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Munson pediatric feeding therapy helps children thrive

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A child's nutrition is crucial to their development. That's why feeding disorders can be emotional for both parents and their little ones. Munson Medical Center's pediatric feeding therapy clinic is helping families solve this problem.

A child's nutrition is crucial to their development. That's why feeding disorders can be emotional for both parents and their little ones. Munson Medical Center's pediatric feeding therapy clinic is helping families solve this problem.

Katie Marks' daughter, Natalie is almost three years old. Since the day she was born, Natalie always had feeding issues. It got to the point where it became serious.

"She did choke several times. I had to do infant heimlich probably three times with her," says Marks.

That's when Marks and her husband brought Natalie to pediatric feeding therapy at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City last December.

"Feeding disorders are different than eating disorders. Children who would benefit from this program can vary from failure to thrive children, children with poor weight gain, children who were in the NICU with extended stays, kids with combative behavior during feeding time," says occupational pediatric feeding therapist, Patty Flynn.

The outpatient feeding program has been at Munson for about 10 years.

"I typically start out with a treatment session with some exercises. I have tools that I use in and around the mouth or food is used. You work with what works with that child. Everyone is a little bit different. For Natalie I felt she was overwhelmed with food," says Flynn.

Flynn says it's an issue that needs to be tackled early on.

"The children who have feeding disorders are at risk for many health problems. It can be failure to thrive, aspiration issues, pneumonia, malnutrition, delayed growth of their brain and motor skills," says Flynn.

Flynn was able to work with Natalie for eight weeks and eventually over time, helped her to become comfortable with food.

"It's nice to have a person who knows what they're doing, that's worked with other children and say 'this is the issue', having the process explained and being able to work through it made the difference," says Marks.

It's a process and one that can be corrected for toddlers and give parents a sense of relief.

"Just being able to have piece of mind knowing what you're doing for your child. You're meeting their dietary needs," says Marks.

The Munson pediatric feeding program is also now collaborating with a registered dietician from the University of Michigan to add to their level of expertise. Patty Flynn also wants to remind parents kids experiencing acid reflux could also benefit from this feeding program.

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