Webinar Overview: Intensive Feeding Therapy

By October 11, 2018 October 12th, 2018 Newsletter

Michelle Mastin PhD, Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Intensive Feeding Program at Children’s Hospital of Alabama, recently collaborated with Feeding Matters to present a webinar explaining the details of intensive feeding programs, which help individuals solve feeding challenges in a structured environment. Following is an overview:

What is an intensive feeding program?

Intensive feeding programs are typically in-patient or day treatment, 5 or 7 days per week, with 3 to 5 sessions/meals per day. The course of treatment is either 2, 4, 6 or 8 weeks long.

A care team is assembled, typically consisting of a gastroenterologist, developmental pediatrician, psychologist/social worker, dietician, and specialists who focus on skills and learning.


When IS a child ready for an intensive feeding program?

When a child:

  • Has completed a medical evaluation ruling out organic contributions, or existing conditions have been treated
  • Is nutritionally stable
  • Is at 80% ideal body weight or maintaining their growth trajectory
  • Has received an oral motor evaluation to denote safety in swallowing
  • Has a history of consistent participation in outpatient feeding therapy
  • Has a family and behavioral support system
  • Has a well-established structure and routine at home
  • Has been evaluated by a psychologist for learning strengths and weaknesses


When is a child NOT ready for an intensive feeding program?

When a child has:

  • Limited or no medical evaluation to rule out and treat conditions that could be contributing to feeding challenges, such as:
    • Pulmonary challenges, sleep disorders
    • Cardiovascular/cardiorespiratory challenges
    • Genetic conditions
  • Nutritional instability, such as not gaining weight appropriate to their age
  • Trouble with safety in swallowing
  • Limited structure around eating and drinking at home
  • Grazing
  • Eating while sleeping
  • Need for a night drip
  • Extended duration of mealtime


How do you get a child ready for an intensive feeding program?

The child:

  • Should be evaluated by a gastroenterologist and developmental pediatrician
  • Tolerates g-tube feeds if he/she has a tube (or working with a registered dietician)
  • Has pre-feeding and requisite skills for eating
  • Is able to sit in supportive seating system for up to 20 minutes
  • Tolerates external oral touch to face and intra-oral stimulation
  • Opens mouth on command
  • Accepts “dry” utensils, spoons, and drinking devices


To set a child up for success, families should:

  • Make meal times clear
  • Limit distractions
  • Pick a consistent feeding setting and family meal times
  • Set a schedule to avoid grazing
  • Set and follow through on expectations with the child
  • Seek support in community, fellow families, and organizations


Create a Plan

  • When a child is ready, families should:
    • Develop an understanding of goals and philosophy for the program
    • Establish rules of treatment before embarking
    • Understand rules of parent involvement
    • Develop understanding of post-discharge needs
    • Ask questions


To view the full webinar, please click here: Office Hours with Michelle Mastin, PhD: Intensive Feeding Therapy   (Note: There will be a form to complete; you will then receive an email with details on how to watch the webinar.)

Have you used an intensive feeding program for yourself or a family member? Let us know on Facebook!