What is on the menu?
Over the last two years we have been struggling with food options for Ryan, she weaned from nursing in January and since we have worked tirelessly with her therapist to provide Ryan with everything she needed to thrive. From seeing her GI specialist monthly, multiple nutritionists and food therapy twice a week we were looking at a g-tube if we didn't find options for her within a few weeks of her weaning.
She loved yogurt but that was about it, it could not be chunky and had to be smooth and only two flavors would suffice. We started with the high fat Liberté brand and that put the right foot forward. Within about two weeks of her on the high fat yogurt we added in the Stonyfield which was also a win. She really struggled eating from a spoon so feeding took a lot out of her for a while. Sometimes spending over an hour just to get her though one yogurt cup. After some time she got so much better eating from a spoon and got faster with eating.
She stayed on a yogurt diet for a few months and we decided to try these soft baked cookies (here) - The thing is, any texture she didn't like she would gag, vomit and then refuse to eat anything after that. So we had to be really careful when introducing new foods. After a few tries with the cookies she started to learn to chew and we finally felt a sense if relief.
We have had many setbacks with Ryan's eating, from her Laryngomalacia, Tracheomalacia, the big changes when we moved because of the flood, to her getting sick numerous occasions, but also so many victories! I have put together a list that works for Ryan in the order of how we introduced them! Ryan falls on the more severe side of kids with sensory processing disorders so although these worked for us, always talk with your child's doctor or therapist before making changes with your sensory little, trust your child and follow their cues.
Since Ryan had significant sensitivity to gritty textures (like applesauce) we started with high fat smooth yogurt:
Stonyfield, Libertè, along with dairy free options such as almond yogurt and Good Belly. To much dairy can cause an iron deficiency in typical babies and kids so we were careful with her dairy intake, she didn't like milk so we had more wiggle room when it came to the yogurt we would give her. Next we started with soft baked cookies, these were gluten free, dairy free and healthy. I will link those here. We had to start slow and very small bites but she got used to the texture and now feeds herself with them! Following that we tried bananas and this was a huge fail for her, the slimy texture was just not something she was on board with, but it is a great option for kids who may not be as sensitive to textures as Ryan was. Smoothies were in this mix too but since they had a texture to them most of the time she was quite resistant to them. She stayed on the cookie - yogurt diet for quite some time. We had to temporarily move due to a flood in our house and this put a big halt to her progress overall.
Once we moved back in we kick started our plan to get her eating more, but just a few months after moving Ryan got really sick and admitted to Cook Childrens Hospital. She had an extended stay and we found out she has a blood disorder which is related to her red blood cells (more on that in another post) but in short - it causes severe anemia so she is now on iron infusions every couple of months. Funny thing, a huge positive came out of having anemia! She developed PICA, she was now suddenly eating textures that we never imagined and seeking them out. Things like paper, cardboard, and metal. We took this opportunity to work with her nutritionist and find foods we could introduce. We turned lemons into lemonade as they say and introduced new foods every other day, she hasn't been gaging and her interest in food has been incredible since April (when her PICA started).
We really allow her to lead the way, if she finds she wants to try something she will reach for it and as long as it isn't spicy or a texture we know she won't like we hand it over to her to try. She didn't self feed for a while, it is something we work on every day. When a child has sensory aversions with food, letting them play and touch it will encourage them to put the food in their mouth! If they don't like the texture on their hands, the chance of them liking it in their mouth is really low.
Favorite foods now:
Graham Crackers, Kids Cliff Bars, cheese quesadillas (this was a big one), with her new found love for eating paper we decided to try the Kroger brand cinnamon rice cakes and those were a HUGE hit with her. Perfect for snacking but extra messy. She started eating goldfish, pretzels, bread (depending on what it is), Gerber puffs (finally), pasta with a cream sauce, and now some smoothies. She still eats a ton of yogurt, and we are working on oatmeal, pizza, applesauce - textures she still really struggles with, but overall her pallet has significantly expanded and her health team is thrilled!