While I’m on vacation Carmen from the Triple B’s is this week’s guest blogger for Mommy Minute Monday. Welcome Carmen!
When the First Born was ten months old, he had 10 teeth and he knew how to use them. The bite marks on my shoulder were evidence of that! Around then I had noticed that my friend’s children who were the same age were already eating solid foods. “For some reason the First Born isn’t eating as hardily as he should be. Maybe he isn’t into the smooth baby food anymore. It is time to try something more,” I said to my husband. I pulled out a stage three jar of spaghetti and meat sauce to feed the First Born for dinner. When I spooned a small bit of meat into his mouth, he seemed to do okay, he didn’t shun the taste. We were in business! I happily spooned a little bit more into his mouth, this time with a few noodles in the mix. He chewed for a minute but when he tried to swallow, he sputtered, and then he began to choke. All of the signs were there, he gagged, then he coughed, his eyes began to water and you could see him working to get the food down but something was not allowing him to swallow it correctly. The spaghetti dissolved and thankfully he did not need me to perform the Heimlich maneuver, even though I was preparing myself mentally for the task. This was the first really scary moment that I can remember having as a mom, well besides the actual birthing process, that was pretty darn scary too!
Being a first time mom, I had no idea what was going on. I thought that he just wasn’t ready for solid food yet. As time passed, I began to try other things. I tried small chunks of smooth banana, success! I tried yogurt with fruit chunks, no choking. I tried soft carrots, no choking. On his first birthday I tried birthday cake and it too was a success!
“Great! He has all of his teeth now, I think we can try something like chicken,” I said to my husband. So we did, and he did great with the chicken! After a little while longer, we tried pork, and that was when we encountered more choking problems. No matter what we tried, he could not eat tough cuts of meat, so pork or steak were out of the question for us. We found that he still could not eat pasta noodles, and he could not eat certain veggies, especially the raw ones. Cooked corn was a problem too. We thought that he might outgrow it, but it only got worse as he got older.
By the time the First Born was three I was perplexed. What was I doing wrong? Did I start him on foods too early? His pediatrician told me to start him on baby food at four months because his weight had been off of the charts for three months straight. He was nine pounds when he was born, and he loved to nurse. He was eighteen pounds at four months but I was not concerned and I did not understand why the pediatrician was. However, being the dutiful first time mom, I listened to the pediatrician. I second guessed myself, wondering if starting him on table foods at four months caused him to have some of these problems? I constantly asked myself: Why was it just my son? Why weren’t my friends children having any issues with eating?
Not only did he have problems with choking, but he also had a severe speech delay. After much hesitation that there was something “wrong” with him, my aunt finally convinced me to have his language evaluated by a Speech-Language Pathologist. Much to my surprise, she also worked with children who had choking and swallowing problems! After discussing all of the problems that I had noticed with the First Born’s eating, she recommended that he have a swallow evaluation. We went to the hospital for the evaluation where the First Born drank part of a tang milkshake that was laced with barium. After everyone, including me were suited up in lead armor, the First Born laid down on a table under a large x-ray machine. The machine took repetitive pictures of his throat and digestive tract as he swallowed more of the barium milkshake. During the process, my job was to keep the First Born calm and to convince him to keep drinking.
The evaluation concluded that there was nothing physically wrong with the him. The mechanics of his swallowing were fine. When I heard this news, I had mixed feelings. I was grateful that there was not anything seriously wrong with him, but I was at a complete loss when it came to why he was choking. I could not wrap my head around it. I knew that there was something wrong, I just did not know what.
The therapist worked with him on swallowing techniques to ensure that he was chewing properly and that his tongue was moving correctly while he swallowed. His choking had become so bad, that he refused to eat much, but I could get him to eat waffles and drink milkshakes. The therapist told me to continue to allow him to eat the foods that he liked but to include healthy smoothies that were packed with fruits and veggies too. I did and I was so thankful when he drank them with enthusiasm.
Finally, I knew that he was getting the nutrients that he needed. There were many times when I would look at him and think, Wow, he is way too skinny! I could see every single bone in his body, so I would try to fatten him up with cream, whole milk, and butter. Then I would think, Wow, I am going to give my child a heart attack. In the end, he needed the extra calories, so cream soup, whole milk yogurt, and butter laced toast had to be in his diet, heart risks and all. When he was getting ready to grow, he would bulk up and I would get so excited, “Finally, my child looks healthy!” Then he would shoot up and we would be back to square one.
By the time he turned five, the choking had stopped, but his fear of eating remained intact. At McDonald’s he would ask for a cheeseburger without the meat, he hated it. If I tried to give him steak, or a pot roast he refused. He also shunned all things pasta. I began to try different sources of protein and found that he loved fish! The more expensive it was, the more he liked it, “Crab? Yum! Lobster? Can I have another? Shrimp? Keep them coming, mom!” Veggies were another source of friction, he wouldn’t eat salad, asparagus, or corn, but give him an artichoke and he would go to town! I also found that he would eat peas and carrots at day care; shocking!!
I came to a major realization when he was four. The more that I stressed out about him not eating, the less he would eat. It had become a power struggle. He woudld tell me “You can’t make me swallow, Mom!”. I made a rule that he had to sit with us at the dinner table, but he did not have to eat. I would leave the plate on the table and allow him to pick at it over time. Most nights, especially when he wanted dessert, his food would be finished by the time he went to bed that night.
The struggle with the First Born’s choking and eating issues has been very stressful. The process has been agonizingly slow, but with time, a lot of patience, therapies and some education, we have seen great strides in the First Born’s eating habits. He is going to be nine years old this month, and he is finally beginning to try new things! I triple dog dared him to try new flavors and textures this year and I am amazed at what he has tried; frog legs, a hamburger with the meat, and calamari. The biggest success was just this week when he ate a whole bowl of pesto pasta! Is this my child? Are you sure?
Through it all, the biggest lesson that I have learned is that eating has to be the child’s idea and it will happen on the child’s terms. If you are dealing with an issue like this, hang in there. It will get better.
Carmen is the mom of three rambunctious, silly and sometimes frustrating little boys. She blogs about her family’s adventures at The Triple B’s, a place to find comfort in stories that may or may not sound familiar. She uses her background in child development and her own experiences as a mother, to offer tips about how to keep active children out of trouble by staying active, how to keep them safe, how to clean up their innumerable messes, and she offers recipes that they may slow down enough to actually eat. If you sometimes stop and ask yourself, “Why me?” especially while your child is scaling the walls, then stop by and stay for a little while. Besides finding Carmen on her blog, you can chat directly with her on Twitter, Facebook, or by e-mail.
Want to know a bit more about Carmen and her adorable family. Check out her blog and grab her latest smoothie recipe while your there!