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Feeding Avoidance vs. Feeding Aversion

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Feeding avoidance is when an uncomfortable situation occurs related to food. The situation can be either painful, frightening, or scary since there was too much pressure, and the control was taken away from the child. This experience with the food may lead the child to remember the specific situation as something negative. The child typically becomes extremely selective and picky with what they want to eat. The negative experiences then become a memory for the next mealtime, leading the child to have a feeding aversion. A feeding aversion is where the child associates feeding as negative and will avoid it altogether. Food avoidance leads to feeding aversion!


Causes of Feeding Aversion:

  • The digestive function is not working properly

  • Medication tastes gross or creates abdominal pain

  • Cardiorespiratory issues

  • Tube feedings

  • Lack of oral experiences

  • Inappropriate responses to child's cues

  • Oral Hypersensitivity

Tip for Children with Feeding Aversions:

  • Provide opportunities for non-related food sucking

  • Offer a soother (e.g., chewy toys)

  • Encourage mouthing of fingers and toys

  • Encourage participation with mealtime routines even if the child does not eat the food

  • Provide proper positioning with the right support

  • Limit distractions during mealtimes

  • Have a regular feeding schedule (3 meals a day with a snack in-between)

  • Make gradual changes

  • Food chain

  • Give the child control

  • Give the child an opportunity to spit

  • Provide repeated exposures to food even if the child shows disinterest

References

Cammarata, C. M. (Ed.). (2023, April). Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) (for

parents) - nemours kidshealth. KidsHealth. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/arfid.html

Marcus, S., & Breton, S. (Eds.). (2022). Infant and child feeding and swallowing: Occupational

therapy assessment and intervention (2nd ed.) AOTA Press.

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