If you want to get caught up on our infant reflux (GERD) saga, you can find earlier installments here:
The title of this post is actually a little misleading, because Owen is still switching from formula to solid food – at the age of 18 months!
We started solids with Owen at 6 months, maybe closer to 7, and he was initially interested. His interest wore off quickly once he discovered that solids were actually eating! He also had issues with textures and gagging right from the get-go. Our oldest son was also very picky about solid foods, so we weren’t surprised. We really didn’t push the issue with him because it just wasn’t worth another battle. Baby food is not very calorie-dense, and so it didn’t make sense to create a big fight over pureed carrots!
Unfortunately, not all of the medical professionals in our life agreed with this!
I’ll put the bottom line out there first – Owen currently drinks about 26 oz. of formula per day, and eats about 100-300 calories worth of food. According to his age, he is supposed to be drinking no more than 16 oz. of milk and eating solid food for a total of 900-1000 calories per day. He never eats that much.
Our dietician and feeding specialist both agree that Owen is not going to be taking his bottles of Alimentum to soccer practice with him, and that the day will come when he decides that he is ready to eat food. Some days, it has seemed like that time might never come, but I really feel like Owen is not going to be on bottles forever. He has a fair amount of control over this issue (meaning that there is not a good way to make him eat solid food).
Our pediatrician thinks that Owen is not eating enough food because I am giving him too much formula. For a normal kid, that would be sound advice, but Owen won’t eat very much food no matter how hungry he is! We’ve tried cutting back the bottles, and it didn’t work. When I asked his GI specialist whether he should be eating things like spaghetti sauce and pizza (because of his reflux) he told me to feed those foods to him because eating what the family is eating is an important part of development. This was NOT the issue! I’d do anything to get him to eat, I just wondered if we should be restricting his diet because of his reflux! We ended up switching GI doctors.
Lately, we have seen a lot of progress! Owen has recently started holding his own bottle. I thought he would never do this! His attitude toward food has always been passive at best, but he now is happy to see me making him a bottle. He grabs the bottle, runs to the chair where I feed him, and settles in with his blanket to drink his bottle. He is also eating a wider variety of food than he used to. He likes bananas (sometimes), avocado, mashed potatoes (sometimes), goldfish (plain – no cheese), a few casseroles that we make, meatloaf, chick-fil-a nuggets and fries, and baby food pears. He won’t eat any bread or rolls, which is surprising because my other two picky toddlers lived off bread. We can’t give him any dairy, and he refuses to eat eggs.
At some meals, he eats pretty well. Other times, he plays with the food and throws it on the floor. He can make a Ritz cracker last for about 15 bites – it’s ridiculous! Other times, he’ll shove half a banana in his mouth, so it seems like some days he really does feel differently than others. Also, most one-year-olds are like this to some extent, so it’s hard to sort out what is reflux and what is Owen just exerting his little one-year-old will.
At this point, here is what we are doing to encourage eating:
- Letting him hold his favorite blanket while drinking his bottle and occasionally while eating food in his high chair.
- Letting him hold something interesting (a pen, a spoon, or a toy) while we feed him bites. If he’s not going to eat, he has to give back the special item.
- Distracting him with puppets, brothers being silly, etc. Distraction helps him take more bites.
- Working on sensory issues in general. A lot of Owen’s problem is over-reacting to sensory input from food. We have a friend who is an occupational therapist who is giving us advice on how to work with him.
Here’s what we are not doing:
- Feeding therapy – There are lots of programs available that help kids with feeding issues. However, our feeding specialist and dietician feel like this is not a good fit for Owen since his refusal of food is linked to real physical pain.
- Letting him run the show. By keeping him on high-calorie formula, I can remove him from the high chair when he is throwing food or other behaviors that we need to stop knowing that he will receive more calories in his bottle at nap time.
- Comparing him to other kids. Okay, this one is a struggle. It’s very hard to not feel like he should be over this by now, he should be feeding himself with a spoon by now, etc, etc. Owen is just not going to follow the norm, and that’s okay. He is a child that God created and we can trust Him to mature Owen at the right time!
Owen’s weight has really stalled lately, so I’m hoping that he starts growing again soon! Also, he won’t drink formula out of a sippy cup, and at some point we need to get him off the bottle. So we’re not totally out of the woods with this eating thing yet! However, God has led us at each point in this struggle, and I am confident that He will continue to do so!
Aarika Feb 3, 2014
I've read everything you've posted on silent reflux because we are dealing with the majority of the issues you've described with our son Caleb. He wont hold his own bottle even though he's 10 months old & totally capable of it, because, like you described Owen, he doesn't like eating. He ate table foods fairly well between 7-9 months, but only finished a small jar of baby food once or twice a week if that. This week he is BARELY eating at the table at all - table foods, baby foods - even his favorite stuff. He's only drinking formula (similac advance). I nursed until 5 months, but there was so much choking and burping and struggling that I started pumping and lost my supple while traveling at Christmas. Anyway, having read your posts, I think we'll switch to Alimentum to see if he's sensitive to dairy. My husband is lactose intolerant, but developed the allergy as an adult. Dairy may be causing all the excess gas.
Did your son(s) have to burp a lot? We feed Caleb 2 ounces from a bottle and he has to burp 2-4 times before returning to eat (unless he's sleepy. Then he might drink 6 oz without needing a burp, but we have to rouse to burp 2-3 times and often times he wakes up an hour later to burp again)! When he's awake and eating, we have to dangle a toy above the bottle or let him hold something interesting. I have a ton of questions for you... We are debating doing a swallow study or the PH probe. I saw you're in Texas ... any chance you could recommend a good GI doctor in Dallas? If you can respond, email me.
It's such a relief to finally hear someone's struggle through this trial and their "happy outcome". Thanks for devoting the time to post about your experience with silent reflux.
Natalie Tschacher Feb 18, 2014
I realize this post is a few years old, but does your son still have these problems? My 11 year old has recently started having serious stomach pains, almost like heart burn, but it doesn't go away. He was on children's Zantac for awhile but it didn't do anything to help him, he takes Rolaids 3 times a day with little relief. We are waiting on a call from Valley Children's Hospital to get him into a GI specialist. I'm just curious if you have any suggestions. I hate seeing my son in so much pain constantly, he's lost 5 pounds in 3 weeks. Thanks
Sarah Feb 21, 2014
Sorry I am just now getting to this! I don't know what to tell you about stomach pain in an older child. Sounds miserable! I hope that you are able to find a solution very soon!
emily Dec 2, 2015
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I came across your website while searching for silent reflux - refusing solid foods. My baby has SO many symptoms of silent reflux, most recently the refusal to eat solids, and I am convinced she has it. The doctors all treat me like I have Munchausen by proxy, and I am so frustrated. I don't know where to turn. Reading stories like this make me think even more that reflux is at the root of all our problems. I need to get somebody to LISTEN to me!
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