By the time you have had a couple of babies you’ve got most things under control, right? You know how to dress, bathe, play with, teach and feed children? Absolutely! Until you are blessed with a baby who has sensory issues.
Right from the start it was difficult to feed Jack. We struggled with breastfeeding and keeping weight on his little body so we comp fed with formula as well. Most of the time this helped. When he was 6 months old, we started solids and I was cooking vegetables, like I did for my other kids, but Jack wouldn’t eat them. He would gag and vomit. He would happily eat the pouches of baby food so I played with my recipes, added apple to sweeten them, and tried pureeing them even finer than before. No go, so we stuck with the pouches because fed is best.
I never gave it much thought when he was little. He just liked certain foods and couldn’t get others to go down. In the following years, we peeled sausages and grapes, bought baby yoghurt so there were no ‘bits’ and made sure there were absolutely, positively no seeds in the seedless watermelon. As Jack has grown, other sensory issues have become apparent. He really dislikes baths, loud noise and bright lights, walks on his toes and likes his food to be separated on the plate. We currently see an occupational therapist and dietician and are waiting on an appointment with a paediatrician to question a SPD and/or ASD diagnosis.
Over the last 7 years, I’ve tried every trick in the book. You know the ones. All those “20 ways to feed your picky eater!!” ones that make the problem seem so small and easy to fix. They don’t work when you have a child who cannot eat anything that you can’t hide grated vegetables in. Jack eats no sauce, gravy or casserole. No savoury muffins (bits!!), pies, sausage rolls, custard/yoghurt or mashed anything. You can’t hide things in dry instant noodles. So what did I do? I struggled, he struggled, for a long time. I tried games and rewards then just gave in and let him eat pasta with cheese, instant noodles and weetbix but a new issue arose. The dietician called it food jagging. It’s when they start refusing a food they used to love. It comes from from eating the same thing over and over again. Yep, that’s a regular occurrence around here!
Now we have a really fantastic way of tackling the issues. Jack has an explorer plate beside his dinner every night. His dinner is a plate with carrot and cucumber sticks and a meat (from a very small list). On the explorer plate goes the family meal, dished just as we have it, usually things mixed together. Jack had trouble sitting at the table with this plate at the beginning but he’s now, after a few months, starting to touch the food with his fork and has even used his ‘snake tongue’ to quickly take a tiny taste. We’ve even been to ‘food school’ with the dietician where we all looked at food, discussed how it looked, touched it, played with it, tasted it and then ate it. But only if his body was ready for the next step. Jack did so well! We’ve added 2 new foods lately, the cucumber sticks and hashbrowns! Things like this are very exciting in our house and there’s always a social media post to celebrate. The little things are the biggest and most wonderful sometimes.
I never imagined that I’d be dealing with these kinds of issues. No one does though do they? We just figure out what we’re dealing with and we get on with doing the very best we can. Even when we’re pretty sure we’re stuffing it all up. There’s a really long road ahead for us, even just the food issues may take years to see some huge improvement, but I’m so proud of my little guy and myself. We struggle, we cry, we get confused and upset but we’re in it together so we’ll be just fine.