Eating and Drinking Difficulties

Eating and drinking may be difficult for some people living with cerebral palsy. This may be apparent soon after birth, with babies experiencing problems feeding either from the breast or bottle, or may start later in life.

Cerebral palsy can affect the muscles that open and close the mouth and move the lips and the tongue. Some people living with cerebral palsy may have difficulties in chewing and swallowing food and drink – a condition known as dysphagia.

Cerebral palsy often impacts fine motor skills and this can affect the ability of people to easily use cutlery, hold a cup, or transfer food from a plate to their mouth using their hands.

Others may suffer from gastroesophageal reflux – where acid from the stomach rises into the oesophagus – which makes eating uncomfortable or painful. This can sometimes be controlled by medication.

1 in 15 children with cerebral palsy are unable to take food through their mouth and need to be fed through a feeding tube. Speech pathologists and occupational therapists can help people with cerebral palsy who have eating and drinking difficulties.

If you are a person with cerebral palsy who has concerns about eating or you are a parent or carer concerned about your child or someone you know, then it is important that you seek advice and support.

Services that may assist with this area include: