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Pediatric Feeding Program MFBSpecialized rehabilitation care and services can have a positive impact on your child’s well-being and quality of life if he or she has difficulty swallowing, eating or drinking. Mary Free Bed’s Pediatric Feeding Program offers personalized treatments for young patients, from newborns through teens.

Our goal is to maximize your child’s feeding skills and improve his or her overall well-being through treatment, training and parental support. A multidisciplinary team of experts works directly with you to develop feeding techniques catered to your child’s specific needs.


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Below is information about this specialized program.


Our feeding program services are provided based on a physician’s evaluation and written prescription. Included among our services are:

Feeding evaluation – A specially trained occupational therapist or speech pathologist may perform a feeding assessment. This includes a review of your child’s medical history, reports from other healthcare providers and an oral motor evaluation. We also ask that you share your specific concerns about your child’s difficulties.

Videofluoroscopic swallow study – A rehabilitation team may evaluate your child’s eating and swallowing difficulties with a videofluoroscopic swallow study. A videofluoroscopic study is essentially an x-ray video that gives your child’s therapy team a way to record, observe and assess your child’s difficulties and problem areas with things like chewing and swallowing. We provide you with a consultation and education to help you understand where and how your child experiences difficulties.

Feeding therapy – Feeding therapy is coordinated with your child’s physician or clinic team. Some of the areas of focus may include:

• Appropriate bottle and nipple selection for infants
• Decreasing oral defensiveness and aversion
• Learning compensatory techniques
• Optimal positioning to increase safety
• Oral motor strengthening and coordination
• Laryngeal and pharyngeal strengthening and coordination
• Diet modifications to increase safety and improve respiratory health
• Progress made accepting new foods and textures, or consuming more at one time

Family and caregiver feeding education – We consider family involvement to be a key component of our feeding program. You and any other caregivers will receive education and instruction on potential safety concerns specific to your child’s condition. We provide training in home exercise programs or strategies to ensure your child’s treatment is able to continue at home and in other settings.

Who Uses Our Services

We help children of all ages who experience difficulty swallowing or feeding due to conditions such as:

• Cerebral palsy
• Spinal bifida
• Oral aversion
• Brain injury
• Prematurity
• Cleft palate
• Cardiac problems
• Reflux
• Chronic coughing/choking while feeding
• Muscular dystrophy
• Apraxia
• Down syndrome and other syndromes
• Tongue-tied (ankyloglossia)
• Oral motor weakness
• Neurological problems
• Tube feeding
• Poor growth
• Respiratory complications, such as pneumonia

Patient Outcomes

97% of patients are satisfied
85% of kids eat more safely with recommended diet changes
71% of the program’s graduates like more foods
96% of parents and caregivers can feed their child safely

Treatment Team

Your child may meet with a variety of specialists to best address his or her needs. Some of the members of the team may include:

Rehabilitation Nurse (as needed) – The rehabilitation nurse evaluates and monitors your child, including height and weight. He or she develops care plans while also focusing on your child’s progress and education and collaborating with other care providers as necessary.

Occupational Therapist – An occupational therapist may evaluate any difficulty your child experiences while swallowing and makes recommendations for treatment. He or she teaches skills and techniques for successful eating and drinking and may help with fitting and customizing any necessary adaptive equipment.

Speech-Language Therapist – A speech-language therapist evaluates your child’s difficulties and needs and makes recommendations for treatment. He or she teaches skills and techniques for successful eating and drinking and may help with fitting and customizing any necessary adaptive equipment.

Psychologist (as needed) – A psychologist may review your child and family’s needs and provide services when needed. He or she may recommend behavior management techniques to both you and your child’s treatment team.

Registered Dietitian/Dietitian Assistant (as needed) – This professional may evaluate your child’s nutritional needs and provide individualized nutrition therapy and education for you and your child.

Care Manager (as needed) – A care manager may review your child and family’s needs and recommend community resources, as needed.

Intensive Feeding Program

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids offers an Intensive Feeding Program for pediatric patients needing comprehensive evaluation and management of dysphagia (difficulty or pain when swallowing). The program is located at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in the Mary Ives Hunter Center, 360 Lafayette SE.