I have wanted to write a post about Grace's eating issues for a while. However, I've been anxious about the comments I might get in response it. I'm now ready to be honest and hopefully I will receive positive and encouraging comments! :)
Grace has had eating/feeding issues for a while now. When she was a baby, she took her bottles with virtually no problems (I even had to try a lot of different bottles because she was spitting up so much). The only small problem we had was she would take a while (longer than 30 minutes at times) to finish bottles, but after briefly seeing a speech therapist through early intervention, this problem was corrected. We sailed along and she did fine with transitioning to rice cereal and to stages 1 and 2 baby foods. She loved to eat, and would pretty much eat everything.
We started having trouble when we were beginning to try to transition to a sippy cup and table foods. We see a speech therapist on an as needed basis currently, and she has helped us so much! Through a lot of work, which at times seemed like it wasn't working, Grace now eats most table foods. She still gags on slippery foods, especially fruits like peaches and strawberries. But she is able to eat pretty much anything.
She still refuses any type of sippy cup. She is very sensitive to anything new. I tried to take away one of her bottles thinking she would be more thirsty and would cooperate with a sippy cup. That did not work. Instead, she started getting a little dehydrated. So I added back that bottle. She currently takes 3 bottles a day (at 10, 3, and 8) in between meals (at 8, 12, and 6). Thankfully, she is now only taking whole milk (no formula). She won't even hold her bottles, although I have recently been using handles that I found that go with Avent bottles. I've been placing her hands on the handles. I think she will get it eventually. During meals, we try to get her to take liquids (milk, water, juice) off of a cup edge (we use nosey cups). She will take anything from nothing on bad days to maybe an ounce of liquid with meals on really good days. She is usually pretty offended by even seeing the cup. I've tried working with her with straw drinking, but she hasn't gotten that yet either (although we haven't been working on that long).
I have a hard time with knowing the balance between pushing her to overcome her sensitivities, and when to be okay with her being sensitive.
We make her try and feed herself puffs or goldfish (at least 5) before her meals. This consists of her eventually trying to pick up the puffs/goldfish (after a lot of encouragement) and then us putting our hand around hers so that she will hold it in her hand. Then we guide her hand to her mouth and put the puff/goldfish in her mouth. She is proud of herself once she realizes what she's done, but she does not know how to do it on her own. We've been working on this skill for months.
It is exhausting trying to feed her. It usually takes around 30 minutes. While I am thankful she can eat by mouth (many of the children we know with diagnoses like Grace's are tube fed), it is still very exhausting. There are times that I cry during meals. There are times that I get angry.
I HATE the disabilities. I HATE THEM. It breaks my heart that my child struggles with things like these issues that come so naturally to other children. EVERY milestone she meets is a pure STRUGGLE. There are days when I am okay with all that we go through to teach Grace to do new skills, and there are days that I give up and grieve for the things Grace has to go through just to do things that other kids do without even thinking about them.
Some days I feel the (extreme) pressure to achieve "normal". I want her to be able to do all the normal things other kids do. Then I realize that maybe she will never be "normal". This realization is both relieving and utterly heartbreaking...relieving because it takes the pressure off to achieve "normal," and heartbreaking because I know in my heart she will never be normal.
I feel like I'm rambling. I hope something here makes sense to some mom who has been there and can encourage me with positive thoughts and/or advice. Thank you for listening!