Liver Disease in Infants and Young Children

Nutrition plays an important role in the growth and development of children, especially in children and infants with liver disease. Regardless of the cause of the disease, chronic liver disease in pediatric leads to liver insufficiency, cirrhosis, and may be associated with severe cholestasis.

Cholestasis may be associated with itching, mal-absorption, malnutrition, and growth retardation. Cirrhosis causes portal hypertension, bloating and gastrointestinal bleeding. Complications of chronic liver disease include progressive hypoxia due to hepatic and lung shunt, or even more rare pulmonary hypertension (PH).Patients with these complications often become candidates for in situ liver transplantation.

Clinically, children with a better balanced diet spend less time in hospitals after a liver transplant. Food consists of many different nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals that are essential for good dietary nutrition.The liver plays an important role in good nutrition and growth, for two main reasons:

  • Liver creates bile, which helps absorb fat from your diet.
  • The liver transforms nutrients in the diet as energy and substances necessary for growth and normal body functions.

Infants with liver disease that develops Jaundice are unable to digest nutrients in milk, so they will always feel hungry and have the need to eat regularly, and may drink large amounts of milk as a result. Children with liver disease may suffer from poor appetite, but the need for calories and proteins increases, and in cases of increased but insufficient absorption can lead to malnutrition, resulting in stunting, energy shortages and greater risk of infection. Therefore, pay special attention to nutrition intake and seek the help and advice of a dietitian.

Tips for infants and children – Different stages of eating:

Feeding for babies

Infants with liver disease will drink less milk and grow poorly, so need to eat special formula milk. The taste and taste of this formula, unlike ordinary milk, ordinary baby milk ingredients contain long fats in chain fat (LCT) which would require  bile fluid to be absorbed.But if the baby has jaundice, it may mean poor bile flow, making it difficult for them to absorb long chain fat, which is why the baby drank a lot of milk and didn’t grow up.

The special formula contains a special fat called mid chain fat (MCT), which can be absorbed completely without bile. Dietitians recommend the best formula for your baby and need to regularly measure your baby’s weight, so it’s important to stay in close contact with your dietitian as they ensure fast handling of anyweight loss, or diet-related problems. If you are breastfeeding, we encourage you to continue breastfeeding when your baby is growing well, but it is often necessary to add special formula to match with breast milk to ensure that your baby continues to gain weight and grow.

Dietitian will advise you on the best way to feed, and may also need to add additional calorie supplements to the formula, which will also be prescription by dietitian.

Feeding for toddlers

Solid food should be started  between 4 and 6 months, the same way as other babies. Your health counselor will advise you on a normal weaning method and, if necessary, your dietitian will provide you with more specific advice.

Children with liver disease do not need to avoid any special food, even if they do not eat much. It is important to ensure that they have a regular and normal diet and dine with their family, which is a part of child’s development, but also through language training for the use of muscles.

Feeding for older children

In general, older children can eat the same food as family and friends, usually without changing the type of fat they consume in their diet. Instead, the child will need to eat more to fill up before the calories lost. If your child needs to avoid any special food, or add additional snacks or nutrients, your dietitian will also advise you.

Perfect nutrition is an important part of managing your child’s liver disease. If you need any help or advice, you can seek the help of a dietitian at the clinic or hospital that is treating your child, they will definitely be happy to provide you with suggestions for feeding your child.

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