I think I’ve mentioned before just how much I loathe feeding therapy. Physical therapy is one thing – I’m just trying to get Ellie stronger and more coordinated, so we have our exercises that we do until she gets tired or cranky. No big deal. Feeding therapy is a much more delicate balance. Her gag reflex has been so sensitive for the last 10 months, I have to very very gently try to push her out of her comfort zone. But push too hard or too fast and I risk making it even worse and setting us back even farther.
We started trying pureed baby food when she was about six months old. It was… not well liked. From time to time she would sorta kinda tolerate it, but one false move and we’d have a two-minute gagging fest. To give you a sense of what I mean when I say “trying,” I mean I would just dip the tip of my pinky finger into the baby food, so that it was barely damp with applesauce. Then I would try to put my sort-of-damp-with-pureed-apples finger near her mouth, maybe touch her lip, maybe touch the inside of her lip. Sometimes she’d allow it, sometimes she wouldn’t. And sometimes it would graze her tongue in the wrong way and she’d gag, hard, and that would be the end of that. And when I say “gag,” I mean she’d probably be puking if there weren’t surgical procedures preventing her from doing so.
So, yes. Trying to stay on top of feeding therapy is HUGELY demoralizing. As necessary as it is, I found myself loathe to do it. A month or two ago, our therapist suggested we try a teething biscuit. The theory being that it’s a food item, but it’s hard and not likely to come loose in her mouth, so it allows her to kind of experiment with it. That actually went alright – she’d poke it with her tongue, sometimes bite down on it. Except, once it got damp from the tongue-poking, and those darn teeth would scrape off the tiniest crumb that can barely be seen by the naked eye? Gag time, once again.
Still, things have been improving. She still experiments with the teething biscuit, and she’s been putting a lot of her toys into her mouth, so that helps quite a bit to do some oral desensitization. But those purees, ugh. I’d try them every now and then, but the gagging was just heartbreaking. I hated it as much as she did.
But we’ve got a feeding team appointment coming up, our first in a couple of months. Ever the last-minute homework kid, I decided I needed to at least be able to say we really tried the puree thing. So I tried again tonight.
She leaned in, opened her mouth, and poked my finger with her tongue.
And then she did it again.
A drop at a time from my finger, she kept letting me give her more. I didn’t have to trick her or sneak it in, I just held out my finger near her mouth. It got on her tongue, no problem. Inside of her cheek, no problem. No drooling, no spitting it back out, and not a single gag. Not even a face, other than a furrowed brow in concentration.
Over the course of dinner, I’d have to guess she got a grand total of, what, maybe 1/4 teaspoon? But damn, that was 1/4 teaspoon more than she has EVER taken, in five months of feeding therapy. And she did it willingly. Happily, even.
I am grateful for small miracles like this one. Very grateful.