FEEDING DIFFICULTIES IN PRESCHOOL CHILDREN, PREVIOUS FEEDING PRACTICES, AND NUTRITIONAL STATUS
ABSTRACT Objective: To identify the prevalence of feeding difficulties in preschoolers, its association with epidemiological factors and previous eating habits, and repercussion on nutritional status. Methods: Cross-sectional study with a questionnaire given to the mothers of 301 children aged 2-6 years enrolled in public and private kindergartens in Natal, Northeast Brazil, conducted in 2014-2015. Feeding difficulty was assessed according to Kerzner’s criteria, resulting in the profiles “highly selective intake”, “active child with small appetite”, “fear of feeding”, and “child with psychological disorder or neglected”. Association with the following independent variables was analyzed by logistic regression: breastfeeding time, age of cows’ milk and complementary feeding introduction, age range, family income, type of school, mothers’ profile (responsive or nonresponsive), and body mass index (BMI). Results: Feeding difficulty was found in 37.2% of cases, with predominance of “highly selective intake” (25.4%). It was not associated with infancy feeding practices, family income or type of school. There were no differences between the BMI Z score means for the groups with and without feeding difficulty (1.0±1.5 SD and 1.1±1.4 SD, respectively). The five-to-six age range had more occurrences (OR 1.8; 95%CI 1.1-2.9). Children of responsive mothers were less likely to have feeding difficulties (OR 0.4; 95%CI 0.2-0.8). Conclusions: Feeding difficulties were very frequent. Nutritional status was not impacted by it, and infancy eating habits were not associated with it. Responsive mothers’ profile is a protective factor against eating difficulties and reinforces the importance of behavioral factors and mother-child interaction.