Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eating Well

Once again it's hard to believe the progress we've made in the past few months. Just a few months ago I was still frequently relying on the TV to distract Juliana while I would feed her. I hated having to do that; I limit TV in general and I am definitely not fond of eating in front of it (exception for myself after kids are in bed, of course). But I found that the TV was often just the right amount of sensory input for her to calm down long enough to eat. You do what you have to do when getting a sensory-sensitive kid to eat.

These days the TV is no longer necessary. I was able to slowly transition her to meals eaten in the kitchen or dining room. One of the most successful things I did in this process was encouraging her to feed me during mealtimes. Though I've always tried to follow her cues, I still really felt like she was tired of being told that it was time to eat and she was tired of me trying to shovel food down her throat. And who can blame her for that? So I found that she really enjoyed feeding me, whether it was real or imaginary food was irrelevant to her. This made the feeding time more of a two-way street. It put us on an even playing field. She began to eat a full meal without the aid of any distraction. I didn't come up with this idea all on my own, it is one of the tube-weaning techniques used at Graz.

From that point she's learned to self-feed and that's brought an entire new level of happiness and self-control to her meals. We still have a long way to go with utensils but she's thrilled to feed herself small pieces of meat and vegetables.

Yet her eating skills still need some improvement. This is part of what recently drove me back to speech therapy after taking a break over the summer. The first issue is that she doesn't really chew her food, rather she just swallows it. The second issue is that she is sensitive to certain type of textures. She's happy to eat a soft vegetable like squash but she's totally uninterested in something like cauliflower, unless it is pureed.

This world of pureed foods and spoon-feeding has all been a  new experience for me. With Calvin I loosely followed the concept of baby-led weaning and we did few purees and not much spoon-feeding. By the time he was really becoming interested in solid foods (sometime in his second year) he was also able to eat anything that we would eat. Because he continued to nurse continuously, I never worried much about whether or not he was getting enough to eat or if he was getting the right nutrition. Juliana's situation really could not have been any more different.

But back to the progress update. What excites me more than anything though is that Juliana is often eating the same meals that the rest of us are eating. Sometimes her version of the meal might need a little modification (like leaving off the cheese or the heavy seasoning) but otherwise she has begun eating dinner with the rest of the family. And she is immensely happy about it - she knows when she's being left out! This is not to say that she's now at a point where she is eating pizza and cake, rather it is to say that we are all eating fairly simply. But there are no complaints from anyone, and what more can a mother ask for?!

I still worry about how much she is eating and sometimes it is difficult to trust that she knows how to self-regulate her needs. But I have to admit that she has done a fine job of it so far. We have a few things to work on, but overall she is eating great foods and she is eating them well.

1 comment:

  1. You have no idea how much I needed to read this post today. Was just talking to Frank about how much I HATE that Sophie watches TV while she eats. I had always envisaged family meals around the table. And had kind of forgotten that the whole reason we got to this situation was because she wouldn't eat without a distraction. She is still really bad at self-regulating her amounts - will eat only about a quarter of a meal without us helping. Thanks for giving me an idea of what to try.