I haven’t talked a lot about Owen’s eating progress and so wanted to update you on what he’s up to these days.
Background: At the time of his feeding evaluation in August, Owen was not swallowing food. He also would not allow me to put anything in his mouth. He would take a spoon from my hand and then use his other hand to wipe off most of the food from the spoon, stick the spoon in his mouth and would drool out any food that happened to still be on the spoon. At his evaluation it was determined that he was physically able to eat, but he had no interest and needed help with his skills.
How is he doing today: I’m sorry to be that parent that brags about their kid, but the changes in Owen’s eating in just two months of therapy, is by all accounts pretty amazing. He still has a long way to eating steak, but he’s made great progress for such a short amount of time. He went from eating nothing to now eating 2-3 containers of 2nd baby foods every day. Not only is he swallowing, he’s allowing me to feed him and I no longer have to sneak the spoon into his mouth. When I put the spoon up to his mouth, he opens his mouth to take in the food. He also puts a variety of crunchy/puff foods in his mouth and swallows a small portion of these bigger solids.
He’s doing so well on his feeding that the therapist and I decided that his appointments will now focus on fine motor skills – rather than eating. I’m sure we’ll go back to eating again, but right now he’s moving at a pace that it’s not beneficial to try to push him any faster. Early Graduation!! I will continue working with him on eating at home and each week when we meet, give a verbal update and ask any questions, but the bulk of those appointments will be helping Owen use his hands to manipulate objects.
What is working for us: The big thing we’ve learned about Owen’s personality is that he has to want to do things. If he wants to do something, he will figure out a way to do it. For example, well before he could crawl, he figured out how to scoot on his back to get where he wanted. Once he’s motivated, he’s very tenacious in his practice. With that in mind, the key for Owen was giving him every opportunity to taste foods and find the items that get him excited.
I’m having the most luck finding these items at Trader Joe’s for three reasons. 1) They have a wide variety of snacks that do not have egg or wheat. 2) Owen seemed to prefer stronger flavor profiles than what was offered in baby foods. 3) At Trader Joe’s you get a big bag of snacks for $2 and at Target the tiny tin of Gerber L’il Crunchies is $2.50+ – much better value at TJ’s especially since Kellen likes to sample whatever Owen is eating. From Trader Joe’s we get dried banana’s and apricots, cheese puffs, cheese crunchies (generic Cheetos), dried pea pods, potato strings and generic pirates booty.
None of these favorites of Owen’s are highly nutritious but he really doesn’t eat much of them, he just sucks and chomps and then spits them out. What they do, however, is give him flavors and objects to try and distract him when I come in with the spoonful of the more nutritious options. When there are not crunchy items for him to try on his tray, he will not participate in eating the purees.
The result, is a complete mess. I end up picking up handfuls of mushy, half eaten, “crunchies” off Owen, his high chair and the floor. It’s not the way I’d choose for him to eat, but it’s what’s working and so I don’t mind sweeping my floor 3 times a day and mopping it every other day. Well, okay, I do mind, but, first thing is to work within Owen’s comfort and then bring him slowly to my comfortable place. Anyone who knows me will say that I’m Type-A, as in, I like control…a lot, but I’m learning that I can best control this situation by giving Owen the control he needs 🙂
The other thing that we do is really work to make eating times fun. I sing to him, make animal sounds, talk to him about what he’s eating, repeat after his babbles, sign “more” and “eat” when appropriate and if nothing else, make goofy faces at him (all things that will never show up in a video). If he wants to play with a spoon or six, he plays with a spoon or six (seriously, I’ve used 8 spoons for one meal). If Owen shakes his head “no”, I try one more bite. If he shakes his head “no” again, we stop. If he gets visibly upset, we stop. When he finishes a container of food, he’s rewarded by getting to play with it. When we are done, I sign and say, “all done”. He is now getting to a place that before we eat, if I sign and say, “eat”, Owen shows excitement.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is there is no magic formula. It’s trial and error and very messy and mostly very slow. We got lucky and found something that worked for Owen pretty quickly, but we still have a long way to go before he’ll swallow something that is not a puree. Owen’s nowhere near losing his g-tube, and that’s not even a goal that I have in my focus. I try to keep the goals really tiny and incremental so I don’t get frustrated and give up, because if I give up, Owen’s going to give up.
Wish us luck, there is still along way to go, but all progress is worth celebrating!
What’s working / has worked for everyone else?
Some of the “crunchies” that Owen likes.
Owen chewing on a dried pineapple for the first time. Note all the mushy crunchies on his shirt (we normally use a bib, but he’s about to get changed).