Feeding and Swallowing
Pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders is an area of treatment that is rapidly growing due to the number of high-risk infants that are surviving life-threatening incidents. Although eating is a basic function needed to sustain life, it is not a simple process. It requires that food be sought and found, ingested, swallowed, and digested. If one link within this chain is broken then the final process of digestion and weight gain will not be achieved. The development of normal eating is extremely important because the nourishment is provided to not only the body, but the brain. Malnutrition and poor weight gain can lead to delayed physical development and poor language development. After all, eating provides the first opportunity for the infant to communicate with others a desire to seek food.
When the infant is first born the feeding and swallowing process is reflexive, which means the infant does not cognitively think about the process of sucking, swallowing and breathing. Between three and six months of age this becomes a more voluntary process.