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Dev Med Child Neurol. 2002 Jan;44(1):40-3.

Early feeding problems in children with cerebral palsy: weight and neurodevelopmental outcomes.

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Unit of Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, Institute of Child Health, Bristol, UK.


Using prospectively collected data from 13971 births enrolled in a large population-based cohort study (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children: ALSPAC), the prevalence of feeding difficulties at 4 weeks and 6 months of age in 33 children subsequently diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP) were investigated. It was also assessed whether early feeding difficulties could be predictive of functional and growth outcomes at age 8 years. Weak sucking at 4 weeks of age was reported in 11 of 23 children with CP and in 2206 of 12299 (18%) of the remaining population (p<0.0001), and great difficulties feeding at 6 months of age was reported in two of 21 (10%) of the group with CP and in 373 of 10941 (3.3%) of control participants (p=0.017). Feeding difficulties at 4 weeks of age were associated with the pattern of functional impairment at age 4 years (p=0.009) and at 8 years (p=0.068), being clinically underweight (p=0.01), and having speech and swallowing difficulties (p=0.005) at 8 years of age. Early, persistent, and severe feeding difficulties are a marker for subsequent poor growth, feeding, and developmental outcomes and can identify children with CP who will benefit from gastrostomy feeding.

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