Dysphagia is a medical term that means trouble swallowing. Dysphagia can affect people of all ages and can become very serious, especially in children who need to eat healthy and well-balanced meals. While there are medical interventions that can help with dysphagia, parents should do their best to ensure children with dysphagia eat well and healthily. The struggle for parents is to ensure their children can swallow their food so their nutrition needs can be met.
Start With Their Favorite Meals
Every child has foods they like more than others. Once identified, parents should try to recreate these meals in ways that will help ease the dysphagia. For younger children, this can often be achieved by mashing the foods, while for older kids, this can be done by ensuring the food is cut up into small pieces and cooked well enough that it is easy to chew and swallow.
When trying to create these dysphagia-friendly meals, it is important to mix different ingredients to try to balance the nutrition and the taste. You do not want them eating the same food over and over because that would not be healthy for them.
Slow Down and Teach Them To Chew Slowly
A common dysphagia complication is the inability to chew food correctly because the muscles required for this do not coordinate properly. Teach your child to slow down and chew slowly. Chewing slowly not only helps reduce the size of the food – it also increases the amount of saliva the food is mixed with before swallowing. This can make swallowing easier and have other nutritional benefits too; food that is chewed completely is often easier to digest and extract nutrients from. This means your child will get a lot more out of the food.
Make Food Easier to Swallow
In addition to encouraging proper chewing, there are other ways to help make food easier to swallow, such as adding thickeners. Food thickeners make food easier to swallow by slowing it down during swallowing. This not only gives the body time to direct it to the esophagus, but it also helps with the gag reflex that causes choking and coughing. Food thickeners such as those from Simply Thick can also be used with beverages, and they make it easier for kids with dysphagia to enjoy both hot and cold beverages.
Make Meals a Family Affair
A common cause of malnutrition in kids with dysphagia is eating too little or eating infrequently due to embarrassment caused by feeling different. Some kids also need different types of foods from the rest of the family, which breeds other problems.
To help eliminate these issues, encourage your child to eat with the rest of the family. Additionally, try recipes that your kid and everyone else will enjoy, so they can feel included.
By doing this, you will make them look forward to eating rather than feeling down when it is mealtime.
Although dysphagia affects people of all ages, it is particularly challenging for children and their parents. Parents have to find ways to ensure their kids eat enough and eat well-balanced meals, so their nutritional needs are met.