So, maybe Instagram sent you here, maybe this post sent you here (about my struggles with eating), or maybe you just stumbled along, but feel free to read on and check out how I put a DIY spin on Feeding Therapy.
I met a new gastrointestinal (GI) doctor early this year, and she’s awesome, she’s exactly the person I needed on my team. During one of our early visits, she recommended I see an Occupational Therapist, Feeding Therapist or Nutritionist to work on eating. Now, when she said I laughed because I am studying Occupational Therapy and I work with kiddos and coworkers who have taught me so much about feeding therapy. But feeding therapy for me? No way was I going to do that! It felt so undermining for her to even suggest that. The weeks following that appointment, I was asked to keep a food & weight journal and I realized for the first time how terrible my eating & weight had gotten. When I presented her with my food & weight journal, she gave me my options; feeding therapy or feeding tube. I was so adamant about not having a feeding tube that I started this process of what I’m calling DIY Feeding Therapy. I call it that, because I am doing this with little medical guidance (for now) and I’m not a professional. I’ve been using my knowledge from working in a related field, research I’ve done, books I’ve read, OT’s I’ve talked to, etc, etc, etc.
I started therapy about five months ago, give or take. At that point I was actually doing really well, compared to where I am now, but it still was considered to be Failure to Thrive status. I was consistently getting in about 700-900 calories a day, by mouth, eating a variety of foods, textures, temperatures, etc. From there, I had some major set backs that led me to eating about two foods, one texture and getting in less than 500 calories a day. Anything that strayed from that one texture, or two foods, I was just done trying for the day.
After those set backs is when I got really serious. I went out and bought an electric toothbrush, that was step one. At this point it was just about getting used to stimulation in my mouth, without vomiting. This is something I learned from work, and then through my own research. I felt really silly trying this, it’s something suggested for my toddlers at work, but it helped! From there, I bought gum and lollipops, so not even food, yet. The purpose of the gum was to work on jaw strength, getting my body used to chewing but not swallowing. The lollipops were another idea to get used to having stimulation, without the GI upset of actually consuming food. These were really tricky to start, I kept aspirating, gagging and vomiting but they did eventually help.
The next step, was liquids. I drank water like I was dehydrated camel throughout this whole process, but that was it. I was given a resource, which provides guidelines for introducing new foods to infants. I started slowly thickening tolerated liquids. It’s going, it’s working, but it is still a work in progress! My goal is to tolerate a milkshake, I love milkshakes! Right now I can’t, I’ve tried smoothies and shakes with no luck. It’s just too heavy. One huge self-established milestone I met while working on thickened liquids was drinking through a straw without gagging and aspirating. So I can proudly say I have mastered this toddler skill at twenty years old.
After liquids, comes solid food. This is where I’m at. It doesn’t go much further than this. One big factor with actual food is to expose myself to it everyday, so I cook, I try not to avoid eating-situations, and I feed snack my kiddos at work — which pushes so many boundaries, have you ever seen a toddler eat, or 10 at once? Talk about exposure!
Everyday, I pack a little lunchbox with a variety of options when I leave the house. I always have my fallback items: applesauce and drinkable yogurt or chocolate milk. I always try to include a lunch item (like a sandwich), fruit, and/or cookies or crackers. I usually don’t eat any of it, which seems foolish. Sometimes I’ll try a bite or two, sometimes I’ll drink a few ounces of yogurt or milk and that’s enough. At least I can say I’m trying!
It’s not an easy or quick process, at times it’s scary, painful, and totally discouraging but I work everyday to push my comfort zones and I’m making progress, so I’m not going to stop anytime soon!