Dave and I got the advice several months ago from Lillian’s local feeding therapist, and then reiterated by her Austrian coaches, to have her at the table with us while we eat. While Dave was more willing to embrace this advice, I groaned inwardly (and felt guilty about it). I already had to squeeze rushed, interrupted breakfasts, snacks, and lunches into the spare moments when our little miss princess didn’t need both my hands and my undivided attention. When Lillian wasn’t gaining weight the way she should, her doctors looked to me–her milk maker–and asked if I was getting enough fat in my diet. Already back to within a few pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight when my baby was just a few months old, I had to sheepishly admit that while caring for a special needs baby who couldn’t be put down and potentially couldn’t tolerate wheat, dairy, soy, or corn, it was hard to get enough of anything in my diet. The only meal I could be assured of getting, let alone actually enjoying, was dinner–because we ate it after our baby was safely tucked in bed for the night, even if that meant eating at 8:00 p.m.
The first attempts at eating dinner with Lillian, back in her tube feeding days, were pretty horrific. She would grab at the food on our plates for about five minutes and then the discomfort from her tube feeds, coupled with end-of-the-day fatigue, would kick in–fussing, crying, and vomiting would ensue. Let’s just say we never once made it through a meal with Lillian. We usually got a few bites into our meal and then had to leaving it sitting while we got Lillian fed and into bed. Not exactly pleasant.
But Lillian reached a milestone this week. Our kitchen/dining space is too tight for a traditional high chair (unless we want a smaller dining room table), so we have a feeding chair that clamps onto our dining room table and required that Lillian be able to sit on her own to use it. This week, our big girl started using her big girl chair sitting at the table with us for meals. She loves it! And it’s a much more pleasant experience for Dave and I as well. Lillian sits between us and has already perfected a system where she reaches for Dave when she wants sips of milk from her bottle, and reaches for me when she wants bites of puree from her spoon. Then, after a while she gets bored with that and reaches for what’s on our plates. I hand her anything I feel safe giving her (I’m just starting to read my copy of Baby-Led Weaning as recommended by Lillian’s local feeding therapist), and she plays with it for a while. Dave and I can almost get through our whole meal before she starts to fuss.
When Lillian catches on to something, she really catches on. She ate dinner with us last night in her chair for the first time, and then tonight we just could not get her to eat. I tried feeding her on her play mat while she was playing, in her feeding chair (aka swing)while holding a toy, in my lap while holding a toy. Dave tried all the distraction games he has come up with. We tried different locations throughout the house. Finally, we decided to just eat our own dinner and try again later. As I was putting dinner on our plates, Dave put Lillian in her “high” chair and offered her the bottle one last time. Eureka! She started drinking away. As I started bringing food to the table, Lillian looked at me expectantly and started kicking her legs in anticipation. She seemed to be asking–where’s my bib? Where’s my spoon? Where’s my puree? By the end of our meal she’d finished her bottle and eaten many bites of puree. Dave and I can’t get over how cute she looks, such a small little girl trying to act so very big.
Lillian’s weight gain is still going more slowly. She’s still plateauing for several days before making a gain. Or she’ll make a big gain but then lose it again with one or two low volume days following a big volume day. Tomorrow at her sixth month check up, it will be interesting to see what her total weight gain has been since her last doctor’s visit a few days after her last tube feed. I’m sure the big picture over the last four weeks still looks positive, with the really big gains she had the first two weeks evening out the slow gains she’s had over the last two weeks. But that won’t tell us if she’s going to be gaining enough moving forward. I guess only time will tell.