We are Advocates, Educators, Researchers, and Policy Influencers
Established in 2006, Feeding Matters is the first organization in the world uniting the concerns of families with the field’s leading advocates, experts, and allied healthcare professionals to improve the system of care for pediatric feeding disorder through advocacy, education, support, and research.
Defined as impaired oral intake that is not age-appropriate, and is associated with medical, nutritional, feeding skill, and/or psychosocial dysfunction, pediatric feeding disorder is estimated to affect more than 2.3 Million children under the age of 5 in the United States.
For these children, eating, drinking, and swallowing are painful and frightening – ultimately affecting their behavioral, physical, and emotional development. Yet, there is no functional system of care for pediatric feeding disorder locally, nationally, or internationally.
The act of eating is a complex task that involves the entire body and its organs working as one seamless unit. It takes 13 paired muscles (26 total) and six cranial nerves working in perfect harmony to move food and liquid through the body. This process takes only seconds but is the single most complex and physically demanding task an infant will complete for the first few weeks, and even months, of life.
Nutrition is the foundation for growth and development. Whether an infant or child eats by mouth or through a feeding tube, good nutrition allows children to thrive. It directly affects a child’s brain activity and capabilities, fine and gross motor skill development, and overall health and wellness.
Learning to eat skillfully and comfortably is rooted in the development of sensory and movement skills that make it possible for an infant or child to suck, swallow, bite, and chew. Feeding skills and abilities include the social, communication, and interactive skills that integrate with mealtime skills.
When children are struggling to eat, behavior is their way of communicating that something may not be working the way it should. It is also how they show their like or dislike for certain food. These behaviors can often leave family members and caregivers feeling confused and frustrated, affecting the parent–child relationship as well as the child’s thoughts and behaviors toward feeding.
Founder & Strategic Advisor
Shannon Goldwater believes that our greatest accomplishments in life often come from our greatest challenges. Her dream of healthy children was shattered in 2002 when her triplets were born four months prematurely. Although they overcame numerous life-threatening infections and countless surgeries, feeding and nourishing them quickly became the biggest challenge. All three babies cried, gagged, vomited, and often turned blue during feeding and eventually required feeding tubes to survive. Shannon had nowhere to turn, no information, and no support.
Shannon and her family spent over a year of their lives living in and out of numerous hospitals across the country to find help. However, no particular feeding program had all the right answers, and each one contributed to the triplet’s triumphs in varying degrees. She quickly realized that every family’s journey is unique. Treating children who struggle to eat is complex and requires the efforts of multiple specialists working together. It was through this battle, and the love for her children, that Shannon was inspired to create an organization that would build awareness, ignite research, and increase education for the then unnamed condition.
Her determination and collaborative spirit brought together international feeding experts to form the PFD Alliance, formerly known as the medical professional council. She inspired the creation of an online platform for family advice, resources, and support–as well as virtual learning center for the healthcare community–that has made a substantial impact nationwide. And, it was Shannon’s vision for a universally accepted definition and identity that facilitated a pivotal consensus meeting and the groundbreaking consensus paper. Accepted for publication by the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition in October of 2018, “Pediatric Feeding Disorder: Consensus Definition and Conceptual Framework” declares the universally accepted term and stand-alone diagnosis for the broad spectrum of pediatric feeding struggles now treated as a symptom to over 300 other conditions, such as autism, cerebral palsy, and cystic fibrosis.