I have been concerned with Jacob’s eating for a while now. Today we had a feeding consultation to see if it was a big enough problem to where he needed services or not. He isn’t really chewing his food, he sucks it to death. I have to make soft foods or steam and mash foods that I know are difficult for him to eat. He will chew harder foods, but eventually he’ll spit it out. He will eat food that are water soluble (melt in your mouth). Sometimes I’ll find food in his mouth (mostly meat) hours after dinner. He sticks it on the roof of his mouth.
He is also having trouble drinking from a sippy cup. For some reason he uses his teeth to support the cup against his jaw. They think his jaw muscles aren’t strong enough to suck on the sippy for long periods of time just like when he was a baby and breast or bottle feeding. He was such a messy eater and I thought it was just him but now we’re starting to realize it was a little more. He didn’t have full control of his lips and jaw so he never got a real good latch down. It funny how all the pieces make sense now that we know the reason behind everything.
The first thing that the DS and the nutrition therapist said was that we should take him to see an ENT. There may be things going on due to allergies and an ENT is the only way we can be sure things are working properly. They don’t think anything is wrong like that but they’d rather us be sure rather than us pushing him to do something when it’s not in his control. After watching him eat a few foods they determined that this service (nutrition therapy) is necessary at this time and that Jacob will benefit from adding this to his IFSP (individualized family service plan).
There are several things that the nutritionist told us to work to help his eating. We need to continue the oral exercises that were given to us by the OT and encourage Jacob to chew on a variety of items. For example, leave licorice out and let it get hard and then let him chew on it. I need to make sure that he chews it and doesn’t suck on it so that his muscles can be worked on. Another thing she said to do was to change the temperature on his foods or use tart foods, almost like a palate cleanser. The change in temperature on food to hot or cold or using tart foods like lemons or apple sauce will “wake up” his mouth and will help eliminate the pack rat eating (saving it for later).
There are also several things that the nutritionist told us to work on to help his drinking. We need to start giving him a small cup and have him rest the cup on his lips while making sure that his tongue is inside the cup. To make this go smoother, we need to make sure that he’s in a supported sitting position so that he can relax and not have to feel like he’s working extra hard. When he is drinking from a cup we need to support his jaw and chin using a method that they showed me. Something else that they showed me that would really help both his lip muscles and encourage proper drinking is using a straw. Simple things like cutting the straw in half so that the liquid doesn’t have as far to go (and he doesn’t get frustrated) will boost his confidence. I should try different consistencies (thicker drinks like smoothies, milk, milk shakes, etc.) and different size straws so that he has to suck harder and work his lip muscles more.
These are such simple ideas but I see the impact that they are having on Jacob and our family and that makes them more special and amazing than they ever would be alone!