03 June 2011

First Feeding and why Bennett watches Elmo

:::EDIT: Christina, no, Nathan is not too old to train.  They have trained kids as old as upper elementary.  It's the basic Pavlov dog method one to one behavior/reward correlation: eat your bite, play with your toy.  stop eating your bite, you have no toy to play with.:::

I fed Bennett for the first time today.  It went really well.  I had a few mistakes I learned to correct (such as saying "Good boy" instead of the more specific and more appropriate phrase "Good chewing!" or giving him bites too fast before he was done chewing).  But on the whole I felt pretty good about it.  I have certainly felt the typical feeling of frustration that no toy would motivate Bennett to eat his bites or that the 25 minutes might never end.  But, thankfully, with the Feeder right there to reassure me, I'm working through those emotions.  Before I leave, they are going to train me on how to feed both kids at once using this method.  While this program is effective, it's not very practical.  So, they work hard with families on finding ways to make it work outside the hospital walls and in real life.

Several friends commented on the fact that Bennett is encouraged to watch TV while eating.  I was alittle taken back by this as well.  I'm a huge limit-TV-until-high-school sort of Momma.  I'm also the not-a-fan-of-noisy-plastic-toys Momma.  But I have had to let both of those things go out of the door recently, as I am most definitely the I-want-my-kid-to-finally-learn-to-eat Momma.

Here's the thought process behind the TV being on during the Feeding program:

First, this is a part of a larger package.  TV isn't just "on", it's part of the reward.  So, TV serves a fundamental purpose regarding eating.  Some kids are distracted by the TV to eat.  But others are too distracted by the TV not to eat.  Whatever way Bennett responds to the TV during that meal, I have to make sure it's beneficial.  I use the TV for my purposes, not to simply allow him to dose off into Elmo land.  As adults, we know that TV can make us unaware of our eating habits (which can be bad when we find ourselves 30 minutes into a movie and the entire box of cookies gone).  But this isn't the same thing for Bennett during his structured Feeding Times.

During "Feeding Meals", Bennett gets about 15 seconds worth of TV before he's told to "take a bite".  If he doesn't comply, the movie is paused and the toy is taken away.  Once he takes his bite, the movie is played again and the toy is returned.  We do this over and over and over again until the predetermined 25 minutes is up or all the food is gone.  So, TV is a distraction but it is only so that I have control over when Bennett eats.

Second, the TV is not necessary to implement this program.  TV is simply one of many rewards I can use to motivate Bennett.  So, if a video game or telephone call works as good or better, those are fine too.  Whatever works.

Yep, I'm over the whole "plastic toy" and "TV is bad for my kid" thing to care when it comes to eating.   I'd love to believe my child would be motivated by simple and beautiful wooden toys to eat.  I dream that my child would play quietly in his chair with a wooden toy quietly entertaining himself while he eats.  But the reality is this ain't gonna happen.

And that's ok.  I'm not a fan of Elmo, Handy Manny or Sid the Science Kid.  But I'll gladly purchase the 10 disc set if it will keep Bennett "eating his bites."  In fact, a man whom I met recently mentioned he and his family have been doing this program for the last year.  He said they have three large bins of "feeding time only" toys, most which are plastic light up toys that were purchased at garage sales.  He said some of the best toys for motivating his son are those from garage sales.

We had a meeting today, the Feeding families, at lunch.  We had a chance to ask questions about the program, what it's like to do this at home, etc.  I found myself crying, of course...when I asked about how to do it at home and how to explain to others what I'm doing.  Thankfully, I was reassured that while this is vital to do at home, it is extremely difficult and may not actually make sense in all situations.    I was given lots of grace, especially considering that I don't just have a child with feeding issues, I have a child with Cystic Fibrosis.

The staff, who are amazingly supportive, reassured me that it is difficult but not impossible.  I was encouraged to find a balance at home and not stress over every feeding as though my child will combust if he didn't do well.

Life at home will now consist of five 25 minute Feedings, two vest treatments and a night time tube feed.  That doesn't leave much time to do anything else.  So, my family is helping me think through how I can better balance it all.  Thankfully, Brian and my mom will be trained to do Feedings as the more people who can feed Bennett, the less pressure there will be on me to do so.

I truly don't know how I will handle everything when we return home.  But if Cystic Fibrosis has taught me anything, it's taught me to persevere and have the confidence that difficult transitions do eventually become habits.  As hard as it is, it will get better...eventually.


  1. From one feeding therapy Momma to another, let the nay sayers say what they will, they have not walked a mile in our shoes. Do what works, and in the end that's all that matters. Last year was the roughest because we had to bring little bags of toys and a portable DVD player whenever we traveled or even just wanted to go out for lunch with the boys. I've had parents tell me that what I'm doing is terrible, that it looks like I'm force feeding them, and that I shouldn't show them tv. And I've had just as many parents come up to me and tell me how brilliant the whole set up was, that they were watching and had questions on how they could do something similar with their children. All that matters is that you can get your children to eat, whatever way works. The day will come when you've got the routine down and both you and your son will know the signs and queues and it is so smooth that you start weaning away toys and tv and eventually it's all about eating a meal, then getting the reward AFTER the meal is finished. It's just really tricky at first, especially when you've got more than one resistant eater at a time. Those that are going to judge, will judge no matter what.

  2. I can't believe anyone would say anything about watching tv. I mean, you do what you have to do. I will never feel guilty about turning on a show for 30 minutes to entertain the kids if they are grouchy and I have something I HAVE to do. If watching some TV helps keep Bennett motivated to eat and stay healthy then thank goodness for TV!


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