Born two months prematurely in a Chicago, IL Springtime, when I was 26 years old, our now five year old son grew well on my milk, and grew strong; I nursed him, and then bottle-fed him from pumped milk, until he was old enough that his body metabolized the milk too quickly to pull enough nutrition from it.
The trouble was that his prematurity left him neurologically disabled, and though his feeding issues were not considered severe enough that he was fitted for tube-feeding, they were severe enough that it might have been the only way to get enough nutrition into him without relying purely on artificial measures. He simply could not handle eating enough things, and in enough quantity, for a balanced diet whatsoever.
As a result, his early growth charts resembled one of those tiered farms. His doctors would prescribe a diet of PediaSure for him. The trouble with PediaSure is it is meant to meat ALL the nutritional AND caloric needs of the age group for which is it intended, so it left our boy no hunger with which we could work, in terms of feeding therapy. So it was that his therapists would fight with his doctors, and eventually he’d be taken off the PediaSure so they could focus on developmental progress.
The trouble with that is that he did not developmentally progress fast enough, on the eating front, that he could progress physically. A half-and-half diet or variations thereof was not effective either, for whatever combined reasons of stubborn physicality and stubborn personality. For three months he’d grow on his personal growth curve. For the next three months, he’d simply stop growing at all, and his growth curve would flatten. Then in the next three months, he’d catch up to where he would have been on his growth curve if he’d stayed on PediaSure the whole time. But then, of course, there would be another three months of zero growth. Over and over, we did this. The staggered growth must have been jarring to his system, and it wasn’t helping his therapy any.
The doctors and therapists spent a lot of time questioning each others’ judgment, but they weren’t coming up with any real answers for my child. That’s when I decided to research vitamin and mineral fortified protein powders. I figured that the extra protein, which was missing from PediaSure, might help with my son’s naturally low muscle tone – a common problem with preemies. I thought that by adding the nutritional content to his whole milk, he’d have his nutritional and caloric needs MOSTLY met, while still leaving just enough hunger, the whole way through, to work with for his therapy. The only thing missing from the equation was the fiber which is in PediaSure but not in the protein powders, but that was easily enough compensated for. The biggest trick was finding an appropriate and affordable product, since the very few such things intended for children are horribly expensive and only seem to be found online, and most of the non-pediatric versions, while far easier to find, are designed specifically with menopausal women or body-building men in mind.
Much time was spent with nutritional content labels, online resources on RDA’s for a child of my son’s size and age, and a calculator. Once I found the right product, though, all the hard work – and funny looks from the “professionals” – paid off. Not only did my son steadily grow, but he finally “caught up” from his prematurity, in terms of where his growth curve was placed. What’s more, he did so while finally beginning to make progress with his eating therapy.
The lesson here is that while you shouldn’t do anything without consulting the professionals, sometimes you need to do things that weren’t their idea in the first place.