I have prayed over this post for a long time. I think my fear is that I am not a therapist, I am not a specialist and I don't claim to be one. I don't want someone to take this post like I know what I am doing! Some have been recommended by therapists, some I have read up on, some we just were at our wit's end and it ended up working, some were recommendations. I hope that these tips will help you. Feeding is a long road and only the tough are called to deal with it. It is so difficult to explain to someone what it feels like to not have your kid eat. It is exhausting too, because it is something that your child has to do. There is no quick fix and there is nothing really that you can do other than try. I hope you enjoy these tips and maybe pick up something!
TIP # 1
One thing that was recommended to us by a top speech therapist was to prep your child you were going to take a bite. Say "Lydia, it is time for a bite." And then give the bite. We were not consistent with this and I regret it. I say that because just recently when we were about to give up, when we said this, she would take a bite. It was like it prepared her and she understood what was coming. I think if we would have been more consistent with it from the beginning, it might have been more effective for us. But I can see how this tip and trick is very effective, it did work for us even though we were not consistent with her!
Before we would start the eating process, we used a Nuk brush. This prepared her for eating and woke up her muscles. Because of the low-tone, this engaged her muscles and allowed her to be more prepared for when the spoon was presented.
Consistency with where you feed. We usually always arranged our schedule so we were at home when she ate. I know, such a pain, but we did see her benefit from it a lot. On occasions we would use a different seat on the floor when the other girls ate in front of the TV. However, we tried very hard to set her at the table and eat as a family. I think this was a huge key. It allowed her to understand the process better, and get to know what was happening!
We tried to expose her to as many new flavors as possible. We thought the more exposure she has had, the better it would be. Looking back I have to say that I think that has allowed her to be so open to so many new tastes. We liked to use fresh foods, but they were not always safe. So we liked to use the Munchkin Fresh Feeder. We did find a terrycloth one at Babies R Us. I am not sure who makes that. That was a great option to expose her to more textures in her mouth.
We got a Kindle to allow her to play games, listen to music, and watch movies. As long as she would eat, we would allow her to use it. If she would not eat, we would either take it away until she took another bite, or we would pause the music or video until she ate. This usually distracted her long enough to get several bites. We still use this a lot to help encourage her to eat. One of our favorites are the Minions. She loves music but we had to make sure that she was not just dancing! I would highly recommend an Otter Box or some non-breakable cover to protect your Kindle. Ours often times became air-borne at some point.
Since Lydia is the youngest, her sisters became big motivators. We often times had them feeding her, playing with her, talking with her, singing with her, or encouraging her to eat. She seemed to be very motivated by her sisters. We made that our other daughter's responsibility and explained to them the importance of why we needed to help Lydia eat. We made it a family thing that we all worked together at. That means a tough day affected all of us, but a good day we all were able to celebrate together.
We played lots of games. She liked it a lot when we played hide and seek. Yes, I would hide behind the refrigerator and come out zooming the spoon saying "Lydia, let's take a bite." It was enough to distract her and it worked. We put things on our heads. We used a lot of inflection in our voices to help her eat. We had certain songs (usually made up ones) to encourage her to eat. If she was just playing and not eating, we would no longer play the games. We tried to distract her enough to eat, but not enough that we were just playing.
We had a bucket of toys that she was only allowed to play with at eating time. They were some brightly decorated blocks that she could stack, a pretend feeding set (like a tea set made by Tupperware), a light up toy that would get her attention easily, and dice.
We used a Boogie Board a lot. She loved to trace her hand and draw. Again, we balanced her eating and playing. It distracted her and allowed her to use some other skills she was needing to work on.
We had a feeding doll. We used a Raggedy Ann and Andy doll. We set the doll on a chair facing her and they would take turns taking bites. The doll would even give Lydia a high five. It showed Lydia that others can take bites too. We sometimes did this with the girls, but found that the doll was very motivating for her. We allowed her to feed the doll also.
Keep changing, keep trying things. Most of the recent tips and tricks are things we stumbled upon. We tried to always keep it fun and changing. This seemed to help her keep eating fun and exciting. Yes, it is very exhausting and you feel like you are always pulling another trick from the bag, however, it will connect at some point.
Recently we purchased a Constructive Eating Set. This has changed a lot of things for us. The utensils are shaped like trucks and the plate works with the utensils and the place mat encourages more playing. I think it is an excellent piece for eating. It requires Lydia to use both hands together, so it makes her work on other skills as well. It allows her to play and teaches her in a fun way. We have only had this for about a week, but we love it! It is very successful in our house! www.constructiveeating.com
TIPS AND TRICKS #13
We used Grape seed Oil in her purees to add calories. We found this to be a lighter, heart healthy oil that did not affect her. We were able to add calories without adding volume. This allowed us to help her gain weight while working on her feeding skills. We also used things like Avocados, Tahini paste, and then thickened with potato flakes or oatmeal. All of these varied the texture and taste.
TIPS AND TRICKS #14
We used smoothies to help vary taste and textures. We felt it important to expose Lydia to many flavors, textures, and variety. Even though she usually stuck with the same thing over and over, she was at least tasting things. She ate corn and chicken for a long time. We would try to vary if possible. But we tried to vary everything and expose her to flavors as she would be willing to tolerate.
TIPS AND TRICKS #15
Drinking was very hard for her. She never took a bottle and she still does not drink from an open cup. We found that the Playtex straw cup was a good beginner cup. We liked this one because she could grab it with both hands and we were able to help the liquid come up through the straw.
She now uses a different Playtex cup. We have not pushed too much with others as she seems to do very well with this one. She mainly drinks Pediasure from there.
Recently we found that she would start drinking Danimals. We use the straws from Capri Sun and poke them in the top. She will drink from that. It makes her use more muscles and different ones, so it is a great workout for her. It also is quite spill proof. My Allison likes this as she gets to drink Capri Sun when we need to get more straws (we usually do not have fruit drinks!).
I also drink my water from a straw cup. This allows her to drink from my cup when she wants. It gives her some variation in the size straw and variation in the liquids.
Make it fun for your child. I know easier said than done, but if it is not fun for them they won't be interested. Watch their cues. If they push away, show non-interest, push the plate away, pull away, scream; try again later. And make sure to watch your balance between play and eating. We did not want to just encourage Lydia to play, but we tried to balance that out. Don't give up. Keep trying, keep going. Remember there is only so much you can do, you can only offer, it is your child's responsibility to eat. And GO WITH YOUR MOMMY'S INSTINCT. You truly know your child the best. Make sure that you push for what you think is best for your child!
And lastly, most importantly, give it to God. Don't stress and worry like I did. God has you on this journey for a reason, you have everything you need when you rely on His strength. Sometimes it may feel like you are standing alone, the water is washing over your head, but you are not alone. God is there and He will take you to shore. Give it to Him, allow Him to show you the plan He has for His children. It took me a long time to really understand that, but when I did, it was completely life changing for me. Be thankful in the small bites and the small victories because they are really big things!