Saturday, August 22, 2009

Amount by mouth

Carolyn and are slowly coming to believe that Max has a throwing-up-his-food problem, not a classic feeding disorder, although he exhibits symptoms of both and they are, of course, closely related. Who wants to eat when it just means throwing most of it, painfully? Well, actually, because it is literally the difference between life and death, most of us would find a way to tolerate it. But infants are a bundle of instincts at war with learned behaviors. And Max won't suffer malnutrition if he stops eating because Carolyn and I would grimly man the pump and see that he gets enough food.

The tube itself may inhibit Max's desire to eat and learning about food. The jolly GI, BK, told us about an experiment in which monkeys were tube-fed exclusively from birth. After six months the tube feedings were stopped completely and the monkeys were offered similar food by mouth. How long, BK asked us, did we think it took for the monkeys to establish a normal eating routine? Clearly he was expecting us to guess a few days, and was somewhat taken aback when I guessed that the monkeys never learned to eat normally and, in fact, starved to death. Hey, doc, I'm living in a worst-case scenario kind of world these days. (The real answer was two weeks.)

About a month ago, we started giving Max a taste of solid food at his feedings. And then about two weeks ago, we started grinding up peas, sweet potatoes and the like, mixing them with water and giving them to him by bottle at one or two feedings per day. As I was feeding him some pureed peas today, I noticed that he would more or less hold the bottle while eating, or at least try to return the bottle to his mouth if it slipped out. Where just a month ago he would spurn our attempts to give him a taste of solids, and continued to at best be uninterested in (and, at worst, hostile to) the bottle, he seems to be learning to use it. Slowly, gradually, in barely detectable incremental steps, he's moving to become just a very finicky recovering anorexic, a huge improvement from his earlier militantly anti-food stance.

Max holds his bottle

Max holds his bottle

Every night we pump 660 mls of fortified breast milk into him. He's never broken 200 mls by mouth in a day, so he's still getting the overwhelming majority of his calories through his pump.

But if you examine the attached graph, you can discern a very faint upward trend (trust me, I've run the regressions). The vertical lines are Fridays. During the week, his bottle feeding is managed by D., the baby whisperer. On the weekends, it's just him and us. Notice the pattern of huge drops on Saturday and Sunday. Carolyn and I are trying. And today he took 165 mls from Carolyn and me; we believe this to be a personal best.