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More eating

We always kind of figured it would go like this. As long as there was vomiting, there would be strong food/oral aversions, and as long as there were aversions, there would be no eating. We hoped that we'd be able to get the vomiting under control, she would overcome her aversions, and then she'd start eating. The part we weren't sure about was the time frame.
Since it took 18 months for her to stop vomiting, I expected it to take a while longer for her to gain interest in food and then a while longer for her to actually eat. She has really surprised me with her eagerness to try things. Once she had gone for a week or two without throwing up, her interest in food started to increase almost exponentially. It was like a light bulb went on for her and she suddenly realized that all that stuff everybody else puts in their mouths really isn't so bad after all. She is doing extremely well considering that it wasn't more than 2 or 3 months ago that she couldn't even handle having crumbs in her mouth without gagging and throwing up. It's funny because the first time that I saw her willingly pick up a spoonful of food, a little part of me thought, "Ok, she's eating so the hard part is over now." The rest of me was thinking, "Wow, we have SUCH a long way to go. I had no idea how hard this would be."
I used to dread the phase where my babies were learning to eat and learning to feed themselves. It's so messy and it can be so frustrating, especially when they get to the independent phase where they HAVE to do it themselves. Eventually they all figured it out.
Looking back, I feel silly that I ever complained about that, even if it was only to myself. If I had known that the alternative was a 19 month old who skipped past the "I don't know I have the option to not let Mommy feed me" phase and went straight to the "I'm going to feed myself even if I don't know how to chew, use my tongue to move food around in my mouth, or swallow it" phase. I never knew there could be so many phases to learning how to eat. She's been a great biter for a couple months now. As soon as she learned to spit things out so that she didn't have to gag & vomit to get unwanted objects out of her mouth, she started biting off chunks of food. Sometimes she would let them sit in her mouth for a little bit and sometimes she would let them fall out or spit them out as soon as she bit them off. Either way, it was a good thing.
Learning to swallow water was a huge stepping stone for her. It was a huge "aha moment" when she realized that having water in her mouth felt good. It was encouraging for us to FINALLY see her actually beg us to put something in her mouth. (she does it ALL THE TIME now :) She went for 13 1/2 months without having a drink of anything. She struggled with it a little bit then, and she struggles with it now too. Because she doesn't know what to do with her tongue, most of the water that goes into her mouth squirts back out all over both of us. This is actually kind of a good thing because it means that she is protecting her airway, but she's a little hypervigilant about it and she closes off her whole throat so the water can't go down at all. :)
Then she miraculously decided that she likes beans. Watching her put spoonful after spoonful of beans in her mouth was amazing. I was a little dumbfounded by it, actually. And a little mad at her for being so stubborn for so long and then just suddenly getting over it. (don't judge, just being honest here) But mostly, I was excited. She did fairly well with the beans. They were a great consistency for her, especially since she insisted on feeding herself. (she has not yet mastered the art of using the spoon right side up)
Here is a list of food that Raya has more or less consumed this week:
*1/4 C refried beans x 4 (swallowed most of what went in)
*about 8 half pretzel rods (kind of a mystery where a lot of this ended up but most of it was in her chair & on the floor)
*about 6 Ritz crackers (she spit most of them out)
*almost 1/4 C of oatmeal (pureed in blender with apple juice and a little bit of jam for flavor, she swallowed a lot of this)
*2 little cracker/cookie things from an airplane (these dissolved easily and she swallowed almost all of it)

I don't really have an accurate way of measuring how much actually went in and stayed in but now that she's making an effort to eat, we've realized that she has very little understanding of how she's supposed to do it. When you feed a 6 month old, they learn that one bite goes in, they move it to the back of their mouth with their tongue, and then they swallow it. Since she skipped that phase, she doesn't understand that. She takes little bites at a time over & over until her mouth is so packed full that she can't put anymore in without some falling out. Sometimes, especially when she's "eating" a cracker (I feel like eating is the wrong word...) she will keep biting off more and more of the cracker and then just spit out the whole glob and start over. She doesn't actually swallow any of it.
She did the same thing when I gave her oatmeal tonight. I was really excited that she liked the oatmeal. It was just a packet of plain unflavored oatmeal that I cooked in the microwave with water and then put in the blender with just enough apple juice to make it the nice pasty texture that she tolerates and a little jam to give it some flavor. She liked it but she had a really hard time swallowing it so I think she ended up wearing most of it.
So we will keep working. She will keep begging for food, I will keep giving it to her, she will keep packing the food in her mouth, I will keep digging it out with my finger when her mouth gets too full and she refuses to spit it out, and eventually she will learn how to do it right. When that will happen is anybody's guess but we will take it whenever it comes, whether it's in a month or a year or 2.

Comments

  1. What an amazing journey you all are on! Beyond the pragmatic aspects and the parental concern and Raya's ordeal (and yours), is this lesson in emotional ambiguity...mad, sad, happy...in all of their facets...applaud yourself, forgive yourself, soothe yourself, surrender....everything imaginable to feel...I imagine. Quite a journey!!

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