Saturday, July 21

Feeding update

Sod's Law dictates that whatever we want within a time frame will of course be denied. Probably to be fulfilled as soon as it is not relevant.

Since our appointment with the dietician and the fact although improving, Wriggles' oral aversion is not disappearing anytime soon, Wriggles has gone from being practically curious about meal times to back to square one: refusal. There I was a month ago, blethering on to lovely Ruth about the amazing progress and how proud I was, to have it all grind to a halt. Although she will consume or at least chew, very small amounts (I'm talking mouthfuls, or pieces the size of my fingernail constituting a "meal") of dry textures like corn and maize snacks or crispbread, these are so low in calories they are in dietary terms counterproductive. I have been frantic in trying to avoid getting a feeding tube but am slowly coming to be at peace with if we end up with one, we end up with one. 

Three weeks of ending up back at square one, encountering all-out refusal of any solids, difficulty feeding milk (our one and only source of calories and nutrition) and being back to all manner of tactics to get out of any feeding has made me feel a broken mama. Against all my wishes and attempts at it being otherwise, feeding in any situation now, including drinking which it never has been, is a battle of stubbornly massive proportions. It was never meant to be like this. I was trying to hard to teach enjoyment and acceptance and the opposite has happened. No 'usual' tricks work, and any former fail-safes have fallen. The progress we made painstakingly had been rapidly backtracked on through a combination of illness, teething, toddlerdom and the horrid beast that is oral aversion. 

Would I be far more patient if I wasn't on a time frame against tube feeding?


Then again, maybe not. I suspect any more patience, any more gaily aborting mealtimes in the face of tears and upset, any more tackling defiance, would only be the work of a saint. And I am not a saint. I, like many others out there, am a humble parent trying to do the best but sometimes that will be called into question.

There are two big things I have been thinking about recently. One, is something a doctor said to be in hospital, and one is a debate which I have read on many feeding blogs and in support and awareness groups.

1. "Is it ever 'right' to use a feeding tube for children?" mused the doctor to his students.

And as he followed up, yes, in many cases. In premature infants before they can suck or swallow and co-ordinate, in sick children who cannot feed, in children who for a vast array of reasons either cannot eat or drink or cannot co-ordinate, those with complex medical needs and those who do not tolerate a variety of feeding. What he was specifically addressing though, was FTT (Failure to Thrive) children. It is a tricky question, and one he admitted he sat on the fence about. Given that food is available, surely a child will not let himself actually starve or dehydrate? Would even the worst feeding disorder be conquered by approaching starvation and malnourishment? And on the other hand, is it more cruel to push a child to those extremities which may prove fruitless? What if by that point, the child's internal sensory and psychological hard wiring was so confused, that the same signals and reflexes did not register? A hard choice and not one to be taken lightly by parents or physicians. 

2. ...which lead on to "is it more cruel in either long or short term to keep pushing food as a primary source, or to rely on an invasive feeding tube to be able to let the child go at his own pace?"

Again, not easy to answer and one that ultimately will differ from each child, each situation, each paediatrician and each family. I have always been of the opinion that feeding tubes are a no-go zone. A last resort. Giving up. And then along came oral aversion, blighting our meal times. We have gone beyond toddler-tactics. Beyond baby book advice. Beyond crafting edible animals and such like out of lunch. Beyond trial and error. Beyond simple solutions. Beyond discipline. We are in a murky territory and more than it pains me to see Wriggles not eat, it pains me to see her unhappy. And sometimes, she is miserable around food. Actually, sometimes? A year ago, I thought I must be doing something wrong. That there must be something to change and it would all suddenly fall into place. It is frustrating, but I now know there is no suddenly. Yes, there are small victories and milestones that feel HUGE, but no sudden snap of the fingers. This is going to take time. More time and more patience that I ever envisaged. I must admit, I have begun to wonder if it is more harmful or hurtful to keep pushing constant feeding on her. When she does feed, it is so slow that it can be easy for one thing to run into the other. The only way to get a decent amount of calories (and nutrients) into her is to ensure she drinks at least 600ml of Paediasure Plus a day. This is no easy task. She struggles with large volumes, can take well over an hour to sink a bottle and becomes bored and upset easily. She still struggles with a strong gag reflex too, which all too often undoes the hard work of the previous hour. Would her quality of life be improved by allowing her more freedom, or would it be hampered with more medical intervention? I am not wholly sure I can answer that right now. Since switching from a peptide to this current milk, I think she has put on weight. I can see one less set of ribs at least. But if so, and if they quite happily drop the feeding tube shebang at the next review, what then? Do we just struggle on in vain? I am beginning to wonder if part of the problem is that the poor mite feels she is in her eyes, constantly being asked to feed, with little satisfying result. It is going to take a lot more than some simple distractions or super-yummy food to turn mealtimes into fun times. More than just trust. Is it fair to ask her to carry on like this? 

A lot of food (haha) for thought for this premmy mum.

13 months old in hospital, when there was a vague plan to place a permenant NG tube that got quashed at the last minute, two hours before discharge!


  1. It must be so hard. What do other parents say about feeding tubes? Did u ever hear of anyone saying a feeding tube helped with oral aversion, or does it only ever help with weight gain? I was only wondering if a break from trying might help? Xx

  2. This must be such a hard decision and I don't think there is every really a "right" answer with our lovely, complicated babies - just whatever in the end works to help them be as healthy and well as they can be. I hope you find the right guidance and are at peace with whatever you decide. x