When food before one really isn’t fun…

spin1My daughter recently ate a small piece of bread.

I cried.

Real tears.

At this point you might be thinking, “Dude!” (Because you are a Californian surfer). “Wait till she does a poop in a potty or writes her name for the first time. You are going to be A MESS.”  Yes, you are probably right, but there is a special reason why this set me off.

I’ve read a variety of blog posts recently about weaning – all excellent, I might add. One was factual, another funny and the last a “seriously, just get on with it” post but none of them really represented what weaning has been like in our household. *

We started early (at 17 weeks), on medical advice, in a bid to help settle Freya’s reflux. It apparently can help in many cases and I was excited. It felt like another milestone but also like we were finally going to be able to do something positive for her after an awful first few months. Unfortunately, and I didn’t know this at the time, a lot of the early weaning foods can cause more upset for a baby with an already sensitive tummy. Sadly, the only way to find out the “safe” foods is really through trial and error, although there is advice on things to definitely avoid. (If you are interested there is a good section explaining it here).

So, instead of getting better she got worse.

Much worse.

Oh, she loved eating at the start. I couldn’t get it in quickly enough but it seemed whatever I tried would result in her being up much of the night in discomfort and pain (not to mention what came out of both ends). To be truthful, it felt like I was poisoning her. It was a long way from the “fun” I thought we would have with new tastes and textures.

I asked for help from the professionals but it seems like many of those in the know either did not have much experience with reflux or believed I was just being a fussy new mother. I was told her troubles were “unlikely to be the food related” so we persevered – and by 10 months she was refusing to eat anything at all.

Maybe I should have expected it. Freya had become breast averse within days of being born, then bottle averse within months as a result, I suspect, of the pain of reflux. Even getting 30ml into her was a battle. She would bat the bottle away, writhe and scream, even though she was clearly hungry. Once on hypoallergenic milk, after she was eventually diagnosed as probably allergic/intolerant to Cows’ Milk Protein when her weight plummeted, things settled (although she was still up for hours at night with what seemed like tummy ache).

Just as I think she realised that bottle = pain (babies are cleverer than we think) she also twigged that food = pain and refused to eat.

It took several months of me trying to tempt her with a variety of different “safe” foods diligently sourced and prepared three times a day (while desperately searching the internet for advice) before she eventually started to eat again. But she would never, ever, touch bread.

Every day at tea time for six months I made her a piece of (dairy, wheat, gluten and soya free) bread (with Vitalite or a spread), toast, a fake cheese sandwich or a crumpet (along with the food she would eat).

For the first few months she studiously ignored it but I was still deliriously happy that she was eating anything at that point so I wasn’t that bothered – other than from a food waste point of view.

Then she stopped ignoring it and picked the slices up and starting flinging them  in every direction (I think this is a general experience of weaning).

And finally, just a couple of weeks ago, aged 16 months, she picked one up and put it in her mouth before biting a bit off.

I froze, torn between making a huge fuss of her or acting like it wasn’t a big deal (both of which are advised for hard to wean babies).

From nowhere, all the months of frustration and worry, of waiting and hoping and watching and picking food off my cream carpet, bubbled up and came out as tears.

Here she is...eating toast!
Here she is…eating toast!

It felt like a victory, albeit a small one. If she could eat bread, she might eat toast, or a sandwich – a whole new world opened up.

Maybe some of this is what “normal” weaning can be like but from the articles I read it seemed much more straight forward.

We are still waiting for a referral to a gastro specialist (and are no further forward than when I wrote this) so I have no idea whether she is intolerant to certain foods, her tummy is simply healing from the reflux or something else is going on. I worry that she isn’t getting enough vitamins or that I should be reintroducing things but now she is relatively pain-free it seems wrong to rock the boat. She still wakes in discomfort most nights – so clearly we are not quite there yet –  but it’s not nearly as bad as it was.

I didn’t write this as a ‘woe is me’ tale but weaning a reflux baby can be a lonely phase. And I know things could have been much worse but I wanted to give another side to weaning just in case there are other people for whom  “food before one is just for fun” doesn’t ring true – fun would be the last word I would use to describe our experience.

Did you wean a reflux baby or one with allergies or intolerances? I’d love to hear from you.

* Whenever I write about Freya’s problems I feel the need to qualify it by saying I realise there are parents who would give their right arm to have a baby who just doesn’t eat.  I can’t write about their experiences, I can only write about mine, but I do realise how lucky we are to have a generally healthy toddler.

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12 thoughts on “When food before one really isn’t fun…

  1. My littlest brother (14 years younger than me) has reflux and (as we have now learned severe food allergies in general). His doctor actually had him on prescription acid reflux medication when he was about Freya age. That helped a lot. They would give him half a pill mixed into rice cereal (but this was before they realized that the medication had a long term side effect of bone weakness). But before that it was difficult to get him to eat as well. So I feel your pain a bit.

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    1. I’m sorry to hear about your brother. Does he still have the food allergies? We’re hoping Freya grows out of some of hers. She was also on medication but, if anything, it made her worse so we stopped and decided to just ride it out. Thankfully the reflux eased as she got mobile at about nine months but the food issues continue – although she is so much better.

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      1. He does still have allergies. He is basically on a sugar free, soy free, gluten free, nut fee & vegan diet (except he can still eat chunks of meat, but he can’t have eggs or dairy). It used to be much worse, but he’s been receiving treatment and has slowly been able to add some food back into his diet (he is now able to eat potatoes, corn, bananas and a few others food that previously made him ill).
        But my heart goes out to him. He’s still practically a kid (he turns 13 this summer) and he can’t enjoy most things kids his age enjoys.
        Hopefully Freya won’t have the same problems

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      2. I would think that’s still really hard for him 😦 I hope he continues to get the help he needs and progress. (I also hope you’re doing ok, I’ve been missing your blog posts).

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  2. Your experience sounds absolutely miserable. I too find doctors extremely unhelpful on food sensitvity issues…when your baby is obvioulsy suffering “she’ll grow out of it’ is not very helpful. I’m glad things are looking up for all of you!

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    1. Completely agree! I know they probably see really poorly children and in the grand scheme of things they have bigger things to worry about but it’s so hard to see your child in pain and not be able to help. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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  3. Well done Freya, and well done you, it’s a tough one. We found that ranitidine really helped Boo and so we waited until 6 months to wean and did baby led weaning, but what actually happened was Boo played with food and never actually ate anything until she was about 11 and 1/2 months, she was still having about a million breastfeeds a day at that point, it’s only very recently that we have felt we are making progress, (until that point it was sitting down three times a day and feeling more stressed as nothing was actually been eaten). I kept getting told that everything was ok because she was gaining weight (though she lost in december), but you sometimes just know things are not right. We are now trying to reduce the ranitidine dose as she is eating more but we take two steps forward and one step back, slow progress!
    I really hope the specialist can give you some more answers/advice!

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  4. Thank you. It is such a worry isn’t it? Freya’s weight dropped from the 98th centile to the 25th but then stayed on that line so they were not bothered. I hope you can continue to reduce the ranitidine and that she starts eating more. I know exactly what you mean about two steps forward and one step back!

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  5. Not sure if my first comment was posted, as it just vanished off the screen. Must be those wordpress gremlins again!!Anyhow, I was recently reminded of how these kids feel after suffering bouts of reflux post a gastro virus for several weeks. The constant nauseous feelings definitely puts one off eating of any kind. So I can really empathise with how they might be feeling. Hang in there.

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  6. Hi, My little girl Stella also suffered from reflux and has suspected dairy and soy allergy. I totally sympathise with all of the above! Stella did really well for the first couple of months, but then the writhing and struggling began at feed times and she just refused to have any milk. After cutting lots of foods out of my diet she was still clearly suffering and she has ended up on hypoallergenic formula. She is now growing well, but at 11 months still eats tiny morsels of food, if any.
    I really need to write my own post about this, as my comment is turning into an essay! I just wanted to say that I hear ya!

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    1. Thank you for commenting. I’d love to read your post if you get chance to write it. It’s such a worry, isn’t it? I’m a bit more chilled out about things now I know she is putting on weight even though her diet is so limited but her baby months were very stressful.

      Liked by 1 person

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