Day 8: Lego’s relationship with food

I’ve blogged about this a little bit already, but it’s time for an update. Lego is finally eating more or less normally!!!!! (I hate multiple exclamation points in general, but dude, this one was a long time coming, and I’m indulging.)

When I started offering solids to Lego, he was about six months old. He didn’t like anything but rice cereal, and even that he wouldn’t eat much of—just a couple of tablespoons if I was lucky. By the time he was eight months old, even cereal was out. I would see other mothers feeding their children whole jars of baby food at one sitting, but Lego would usually eat 1/4 of a jar at most per day. There was one occasion when he ate almost a whole jar of green beans, but that was an isolated event. He didn’t like fruit at all. Eventually he wouldn’t even accept formula. It was breastmilk or nothing.

Predictably, his weight began to plateau. At 6 months of age, he was about 45th percentile for weight; at 9 months it was 17th; at 12 month 5th. When Lego was about a year old, we started going to feeding classes with a speech therapist (because the theory was that some kids with eating problems have issues with their mouths that also hinder talking). The speech therapist also came once a month to work with Lego one-on-one.

A few days before the first appointment, Lego figured out how to eat Cheerios—albeit very, very slowly. At the advice of a friend, I began offering him Campbell’s vegetable soup, drained and rinsed to remove as much salt as possible. I would just put the mushy vegetables and noodles on his tray and let him finger feed. He ate pretty much nothing but Cheerios, Kix, vegetable soup, and mac ‘n’ cheese for a few months. He would eat a tablespoon or two of food twice a day, if that. He was also still nursing 9–12 times daily.

We moved in June, and I didn’t transfer his services to a speech therapist up here. I figured he was improving slowly on his own, and besides, they seemed to be focusing more on speech than eating. Lego’s speech was developing at a normal—or even accelerated—rate. I didn’t see the point of continuing.

Two months later, he hadn’t improved at all. He was still barely eating solids and barely drinking whole milk. He was still nursing a lot. Jon Boy and I decided to start him seeing a speech therapist again. After all, I was pretty sure that his problems were that a) he had never learned to move food around in his mouth because he’d never eaten baby food, and b) he had never learned to chew. I hoped a professional would be able to teach him these things better than I could.

After two months of meeting with Lego, the speech therapist gave him his six-month re-evaluation (he’d started at about 12 months, and he was now about 18 months old). She found that he was talking and problem-solving like a 24-month-old. In fact, in every area, he was at least three months ahead. What this meant was that Lego didn’t qualify for services anymore, even though he still wasn’t eating much. He was eating a wider variety of foods by this point, but he almost never ate breakfast, he really didn’t drink much except breastmilk, and he ate less than 1/4 cup for lunch and dinner. A typical meal would be 1 chicken nugget and a teaspoon of peas, to give you an idea.

At Lego’s 18-month checkup, we discovered that he had only gained a few ounces in the last three months—when the expected weight gain at his age was about a pound a month. He was now dipping dangerously close to the bottom of the growth chart. He seemed healthy in every way, but the pediatrician told me to try to get as many calories into him in the next two to three weeks, and then come back for a weight check. My efforts were basically in vain. Lego didn’t eat any more than normal, and his weight was still abysmal the next time we checked. Every three weeks or so for the next three months, I would bring him in and find that nothing had changed.

When we went to Nebraska for Christmas, though, we drove all day. And Lego must have known that nursing wasn’t an option in the car because he didn’t ask. Instead, he munched and drank his chocolate milk (we discovered he would actually drink that). At the end of the trip, he was so excited about seeing his grandparents that he didn’t ask to nurse. He did nurse before bed, but over the next few days, I gradually got him to nurse much less and eat a bit more. By the time we got back about ten days later, my milk supply had drastically reduced.

Once we were home, though, Lego wanted to nurse just as much as ever. It was frustrating because he’d try and get almost nothing. Then he would settle for chocolate milk instead. Basically, he had substituted chocolate milk for breastmilk—a substitution that contained less nutrition, more sugar, and fewer calories. In mid-January, we found that he’d actually lost three ounces in the last month. What with the loss, he’d gained a grand total of ten ounces in eight months.

Despairing, I asked for advice online. A friend suggested that we try offering water instead of chocolate milk sometimes so that he’d be hungrier for real food. She also suggested reducing the amount of chocolate syrup in the milk slowly. We did this, and within days, Lego was eating more. I remember the first time he ate two chicken nuggets in one sitting! Plus vegetables!

Over the next month, I saw a huge transformation. Lego was eating three meals a day, including breakfast for the first time ever. Sometimes he’d feed himself, and sometimes he’d want me to “help,” but eating was no longer a fight. He’d open his mouth wide in that baby-bird impression that babies and toddlers do so well but Lego never had. I started offering a bunch of foods he had previously refused to try, primarily fruits and breads, and he gobbled up everything. Yes, there are things he doesn’t really like (tomatoes), but in general, I give him whatever we’re eating.

Gradually, he gave up on nursing too. My supply continued to dwindle faster than he wanted it to. For about a week, I think, he kept trying to nurse without getting much of anything. Pretty soon, though, he’d settle for a snack or snuggling with a cup of chocolate milk. It’s now been almost two weeks since he last nursed. I never thought weaning this child would be so painless.

And the good news was confirmed when I weighed him again in mid-February. Lego had gained 1 lb. 6 oz. in a month!

I’m surprised by the little things that make me happy now: Lego standing on a chair as I make dinner, snitching pieces of cheese or veggies; Lego asking for more of what we’re eating; Lego telling me that the new food I’ve offered him is “yummy”; Lego seeing me eating something and saying, “want some.” It’s so nice to share the joy of food with him instead of trying to persuade him to eat just one bite.

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