I started out this “project” with the impression and overall conclusion that it really didn’t matter HOW you fed your baby and that all that really mattered was that your baby was being fed and nourished. I also had preconceived notions that food makes babies happy regardless, and while that may still sorta be true, I learned something new with Erica & Xavier. Feeding through a g-tube – basically directly bringing the food into the stomach – doesn’t have the same feel-good vibes (or chemical & emotional reactions for you science people) that ingesting food through your mouth would. A g-tube removes the taste & smell aspect from feeding, which is simultaneously associating food with pleasure.

When Erica & her husband or caretakers feed Xavier, it’s GO time and time to make feeding fun! That means surrounding him with his best stuffed animal friends and toys for him to keep entertained while the tube is in. I also got to watch him enjoy some yummy frozen banana cubes – I could tell he was watching me closely, making sure I didn’t want in on his yummy snack ;) Thank you to Xavier and his lovely parents for letting me be my creep camera self during dinner time. I learned so much from hearing your story and hope others do too.

TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT HOW YOU FEED YOUR BABY

Xavier is fed primarily by g-tube (gastrostomy tube). He was fed purely breast milk via tube until he was 6 months old. Unfortunately, I ran out of supply and had to start him on formula through the tube. During each feed we dip a pacifier in milk for him to taste what he is eating. He is also held and loved during every feed.

At almost the 10-month mark, he passed a swallow study with 100% normal swallow. Because he has never taken a bottle, it has caused sensory issues to Xavier for feeding. It will be harder for him to transition to eating orally because eating by mouth usually comes with being full and satisfied. He is now able to eat pureed/baby foods and it is a huge change for him. He is doing better every day and it has been fun to see what he likes and does not like. Loves avocado, chocolate and sugary foods. We have to incorporate a lot of play during oral feeds which is interesting. Anyways, tube feedings will continue until he is strong enough to consume an appropriate amount of food by mouth. We do not know how long that will be.

IS THIS THE WAY YOU HAD IMAGINED FEEDING YOUR BABY? TELL ME WHAT THAT LOOKED LIKE

Absolutely not, but who imagines having a super amazing, adorable, and loving medically fragile and complex child with a normal pregnancy?

My ideal situation was to breast feed through the first year.

HOW DID YOU HAPPEN TO SETTLE ON THIS METHOD OF FEEDING

We did not really have a choice to feed Xavier any other way as his respiratory system was not developed fully. He was fed by a nasogastric tube for about 8 weeks of his life. Long term nasogastric tubes (tube that goes from nose to stomach) come with a lot of risks: skin breakdown, risk for aspiration, etc. After someone is fed by a nasogastric tube for a while, health care professionals suggest a gastrostomy tube to be placed (surgical incision with a tube placed directly to the stomach). Children can go home with nasogastric tubes, but it is often frowned upon due to the risks. While it was very scary for us to sign for Xavier to have a fairly easy surgical procedure done, this was a step to bringing him home.

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ON INFANT FEEDING BEFORE YOU BECAME A MOTHER?

Damn, formula is expensive.

People that gave me unwanted advice on breastfeeding when I was pregnant annoyed the shit out of me.

Society is still weird about breastfeeding. If you cannot, who cares? If you can do it, great. If you do not want to, whatever. C’mon people, its 2019.

HOW HAS FEEDING YOUR BABY THIS WAY MADE YOU A BETTER PERSON?

Feeding Xavier via g-tube was the only option we had to help him thrive. The g-tube helped bring Xavier home and this was vital for all of us. I also attached a machine to my breasts for six months and had a love/hate relationship with a breast pump- I would say that is dedication.

WHAT TYPES OF COMMENTS (GOOD AND BAD) HAVE LEFT AN IMPRESSION ON YOU?

Good:

“At least he is thriving with the g-tube and tube feedings.”

“Be proud of yourself to have been able to provide breast milk to your child for six months.”

“What an amazing day it will be for him to enjoy his first birthday cake!”

“Sleep and mental health are more important than worrying about breastfeeding.”

Bad:

“What if he never eats by mouth?’

“Is he ever going to eat by mouth?”

“Oh, he will be fine now that he’s eating by mouth and he will have that tube out in a few weeks!”

“How can you pump if he has never been able to actually breast feed?”

WHAT KIND OF ROLE HAS YOUR PARTNER PLAYED IN FEEDING YOUR BABY?

My husband has been supportive of my pumping, formula and tube feedings. He is not in the health care field and adjusted right away to feeding Xavier through g-tube. He is my rock and has been amazing through this entire feeding journey. From cleaning my pump pieces when I was tired, to showing others how to feed our child via g-tube- what a person!

ANY ADVICE FOR FUTURE MOMMAS?

Moms, however you feed your children be proud. I have high expectations for myself and through this experience as a new mom, I have noticed how often we take the little things for granted. Whether its breast milk, formula, tube feeding- at least they are thriving! You are doing a good job and you are a wonderful mom.

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