Intensive feeding program

For more information

Woman and young girl playing with pretend food and dishes.

The Helen DeVos Children's Hospital Intensive Feeding Program helps children as young as 12 months old learn to eat and drink in positive and productive ways. This program is a welcome rarity as the only one of its kind in Michigan and one of a few in the country. Our feeding team is dedicated to providing the expertise necessary to make mealtimes successful, manageable and even enjoyable once again for you and your child. We believe in empowering families one bite at a time. We're grateful to have the generous support of the Gerber Foundation to bring your family a variety of support for infant development and nutrition, helping kids from infancy through elementary age overcome nutritional challenges.

Find a Provider for the Pediatric Intensive Feeding Program

Our experienced pediatric doctors and specialists are ready to serve you and your family.

What to expect

Intensive feeding programs are just that – intensive. If admitted to our day treatment program, you and your family will be making a six- to eight-week commitment. Essentially, treatment becomes a full-time job for you and your child for the duration of his or her admission to the program. While we recognize this represents a significant investment of time, our team works collaboratively with families toward achieving rewarding and long-lasting results. Although specific to each child and family, our program targets a variety of outcomes including decreased reliance on or elimination of supplements and/or tube feedings, reduced or eliminated behavioral disruptions associated with mealtimes, broadened variety of foods accepted, increased volume of food and drink consumed, and enhanced oral-motor and feeding skill development. 

Using a systematic and evidence-based approach, our multidisciplinary team collaborates with families to improve their children’s eating outcomes. Our program’s goals are to help children achieve developmentally appropriate feeding and drinking patterns during treatment and to educate parents and caregivers on how best to sustain gains and continue progress at home. Our program addresses an array of feeding difficulties including, but not limited to:

  • Total food refusal 
  • Dependency on a feeding tube 
  • Food tolerance difficulties 
  • Restricted eating patterns
  • Difficulty transitioning to age-appropriate textures 
  • Recurrent vomiting 
  • Food allergies

Our programs and services

Depending on your child’s needs, he or she may participate in one of three programs, all situated in a fun, upbeat, and developmentally-appropriate setting:

Day treatment program

The day treatment program includes a minimum of three daily therapeutic feeding sessions with program staff. Our program tailors treatment based on each child’s needs, as well as his or her family’s goals. Our accommodations include a play area and family lounge, as well as individual rooms for children requiring nap space. The day treatment program occurs Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is typically completed in six to eight weeks.

Inpatient program

The inpatient program is similar to the day treatment program, but is designed to serve children with medical risk factors that require 24-hour care. You may be referred to this program through a physician or our program may be asked to evaluate your child during his or her hospitalization. Once their medical needs stabilize, children typically transition to the day treatment program to complete their treatment.

Outpatient feeding therapy

The outpatient service includes feeding therapy with one of our program’s speech-language pathologists or occupational therapists. Sessions are approximately one hour in length and are typically scheduled one to three times weekly. While duration of treatment can vary, outpatient services are typically scheduled for eight to twelve weeks and are designed to address your child’s feeding needs in a less intensive environment. In some cases, outpatient therapy may be recommended in preparation for an admission to our day treatment program.