Signs of Feeding Problems or Eating Disorders in Babies

A baby’s nutrition is vital for their growth, development, and overall well-being. However, some babies may experience feeding problems or even show early signs of eating disorders. As a parent or caregiver, understanding these signs can play a crucial role in getting your baby the help they need.

Discover the signs of feeding problems and eating disorders in babies, the differences between these issues, and how to seek help. Ensure your baby’s healthy growth and development by being vigilant about their eating habits.

Feeding Problems vs Eating Disorders

Before we dive into the signs, it’s essential to differentiate between feeding problems and eating disorders.

Feeding problems often manifest as physical difficulties with sucking, swallowing, or digesting food. These issues usually stem from medical conditions or developmental delays.

On the other hand, eating disorders, such as avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), are mental health conditions where babies or toddlers avoid food due to the smell, taste, texture, or past negative experiences.

Signs of Feeding Problems in Babies

  • Difficulty with sucking or swallowing: If your baby is having trouble sucking or swallowing, they might cough or choke during feeds, or food might come out of their nose.
  • Recurrent vomiting or diarrhea: These might indicate an intolerance or allergy, gastroesophageal reflux, or another digestive disorder.
  • Poor weight gain or growth: If your baby isn’t gaining weight as expected or has unexplained weight loss, it could be due to a feeding problem.
  • Behavioral signs during feeding: Unusual fussiness, sleepiness, or distraction during feeding times can also indicate feeding problems.

Signs of Eating Disorders in Babies

Though rare in babies, signs of an eating disorder like ARFID could include:

  • Avoidance of certain types or textures of food: Your baby might react negatively to certain smells, tastes, colors, textures, or types of food, or might only accept a very narrow range of foods.
  • Extreme fussiness during meal times: Unlike typical picky eating, this will persist for longer and may lead to weight loss or nutritional deficiencies.
  • Significant distress about eating: Your baby might cry, scream, or exhibit extreme distress when presented with foods they don’t like.

“Babies and toddlers with ARFID might not grow as expected (this can be called failure to thrive) because they don’t get enough nutrients. Or they might end up in the hospital because they don’t eat enough.” – National Eating Disorders Association

What to Do if You Suspect a Feeding Problem or Eating Disorder

If you notice any of these signs, it’s essential to reach out to your pediatrician or a feeding specialist. They can conduct a comprehensive evaluation to identify any physical or psychological issues that might be interfering with your baby’s feeding. Early intervention can help address these problems effectively, ensuring your child’s healthy growth and development.


Remember, feeding problems and eating disorders are not the parents’ or caregivers’ fault. They can occur in any child. It’s crucial to stay observant, communicate with your healthcare provider, and follow their guidance.

Your baby’s health and well-being are the most important things. By understanding the signs of feeding problems and eating disorders, you can ensure your little one gets the help they need when they need it.

Q1: What are feeding problems in babies?

A: Feeding problems in babies often manifest as physical difficulties with sucking, swallowing, or digesting food. These issues can stem from medical conditions or developmental delays.

Q2: How do I differentiate between a feeding problem and an eating disorder?

A: Feeding problems usually involve physical difficulties, such as problems with sucking or swallowing. On the other hand, eating disorders are mental health conditions where babies or toddlers avoid food due to the smell, taste, texture, or past negative experiences.

Q3: What is ARFID?

A: ARFID, or Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, is an eating disorder where the individual avoids certain foods based on their smell, taste, texture, or a past negative experience. In babies, this might present as avoidance of certain types or textures of food, extreme fussiness during meal times, or significant distress about eating.

Q4: What should I do if I suspect my baby has a feeding problem or an eating disorder?

A: If you suspect a feeding problem or an eating disorder, it’s crucial to contact your pediatrician or a feeding specialist. They can perform a comprehensive evaluation to identify any potential issues and suggest the appropriate intervention.

Q5: What are some signs of feeding problems in babies?

A: Some signs include difficulty with sucking or swallowing, recurrent vomiting or diarrhea, poor weight gain or growth, and unusual behaviors during feeding such as fussiness, sleepiness, or distraction.

Q6: Is it my fault if my baby has a feeding problem or an eating disorder?

A: No, feeding problems and eating disorders are not the fault of the parents or caregivers. They can occur due to various factors including medical conditions or psychological issues. It’s important to seek professional help and follow their guidance for treatment.

Q7: Are eating disorders common in babies?

A: Eating disorders are relatively rare in babies, but they can occur. The most common eating disorder in babies and toddlers is ARFID. If you’re concerned about your baby’s feeding behaviors, it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider.


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