I have to start by saying that I had no idea how controversial our decision to use corn as Raya's first solid food would be. I have been a little surprised (but also not really all that surprised) by some of the responses I've gotten, even just to my facebook updates about Raya trying corn products. I'm doing my best to be respectful of the very strong negative feelings other people have towards corn that is produced traditionally and may be a genetically modified variety, but I would hope that respect for my own position would be reciprocated. This is certainly not targeted at anyone in particular and several of the comments have been very kind and thoughtful, which I appreciate. Having decisions questioned by other people is pretty common for parents of children with medical issues (well, and just parents in general) and this is just another one of those areas where people feel like their way is the best way and if I choose something outside of their viewpoint, I must be wrong. Just know that I am an educated person who does not make uneducated or rash decisions regarding the health of my family. I have done my research.
We chose corn for several reasons. I don't make a habit of justifying my actions with regard to decisions about Raya's health to other people because nobody else is as informed about all aspects of Raya's health as myself and her medical team. That sounds a little snobby when it's put that way but the reality is that I have spent more time with Raya than any other person has, and I can't even quantify how much of that time has been spent studying the way her body works and trying to unravel her mysteries. There have been very few times when I have explained the reasons why we have made certain decisions on my blog, and I had no idea this was going to end up being one of those decisions that I felt the need to explain. However, I want people to understand that things have to be looked at from a different perspective when a child is dealing with multiple digestive issues as opposed to a parent selecting dietary choices for a child with no digestive or allergy issues. Here are some of the reasons we chose corn:
1. There are several corn-based food products that Raya actually really likes to eat. Since one of our main objectives is to give her back some enjoyment and positivity surrounding food, we needed to start with something that she likes. Now we're just praying that her body will be okay with it so that we don't have to break her heart by taking it away again.
2. Raya is not allergic to corn. Period.
3. Corn is a very versatile food. With Raya being allergic to wheat, rice, and oats, our grain resources are rather limited. There are a lot of common foods that are very difficult to replicate without using any of those grains or the other foods she's allergic to. There aren't very many gluten free products that don't also have some form of rice in them, and we are excluding all gluten-containing grains because of the fact that we don't know whether or not she has a problem with gluten or just the wheat allergy. Corn gives us so much flexibility because it can be made into so many different things. I can even get pasta that's made out of just corn. Most of the gluten-free pasta has rice in it, and rice makes her sick. Corn doesn't, and corn pasta has a flavor and texture that she is okay with eating. Since we are introducing one food at a time like you would do with a baby that's just starting on solid foods, using corn gives Raya a lot of variety for being a single ingredient food.
4. We belong to a family that eats a lot of Mexican food. Letting Raya have corn means that when we go to family gatherings where there is Mexican food (i.e. tortilla chips), there will be ONE thing that she can eat. That means that instead of being excluded from what everyone else is eating, she can get a plate and sit at the table and eat chips just like everybody else. Maybe that's something you'd only fully understand if you had ever had to take your crying toddler to another room during a big family dinner to try and distract her from how sad she is about not getting to participate with everybody else.
5. Because corn is so versatile, having her be able to eat corn and corn products gives us a huge amount that we can work with on her progress towards oral eating. There are a lot of different textures that she can work with. It also means that there is a wide variety of ways that I can incorporate corn into meals I make for the family so that she can be included in family mealtime.
6. Corn and various corn products are very accessible. Whether you're looking for organic or not, there are corn versions of popular foods available at a lot of regular grocery stores. I can get corn pasta, corn flour, cornmeal, corn tortillas, corn cereal, corn on the cob, corn off the cob, freeze dried corn, corn oil, and polenta at the grocery store I shop at every week without having to make trips to expensive specialty grocery stores. Other versatile foods that we considered starting with (like coconut and quinoa) are not as easily accessible as corn products.
7. Not only are corn products more accessible than things like coconut and quinoa products, but they are also less expensive. A lot of the food that we buy for Raya ends up getting wasted. That's just the way it is with a child who has feeding difficulties. Starting with corn means that less money will be going in the trash, especially since the other kids will eat the corn-based food but not some of the more off-the-wall substitutions for traditional foods. Like the time I bought 3 flavors of soy yogurt because she's allergic to dairy but had been eating a lot of plain Greek yogurt, and NOBODY would touch them because they were flat out disgusting. I stand by my previous statement that legumes should not be made into yogurt. :) They went in the trash at $1.49 a piece for 6 ounce containers of yogurt.
8. Because I'm the mom and I said so.
I'm sure that there are other reasons that I'm forgetting right now, but those are a few of them. My point here is not to be argumentative about corn or to offend anyone that doesn't agree with my viewpoint. I realize that there are many sides to the debate about GMO vs non-GMO, organic vs. non-organic, and just corn in general and the people on all sides of those arguments will never be in agreement, so I'm not trying to change anyone's mind. All I want people to realize is that you cannot judge another person's decision for their own family's medical care based on information that you do not know. I would venture to guess that the people who felt the need to tell me that I should not be feeding corn to my daughter did not consider most of the reasons I gave for why we chose corn as her first food. I felt very much the same way about this that I felt when we were trying to make the decision about whether to keep suffering through life with an NG tube or put her through surgery to get a G tube. Lots of people had opinions about what was going to be better or worse for her. The people who questioned or disagreed with our decision to get the G tube had no experience with feeding tubes and could not possibly have fully understood why the decision we made was the right one because their view of the situation was very narrow.
This has gotten a lot longer than I intended. To those who asked why we chose corn out of genuine curiosity or interest, now you have the reasons. To those of you who are now questioning my intelligence for choosing to feed her something that you feel is in some way harmful, I hope that you will realize that there are factors in play that surpass what you may believe to be health risks in consuming the small amounts of corn that she's consuming.
And guess what. She threw up last night. Not because the corn in the chips & cereal she ate was GMO/non-GMO/organic/not organic, but because 6 hours after she ate the small amount of food that she ate for dinner, the muscles in her stomach had not successfully voided her stomach of the solid food she ate. I made some really delicious crispy chicken tacos for dinner, and Raya was SO excited to share the corn tortillas that we had bought for her with everybody else. For the first time in months, she got to sit at the table and have some of what everybody else was having and it was a really big deal to her. That alone made me glad that we went with corn. She was so, so happy yesterday. At dinner time, she ate 4-5 tortilla chips, about 1/8 cup of Gorilla Munch cereal, and 2 or 3 bites of a plain corn tortilla. About 90 minutes after dinner, I started her pump for a tube feed. When I checked for residuals 4 1/2 hours after starting the pump feed, there was at least 2 ounces of food left. It smelled like formula but it was clearly not just formula. As I was getting her last feed of the night ready, she woke up dry heaving and then threw up. The gross part was that nothing actually came out of her mouth, she swallowed it. Yuck. So after eating a little bit of food and then getting 8 ounces of formula, the formula moved out of her stomach but there was a high percentage of the solids still left in her stomach. We anticipated that it would probably happen this way but it's still really disappointing.
We will keep going with corn for a few days and cross our fingers (and pray) that her body will adjust and start moving solids through better, but this really is another step in making bigger decisions regarding options to treat her GI issues. That's what I have to keep reminding myself in order to not be sad about her throwing up last night. It's part of the process and how her body responds will give us more information to proceed with in our decision making process. We will probably add a food with a high water content next week. Raya really wants to eat grapes so if I can find some, that's what the next food will be.
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