The aim of this information sheet is to explain why many children with heart conditions have eating problems and what you as a parent can do to help overcome them.
Reasons for eating problems
There are a number of reasons why children with heart conditions can find it difficult to feed. These include the following.
Calories are what counts!
Eating enough calories is often essential for the health of children with heart conditions, especially if they are preparing for an operation.
Nowadays, there is a lot of pressure on parents to make sure that children have a healthy, well-balanced diet. However, it is more important for children with heart conditions to get enough calories than for them to have a healthy diet. Often this means that you have to feed your child whatever they like to eat, even if it is not very healthy.
The only real problem with a diet that includes lots of sugary food is the risk of tooth decay. Make sure that your child brushes their teeth well and often and goes to the dentist regularly.
Tips for increasing how many calories your child eats
Getting help from other people
If you are having problems getting your child to eat, try asking your cardiac liaison nurse for advice. You can also ask for an appointment with the hospital dietician.
Health visitors are another source of good advice and tips for getting children to eat. However, they are used to advising parents on how healthy children should eat. This means that their suggestions may be unrealistic for your child. If you think this is the case, you may want to show them this fact sheet or suggest they talk to your cardiac liaison nurse.
Many parents find that their children eat better when offered food by someone else. Other people (relatives, neighbours, friends and so on) will often be happy to help feed your child.
Evidence and sources of information for this CHF information sheet can be obtained at:
(1) Healthtalk.org. Parents of children with CHD: Feeding. London 2017. Available at:
(2) Healthtalk.org. Messages of support to parents. London 2017. Available at:
(3) Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust
Paediatric dietetics: nutrition for babies born with congenital heart disease
About this document:
Published: June 2014
Reviewed: June 2017
Due for review: June 2019
To inform CHF of a comment or suggestion, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 0300 561 0065.