Mary Free Bed’s Pediatric Feeding Program evaluates and treats children – from birth to age 18 – who are experiencing difficulty chewing, swallowing, eating or drinking due to a variety of medical conditions. Our goal is to maximize a child’s feeding skills and improve their overall well-being through treatment, training and parental support. A team of experts work with families to develop feeding techniques catered to each child’s specific needs.

Pediatric Feeding Program patient - young girl with blue bow in her hair smiling and holding a colorful plate to the camera

Feeding treatment may be needed if you see any of these signs:

  • arching or stiffening of the body during feeding
  • irritability or lack of alertness during feeding
  • failure to accept different textures of food
  • prolonged feeding times (more than 30 minutes)
  • excessive drooling or leaking food/liquid from the mouth
  • wet, hoarse or breathy voice quality
  • coughing, gagging or throwing up during or after meals
  • recurring pneumonia or respiratory infections
  • difficulty coordinating breathing with eating or drinking
  • frequent spitting up
  • less-than-normal weight gain or growth
  • pocketing food in the mouth for prolonged period of time

The Multidisciplinary Team

  • Speech-language pathologist (SLP)/Occupational therapist (OTR): The therapist evaluates oral motor skills (tongue, lips, cheeks: strength and range of motion) and feeding and swallowing difficulties. The therapist will then make recommendations for treatment and teach necessary skills, strategies and techniques for safe and efficient eating and drinking.
  • Registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN)*: The registered dietitian-nutritionist evaluates the oral or tube feeding needs of each patient and develops a plan to promote optimal growth and development. Recommendations and education will be given to improve each child’s growth and development.
  • Registered Nurse (RN)*: The role of the nurse is to coordinate pediatric health care provided by the feeding program. The nurse assesses the patient and family, identifies needs, and participates in formulating a plan of care and monitoring progress.

*Virtual visits in Holland are available at scheduled evaluation and treatment times

Comprehensive Services

Our feeding program services are provided based on a physician’s evaluation and written prescription.

Pediatric Feeding Program patient - young boy wearing a green and grey striped shirt reaching for an adult hand holding out a cheese puff. A therapist wearing a black shirt is seen in the background, smiling. Oral motor evaluation – A specially trained speech-language pathologist or occupational therapist will complete a clinical feeding evaluation, including a review of the child’s medical history, and reports from other health care providers. Nutrition and nursing support is available.

Videofluoroscopic swallow study (VFSS): A videofluoroscopic study is basically an x-ray video that gives the child’s feeding therapy team a way to record, observe and assess the way the child swallows. An oral motor evaluation is included in this step. We provide same day initial results and recommendations. Video swallow studies currently are provided only at the Grand Rapids location with follow-up treatment available in Holland.

Feeding therapy – Feeding therapy is coordinated by our multi-disciplinary team. We also work with other community providers such as WIC, Early On, schools, specialty clinics, VNA, and referring physicians.

Some of the areas of focus may include:

  • Decreasing oral defensiveness and aversion
  • Learning new ways to meet child’s needs
  • Optimal positioning to increase safety
  • Oral motor strengthening and coordination
  • Diet modifications to increase safety and improve respiratory health
  • Acceptance of new foods and textures
  • Acceptance of age-appropriate variety and amount

Family and caregiver feeding education – Family involvement is a key component of our feeding program. Families and caregivers will receive training and strategies to help each child meet their individual needs.


For more information, please contact:

616.840.8005 – Grand Rapids

616.294.4066 – Holland

616.840.9642 – Fax referrals