101 Feeding School
Hi, I’m Tanya. I live in Melbourne with my husband Daniel and our twins, Alya and Toby. I have a Bachelor degree in Civil engineering and Master degree in Environmental engineering. In my professional career I have developed a set of skills that helped me tremendously in my personal struggles. In particular the ability to do my own research, be focused, critical and solve problems.
I persisted through years of infertility and IVF. In that time I have learned the importance of doing my own research, so I could choose the right specialist for myself and ask the right questions. I discovered the world of forums and Facebook groups, where I could get practical advice from individuals in similar situations and find solutions to mine and later my daughter’s health problems and feeding difficulties.
I opened the door to the western and alternative medicine, both of which contributed to us becoming parents. We were fortunate to have conceived twins, but nothing could have prepared me to what lied ahead of us.
My pregnancy was anything but ordinary. I had complication after complication, and was put on hospital bed rest when I was 22 weeks pregnant. I went into spontaneous labor at 25 weeks and 4 days of pregnancy. Our beautiful twins, Alya and Toby, were born after a 12 hour labor, 1 minute apart. They both needed to be resuscitated, put in the incubator and hooked up to the machines. Alya weighed 569g and Toby 790g. Toby’s hospital stay was pretty much uneventful. He spent 3 weeks in the intensive care and was then moved to a special care unit. Alya, on the other hand, struggled with weight gain and breathing and spent 11 weeks in the intensive care. They both came home around their due date. Alya weighed 2.2kg and Toby 3,5kg when they come home.
While in the hospital, they both had my breast milk. They seamed to have no problems transitioning from tube to the bottle. In fact, Alya did a better job than Toby, only she wasn’t putting on the weight at a same rate as her brother. We were asked only once in nearly 4 months, whether anyone has talked to us about her weight gain. There was never any real concern that we were aware of nor has anyone had a discussion with us about it. At the time I thought that her slow weight gain was due to her spending a lot of energy to just live, i.e. breathing, eating, digesting, etc., and that she will make up for it when she grows a bit more and gets stronger.
She was always positing as a newborn; the projectile vomiting started when she was about 2 months corrected. At first it was once a day, then quickly becoming just about every feed. We went a couple of times to the children’s hospital, where they said that her symptoms were due to her prematurity and that she would grow out of it. There was no consideration that her vomiting could be due to the formula/food she was having. I had no idea at the time that a baby could have an allergy or intolerance to a baby formula. Needless to say I didn’t think I had the right answer to her vomiting and kept googling and researching for answers.
In that time we tried soy formula, which she didn’t like. For a period of time I was then thickening her milk. After reading up on the Internet about it, I stopped it and her vomiting improved. We then went overseas and she did her last projectile vomit at a major overseas airport. We spent 9 weeks in Europe. In that time the vomiting has stopped, however, she had developed an oral aversion and I had to dream feed her for the most part. I’ve never heard of any baby not wanting to drink milk, so I kept persisting. Oral aversion was a term I’ve never heard of, let alone put it down to my daughter.
She was 8 months corrected when we returned in Australia. In my mind, it was well and truly time to start solids. Toby has been having solids from 5 month corrected and loved pretty much anything we gave him. Alya on the other hand had no interest in solid food and didn’t seam to know how to eat. I persisted and gave her solids twice a day. Mealtimes were a nightmare. She couldn’t tolerate any texture, so nothing homemade and only a limited range of baby food with no real nutritional value. It took up to 40 minutes for her to eat a couple of tablespoons of baby food. I had to be extremely careful how I fed her and how much food I gave her (which was a lot less than Toby could eat anyway), otherwise she would projectile vomit.
Among others, I contacted a health professional that had over 30 years of experience with children with feeding difficulties for some answers. She gave me advice to encourage Alya to put objects in her mouth, to desensitize her gagging reflex and become more comfortable with things in her mouth. Her feeding skills were improving albeit very slowly. When she was 1 year corrected she still couldn’t tolerate any homemade food or age appropriate baby food. During one of her regular hospital check ups they recommended that she sees a dietitian. I had no clue how a dietitian could help, but gave it a try. We tried pediasure to bump up her calories and polyjoule. She couldn’t tolerate any of them.
When she was 13 months corrected we gradually switched her to cows milk and over a period of a few weeks, she seams to be vomiting more again and gaging during feeding. I took a plunge and tried her with rice milk. Within a few days her symptoms improved. I had a discussion with her dietitian, and she said that she most likely has intolerance to protein in milk. This was the first time that we had a diagnosis that Alya most likely has cows milk protein intolerance.
I read a lot about cows milk intolerance since then. I understood that with an intolerance, children could have some diary products and that most children grow out of it by the time they are about 2. I thought that Alya could tolerate yoghurt and custard, so I continued giving these to her due to her limited diet.
I had no clue how to transition her to table food. Her gagging reflex was still very sensitive and she couldn’t have any type of textured food. I searched the Internet for options and started a SOS feeding therapy. Within 3 weeks she had her first cheese and bacon ball and her feeding skills continued to improve over the next few months.
Shortly before her 2nd Birthday she learned to eat bread. I took my second plunge and stopped giving her pureed food for good. For a period of about 4 months she lived of bread, puffs, cereal, milk, yoghurts, custards and noodle soup.
Then one day she had pasta, the next week rice and slowly started eating bigger quantities and greater variety of table foods. I finally realized that she couldn’t tolerate any diary and stopped giving it to her all together. That was the time when she really made a turn for the better and was able to eat even more textured food and again greater quantities of it.
The journey I have been through with my daughter was one I will never forget. Looking back, I struggle to understand how all the various professionals we have seen and talked to couldn’t see the root cause of her problems. The misdiagnoses meant that her feeding skills were much delayed and the path to teach her to eat was extremely challenging and lengthy. The SOS feeding therapy definitely helps teaching a child feeding skills, however, it does not solve an aversion. None of the heatlth professionals we have dealt with couldn’t understand it let alone knew how to help us. There was very limited help for a kid like her in Australia and overseas and I often had to dig deep and keep researching for answers and ways to move forward with her.
I feel that I have so much knowledge to pass on and share with any parent who finds themself in a similar situation, whether their child feeding difficulties are due to a medical condition, anxiety or fear due to a past negative experience, learned behaviors or undiagnosed food allergy or intolerance and this is how 101 Feeding School was created.
Alya is now 3 years old and her feeding is as close to where her peers’s are at. She is still on a small side, but boy she has the energy and her smile always lights the room.