Infants who are born prematurely or have medical conditions after birth often struggle with learning to eat. Many developmental and medical factors can delay and disrupt the natural process of learning to eat and lead to infants relying on feeding tubes to ensure they receive the vital nutrition they need for growth and development.
When infants need more time to develop their oral feeding skills, it often prolongs hospitalizations once infants are medically stable to be discharged home. This can be very stressful for families and create a lot of pressure to try to help infants learn to eat more quickly.
The way we feed infants even at the earliest stages of infancy has a big impact on whether they establish a positive relationship with the feeding experience and a space to develop their oral feeding skills as safely and efficiently as possible. A large percentage of infants born prematurely or with significant medical conditions go on to develop a feeding disorder due to associating feeding with stress and discomfort. These negative associations persist without intervention and interfere with later feeding development. Research is increasingly demonstrating that early learning experiences with food play an important role in establishing life-long eating habits.
Preventing feeding disorders
The Interdisciplinary Pediatric Feeding Program (IPFP) has secured grant funding to develop an innovative, comprehensive and interdisciplinary Infant Feeding Program focused on preventing feeding disorders from developing from the start in our smallest and most vulnerable patients.
This program includes expansion of a well-established, evidence-based and comprehensive infant feeding program for all infants hospitalized at Mott to promote safe and efficient oral feeding skill acquisition and prevent negative associations from forming for all hospitalized infants.
Additionally, we have developed an innovative, interdisciplinary outpatient Home Nasogastric Tube (NG) Follow-Up Clinic for infants who are discharged from the hospital with an NG tube and need more time to develop oral feeding skills. This will allow infants to be discharged sooner from the hospital and receive immediate, frequent and comprehensive follow up from infant feeding specialists, including an infant feeding psychologist, speech language pathologist, registered dietitian, and lactation consultant to support oral feeding progress at home.
With the use of telehealth technology, families throughout the state can stay home while still receiving close monitoring and support to wean from the feeding tube safely and efficiently.
The Home NG Follow Up Clinic is currently only offered to infants who have been admitted to Mott since birth and meet other qualifying criteria. Outside referrals are not accepted at this time.