients We Treat

Pediatric feeding disorders are often a combination of feeding and swallowing problems. These issues keep children from developing feeding behaviors appropriate for their age. Children with these difficulties often don’t consume enough food or liquid to gain weight and reach optimal growth.

Children with feeding disorders are not just picky eaters. They can have longstanding feeding problems, including:

  • Difficulty transitioning to new textures of food
  • Disruptive mealtime behaviors
  • Gastrostomy (G-tube) or nasogastric (NG-tube) dependence
  • Oral motor and sensory problems
  • Refusal to accept particular food groups
  • Refusal to swallow non-preferred foods
  • Total food and liquid refusal

Feeding disorders can occur due to a variety of reasons, including medical, developmental, behavioral or psychological reasons. If left untreated, feeding disorders may impact a child’s physical, social and emotional development.

Ask your family practice physician or pediatrician about Sanford Pediatric Feeding Disorders Program if:

  • You have significant difficulty at mealtime with your child
  • Your child refuses to eat
  • Your child is losing weight or not gaining weight
  • Your child regularly coughs, gags or vomits before, during or after mealtime
  • Your child is not eating appropriate foods for their age
  • Your child has anxiety or fear related to mealtime or new foods

Preparing for Your Visit

New Patient Information

If your child’s primary care physician or subspecialist suspects your child has a feeding disorder, they will refer you for an assessment with our team.

Comprehensive Evaluations

Once we receive a formal referral and review your child’s medical records, we will contact you by phone to conduct a brief interview. Following this interview, our assessment team will schedule a comprehensive evaluation.

The assessment will determine what level of treatment is right for your child. If we recommend that your child participates in either the partial hospital feeding program or outpatient program, Sanford Health will begin the authorization process. Once we obtain prior approval from your insurance provider, we’ll schedule your child into the program and send you a packet of information for completion.

Your First Visit

The first visit will include additional evaluations with the treatment team. The team will conduct assessments to determine the best treatment for your child. We will observe meals fed by the parent or caregiver and evaluate the child’s current feeding difficulties. Following the initial assessment, your child will have multiple therapeutic feeding sessions each day.

We design personalized treatment plans based on these evaluations. Our treatment plans center on the objective data we collect, scientific principles of behavior analysis, team and caregiver input, and evidence-based treatments for feeding disorders.

We will regularly assess outcomes throughout the program. Once a treatment plan has been developed and your child begins to make progress, we’ll offer training to the parent or caregiver. This training is key to the program’s success, as we strive to help your child develop feeding behaviors that can be maintained in home and community environments.

Follow-Up Care

We’ll schedule follow-up appointments at the clinic after the completion of our partial hospital program. During the follow-up appointment, our staff will oversee a meal with your child to evaluate the effects of treatment and success. Recommendations for continued follow-up care are based on the results of this visit.