A single swallow requires the use of 26 muscles and 6 cranial nerves working in perfect harmony to move food and liquid through the body. When one or more pieces of the feeding puzzle are missing, out of order, or unclear, infants and children can have difficulty eating and drinking.
Children with pediatric feeding disorder (PFD) are more than fussy babies or picky eaters. For them, taking a single bite of food may be painful, frightening, or even impossible. As a result, they may severely limit their food choices or refuse food altogether, preventing them from getting the nutrition they need.
Applying the US Census Bureau’s 2017 population reports, early findings estimate that more than 2.3 million children under the age of 5 experience severe pediatric feeding disorder in the United States each year. Additional reports estimate that up to 25% of developmentally typical children and up to 80% of those with developmental disabilities have feeding problems.
Yet, there had been no studies to quantify the assorted costs, medical and otherwise, incurred by families navigating PFD. PFD is defined as impaired oral intake that is not age-appropriate, and is associated with medical, nutritional, feeding skill, and/or psychosocial dysfunction.
Feeding Matters’ Economic Impact Study identifies the economic burden of PFD on families who have insurance. From medicines, supplies, and expert childcare to specialized education, travel to appointments, and lost time, managing PFD can come with significant economic costs to families. Furthermore, parents and caregivers – herein referred to as “caregivers” – may experience lost or decreased income due to time required for PFD care. This study describes those costs.