This kid has come a long way! I remember being beside myself the first time Jack finished a stage 1 baby food in 2 days. After that, we spent a year combating oral aversions due to textures and undeveloped skill. You can’t get a baby to eat if they don’t know how to swallow. The old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink” was painfully real. Our only option was to continue to offer new foods and beverages, maintain a tube-feeding schedule and display patience so Jack wouldn’t feel our frustrations.
My display of patience was always noticeably manufactured. I’m embarrassed to admit that there were multiple times during this last year that I lost my cool and would yell at Jack for not eating. I would ask him in a panicked shrill, “I live to eat and you won’t even eat to live! What’s wrong with you?!” And I would storm off to cry. I would cry not only that Jack still had a long ways of developing but also that I felt cheated. I wanted so bad to breast feed, but couldn’t; I wanted to start Jack on a healthy and active lifestyle early in life, but couldn’t; and I found myself pumping him with manufactured, powdered formula at an age well passed a year old. And I felt guilty because I was sad more for how that made me feel rather than how Jack felt.
Jack had never had to eat to live. Nutrition was taken care of for him since birth. That was the only thing that had been taken care of for him. He had spent his life since day one learning to survive. And he did quite the stand-up job doing it, so he certainly deserved my patience. Manufactured or organic.
So, I put on my happy, patient parent hat and took suggestions from therapists, family and friends. We tried food chaining as suggested from our wonderful Children’s speech pathologist, Kirsten. (Side note: when we go back to in-home care this fall, I will be fighting tooth and nail to get Jack’s therapists Kirsten and Shannon back!) I also learned to change my behaviors after talking to a friend, Megan, whose daughter also struggled with feeding development. She said, and I paraphrase, “These kiddos don’t value mealtime like we do. They value playing and exploring so much more. You’re not just teaching them to eat, you are teaching them what it means to eat. But they have to enjoy it first”.
So, here we are, just shy of Jack’s two year birthday. He slowly increased his oral calories and variety of textures over the past couple months for High Risk to allow us a trial week of only oral foods…no formula boluses. The first week, he fell short almost every day after falling victim to his first ear infection. We were allowed to try another two-week trial period as long as Jack’s calorie intake raised from 1000 calories per day to 1200 calories per day and eventually to 1400 calories per day. I thought for sure that we would have to supplement with formula….but… as usual, Jack impressed us all by stepping up and rising to the occasion. He has since picked up a love for chocolate whole milk and is meeting a 1300 calorie per day requirement. Next week, we’ll push it to 1400.