Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Boy and his eating

So when The Boy was born he weighed 7 lbs.  He was always a fat little dude.  People used to joke that my breast milk must be made out of cream.  He had rolls upon rolls upon rolls of precious baby fat.  I remember when he used to be in the Bjorn I would squish the little rolls of fat above his kneecaps.  For a reference point, at 9 months of age he weighed in at 19.1 lbs.

Right around that time he got a nasty flu bug.  He couldn't keep anything down for days.  It got pretty bad.  The only thing he wanted was his milk and his doctors said that was horrible for his stomach.  (A stupid Mommy tried to challenge this concept once and was almost immediately proven that the doctors did indeed know what they were talking about on this one).  So we went on what was the first of many a hunger strike in his life.  To this day, this one was the worst.  I remember we FINALLY found that he would drink some chicken broth.  He was about to be checked into the hospital for dehydration at that point and I was following him around with a medicine dropper full of water and squeezing it into his mouth whenever he would come in my path.  But finally he took a couple of spoonfuls of chicken broth off my spoon, and then he took several spoonfuls of it, and eventually he drank it directly out of his bottle.  That chicken broth saved us that time.  But for some reason, after this, we had to go back to literally square one with food.  After that flu he could not keep ANYTHING down.  So we had to go back to rice cereal.  And then add in one vegetable, and then another, and then one fruit...  We had to go back to the beginning and start all over again.  At over 9 months old.  We moved forward from there, but that was the first notice of anything being weird.

Around a year of age I began to realize that he wasn't swallowing anything of substance.  He could swallow his baby food just fine, but he was a year old and couldn't swallow a cheerio.  He would continually put them in his mouth and move them around in there and then they would just come back out of his mouth and fall out.  He would continue like he didn't know anything had happened and put another one in his mouth.  He just kept going like this.  He thought he was eating.  He just wasn't getting anything of substance.  We talked to our pediatrician at a year old who recommended an amazing food specialist.

This would be the beginning of a long term relationship with this Pediatric Clinic and my son.  He still goes there two days a week for speech therapy.  But this was when his journey began.  He saw a "food specialist," and we would come in at lunch time and she would evaluate his "suck, chew, swallow" technique and try and give us tips on how to do things differently.  This woman was amazing and would answer all of our questions and try and make me feel better during the process (hard thing to deal when your kid doesn't know HOW to eat).

For what seemed like forever, I made this boy food every single night and put it in front of him to watch him try and eat it.  And every single night after he "ate" I would clean up virtually every single thing that I put on his plate.  I had no concept of kids that actually finished things that were put in front of them.  Again, for reference, at 18 months of age, he weighed in at 19.4 lbs.  Gained virtually nothing in 9 months.  I won't bore you with all the checkups, but as of last week, at 2 1/2 years old, he only weighs 23 lbs.  That's only 4 pounds heavier than he was when he was 9 months old.  My vain in life people...this child's weight sometimes seems to be my life's mission.

I remember that shredded cheese was the first thing he was able to swallow.  After that he moved onto things like tuna salad, or chicken salad.  Stayed with the shredded theme for a while.  My son was also VERY late in getting teeth.  So he didn't have a whole lot of teeth to chew with at this point either.  As the teeth came in, so did the workings of his muscles.  He slowly started adding more and more into what he was able to chew and eat.  I would say that by the time he was two, and his teeth had all come in, he could eat chew and swallow like any other kid his age.  As of today he is physically able to eat anything he wants.  He's two, so he makes that challenging and that is another post in and of itself.  But he can chew and swallow normally.  Although I sometimes do notice that his mouth gets tired of chewing and he seems to take a little break and talk for a while, or play with his food, and then go back and eat more.  He takes a long time to eat a meal and is definitely more of a grazer than a "sit down and chow" kind of guy.

But during it all I learned that the most important thing I could do as a Mom was to never let my son know that he had any issues with eating at all.  We kept dinnertime fun.  We left the mood light.  We let him play in his food (a tool to allow his jaw to relax in between eating so he doesn't get too tired and quit), and we NEVER ever told him that he had to eat or finish anything.  When he said he was done, we obeyed that.  He set the tone.  So every night he thought that he sat down and had a normal dinner and ate like everyone else.  To this day, he has no clue that he eats any different than anyone else out there.  He doesn't know that he has any issues with food (although, dear god, does he have issues), and he enjoys dinnertime.  We both do.  We sit down every single night, just the two of us now, and we have dinner together and some times we sing songs, and some times we read one of his books together, and sometimes I just listen to the endless rambling thoughts that come out of his head but that still make no sense.  (Run-on much?)  Food itself?  My biggest challenge in life where it relates to my son.  But dinnertime?  My most favorite time of the day.  I guess that's saying something.

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