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Feeding children with neurodisability: challenges and practicalities
  1. Akshay Batra1,
  2. Luise V Marino2,
  3. R Mark Beattie1
  1. 1 Department of Paediatric Gastroenterology, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
  2. 2 Nutrition and Dietetics, UHS, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr R Mark Beattie, Department of Paediatric Gastroenterology, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK; mark.beattie{at}


Nutritional management for children with neurodisability can be challenging and there are an increasing number of children at risk of malnutrition. Management involves healthcare professionals in community and hospital working together with the family with the aim of optimising nutrition and quality of life. Feeding difficulties can be the result of physical causes like lack of oromotor coordination, discomfort associated with reflux oesophagitis or gastrointestinal dysmotility. Non-physical causes include parental/professional views towards feeding, altered perception of pain and discomfort, extreme sensitivity to certain textures and rigidity of feeding schedule associated with artificial feeding. Estimating nutritional needs can be difficult and is affected by comorbidities including epilepsy and abnormal movements, severity of disability and mobility. Defining malnutrition is difficult as children with neurodisability reflect a wide spectrum with disparate growth patterns and body composition and auxology is less reliable and less reproducible. Management involves selecting the type and method of feeding best suited for the patient. As artificial feeding can place a significant burden of care any decision-making should be, as much as possible, in concurrence with the family. Symptom management sometimes requires pharmacological interventions, but polypharmacy is best avoided. The article aims to discuss the pathways of identifying children at risk of malnutrition and available management options with a strong emphasis on working as a clinical team with the child and family.

  • gastroenterology
  • paediatrics

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests LM has received honoraria for educational talks for Abbott Laboratories and Danone Nutricia.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.