According to our medical friends, a toddler Gavin’s size needs about 1,000 calories a day. He also needs more than a litre of fluid a day to keep him hydrated and protect his stressed-out kidneys. For the last many weeks, Gavin has refused to eat a single thing, and has been maintained solely on his formula feeds. He has kept his weight up and still been full of energy, but has shown absolutely no interest in putting anything in his mouth.
Last week, I decided that enough was enough. He’d been off the steroids for about 10 days, and it was time to start creating some hunger. After a bit of discussion, Craig and I decided to hold his formula feeds for at least the morning, so that he actually begins to understand what it is to feel hungry. The experiment has been going well, all things considered. We are offering him food pretty much constantly, in an effort to just get those calories in, and then are topping him up with formula later in the day/evening.
My understanding of calories is, I admit, pretty limited. I have never really thought about the number of calories in any given food, so my estimates in this area are pretty laughable. I don’t always eat well, but I am at least very aware of the choices I make. I eat fast food only a couple of times a year, and I never drink carbonated drinks. I eat very little meat and I try to avoid bleached flour, and processed and sugary foods. We eat organic dairy. BUT I like cookies, coffee and chocolate. On my way back to the point. Which is that if you had to tot up all the calories you ate in a day, you’d be surprised. Surprised by how incredibly caloric some foods are and how calorie-light others are.
So. I need Gavin to eat 1,000 calories. Big calorie breakfasts can be french toast or pancakes with maple syrup. (The real stuff, no corn please.) Gavin loves making these things, but tends to lose interest in the eating fairly quickly. He’s just not that used to eating anymore, and his swallow reflex is still impacted. After a couple of bites, he just wants to run off and play. So I follow him around the house, popping bites of whatever meal we’re on into his mouth. Between times, I keep a plate of snacks nearby and offer him something every few minutes throughout the whole day. Yes, as you can imagine, this process is exhausting. I have spent more than an hour and a half on one meal, getting ever more creative in my ploys to get food into his mouth. (There’s a party in Gavin’s tummy and the sweet potato bits are looking for the door, etc.)
At times he is happy to let me do this, and at others gets annoyed and yells No! Don’t feed me!! I’ll do it myself. If he eats ANYTHING on his own, I am thrilled. Back to the calories. Today Gavin ate a bunch of raspberries. I looked these up on a website I found called Calorie King. Raspberries have one calorie each. ONE. So the grand total was… 13 calories. On the other hand, he ate about 2/3 of a cupcake the other day, the total there being about 120. Clearly, we would all rather our kids are eating raspberries than cupcakes, but I am still afraid enough for his health that I’m adopting the motto “any calorie is a good one.”
Although this is such a difficult and time-consuming exercise, I am so happy to see him choosing to eat things now. Hearing him say, I’m going to have some grapes or My stomach is making noises! is absolute blissful music to my ears. We are doing a lot of experimenting. It can be tiring cheffing up meals that you know won’t be eaten. (I’m sure a lot of mothers can relate to that one.) Tonight for dinner I offered him pasta with a home-made tomato vegetable sauce, steamed carrots, and a scrambled egg. He chose to eat the carrots and flatly refused the others. (We made the pasta the other day and he is very against left-overs.) I’m not sure why he wouldn’t eat the egg. He then asked for a bowl of yoghurt, and ate half an applesauce for dessert. So his dinner was carrots and yoghurt. I haven’t even attempted green vegetables yet! Yikes! I had some kale chips here today and tried to get him to try them. He just laughed and said Noooooooo.
The main thing is that he is eating. We are getting closer to NG tube removal, hurrah! The only other concern now with losing the tube is that he will not be drinking enough fluids. It is very hard to get him to drink enough, as he still needs thickened liquids. He drinks about 250 ml a day. As I said earlier, he needs to drink more than a litre! I see myself following Bean around with a cup for the rest of my life trying to give him sips of water.
For a little audience participation, I’d like to ask anyone reading this post to make some suggestions for:
1. Healthy snacks you give your kids or that you think Gavin would like
2. Quick and easy meals that are healthy AND calorie-heavy.
Many thanks readers!