Treating eating disorders in young children

How do know you if a young child has an eating disorder?

It is often the parents of young children who notice that their child is not eating properly. The general practitioner or paediatrician can then examine whether the child has an eating problem. This can involve a physical examination to see whether the child is healthy or perhaps experiences pain when eating. When the child is very young and has a limited ability to talk, the doctor will direct questions primarily to the parents. In this way, the doctor will find out how to make the child healthy and happy again. 

Will it go away?

Many young children who have problems with eating ‘grow’ out of it. Parents can help them in this regard. If the problem is physical in nature, the doctor will look into whether there is a treatment that can eliminate the pain so that the child can begin to eat well again. Some children have to learn to eat certain things so that they will begin to like them more and more. This also better for them, in that it will also be easier for them if they eat at a friend’s or a school camp. 


When the child’s problems are better identified, a doctor or psychologist will work with the parents to design a good plan for finding a solution. If the child is still very young, it is extra important that the parents clearly explain what the problem is. They are often very concerned.
There are usually a variety of reasons for why young children do not want to eat. An assessment is therefore made on a child-by-child basis of what the problems are and which medical professionals can resolve them. The professionals who may be brought in include speech therapists (who focus on oral sensation), dieticians (who look at what the child eats and what effect this has on the body), an ear-nose-and-throat doctor, special education experts, child psychologists and psychiatrists.

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