All children need to eat a variety of healthy foods to grow and develop properly. For children with a chronic medical condition, such as cardiomyopathy, good eating habits and proper nutrition are even more important to maintain growth and development. According to recent research, growth failure is a common problem of children with cardiomyopathy, with nearly one-third exhibiting some degree of growth failure during the course of their illness.
With cardiomyopathy, the child's heart is not working at its optimal level, and the body requires more energy or calories to function properly. If the child does not get the additional calories or nutrients in their diet, it can lead to poor weight gain and slow growth. Some children with cardiomyopathy have poor appetites because their symptoms cause them to get tired while eating.
Feeding and Diet Guidelines
In order to maintain proper growth, the goal is to provide more calories than the average child requires in an appropriate and realistic manner. It is best to be flexible when determining feeding methods and schedules and to maintain positive eating habits. Smaller, more frequent meals, increased calories per meal, and nutritional supplements can help boost daily calories. A good article to read is "Nutrition in Pediatric Cardiomyopathy" published in Progress in Pediatric Cardiology. Additional guidelines about nutrition for children with cardiomyopathy can be found on CCF’s Diet page.
Babies with Cardiomyopathy
Babies diagnosed with cardiomyopathy may face different issues related to breastfeeding and bottle feeding. More information can be found on CCF’s Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding page.
Changes in Appetite
If your child's desire to eat changes dramatically over the course of a few weeks, contact your child's cardiologist to determine whether his/her heart condition is contributing to his/her loss of appetite. A gastroenterologist or feeding specialist may become involved. In severe cases, tube feedings may be recommended as a temporary method to increase your child's weight while he/she relearns positive eating skills.