I’m bursting with love as I write this. My hands have been hovering over the keyboard, not sure where or if to begin. But I have scoured the net myself for the past year at least, searching for similar stories to mine, searching for advice, positive outlooks, some sort of kinship. I certainly found some common ground along the way, but usually in the form of tedious forums which made me want to top myself…online forums often make me feel like I have just subjected myself to hours of daytime TV whilst polishing off an entire chocolate cake and a paper bag full of dripping fish ‘n chip shop floor scrapings; self-loathing. And so, my hesitation in writing about our journey thus far with our little boy, is transformed into resolve. Perhaps another mum or dad, dealing with the very stressful situation where a wee bambino fails to gain weight, might do a search on this here interweb, and find my blog post, and bam! We meet here, and identify and assist. So here we go.
My boy’s birth weight was very standard; 3.26kg. He latched on to the boob extremely well (and still does at almost eighteen months). In the first three or four months, his weight gain was fine, even great. And suddenly, at around the five month mark, maternal health nurses started tutting and looking sorry for me and lowering their very silly lower lips as though they might cry like a baby. On one such occasion I said:
“Look, do I need to panic or can we dispense with the amateur dramatics?”
She carried on with the performance and in a baby voice said: “We get a little bit sad when the dots go down the percentile curve.” I nearly slapped her. Zeph gradually slid down the percentile charts and then fell off the bottom you see. Hence the drama. He hit the 5th percentile at this particular appointment.
“Is this helpful? Do I need to go to a pediatrician or don’t I?”
“Oh no, he still has a good amount of fat around the bottom. He passes the bottom test.”
Oh whatever, you tedious, patronising, painful, pitying pain in my ass.
Zeph had acid reflux for the first five to six months of his life. He was pumped full of Zantac from the word go and hated every forced gulpful. It was awful and it felt like it would never end, and then it just did. Maternal health nurses and doctors encouraged me to introduce him to solids at four months because this might help with the reflux. In the UK where my daughter was born, I didn’t consider solids until around the six month mark and only really started them in earnest around seven months. Anyway, at four months my son was not interested. He momentarily took some pureed veg from a spoon, but his interest was desperately short lived. I had promised myself not to get stressed out if my son was a fussy eater. My daughter had been too for the first year or more, and then suddenly ate brilliantly. So I tried not to force the issue, but everyone was on my case, encouraging me to try this, try that…I tried everything. The bottle? Not a chance. He still won’t drink from one. I did what I had also done with my daughter, which was to dive into baby led weaning (BLW); very common in the UK but not so well-known here in Australia. He refused to be spoon fed, and so I put lamb chops, pasta, chunks of veg, chicken, cheese, savoury muffins, prawns, fish fillets and so on, on his tray and let him feed himself. Sometimes he’d nibble, but more often than not it ended up on the floor. Now this would have been a perfectly acceptable situation if it were not for the fact that, despite my huge milk supply and my son’s voracious appetite for boob, his weight gain was truly dreadful. Let me really highlight how bad; he is now approaching eighteen months old and he weighs 8kg…just. Yup, he’s the cutest, tiniest, most delicious child you will ever encounter….don’t argue…he is!
He has been in and out of doctors’ rooms since he was born with acid reflux, eczema (disappeared as quickly as it came), croup, tummy bugs, puke bugs, hand foot and mouth and so on. He has had too many doses of antibiotics and has had a bad run. He has been tested for allergies (none), tested for coeliac, parasites, intolerances, liver issues, bowel issues and on and on it goes. All tests came back showing a great big nada. Save to say, my very jolly, hilarious wee quirky madman, loses his shit whenever we go to a medical clinic…even when the appointment is for me. He is conditioned to think that he’ll be stripped naked, have his bollocks squeezed, have cold, sharp things pressed into his stomach, his back and his ears and be placed, butt naked into a freezing metal bowl to gauge his weight. He’s over it. So am I.
Just before Zeph turned one, we went to a pediatrician. He took one look at my son pushing toy cars around his room, pulling himself up on furniture, squealing and babbling and said “he’s fine.” Apparently he had the necessary amount of subcutaneous fat for everything to be considered ok. He was meeting all the relevant milestones and we were told to return in three months. Shortly after this, Zeph started sleeping through the night (coinciding suspiciously with me putting a baltic amber necklace around his teeny neck) without a 10pm top up and seemed to start eating with some level of consistency. We went to Vietnam for two weeks and the sleeping and eating continued and we thought we might be turning the corner. But then an appalling tummy bug and a disasterous case of hand, foot and mouth and for the first time, my poor boy actually lost weight. Not good. Not good at all. For the first time in his short little life, I actually started to panic. I felt utterly helpless. He went off food again and was all about boob…four feeds a day still (none through the night). We saw the pediatrician again. In my mind, Zeph now looked malnourished. He had lost the modest juicy bot and little folds of fat on his legs and arms, his stomach was distended and his ribcage protruded. Could somebody please fecken tell me what to do? My partner and I also agreed that he seemed to have lost his mojo. By this time Zeph was running about the place and when we arrived at the pediatrician appointment, the doctor saw Zeph in hysterical laughter running away from me in the waiting room, flirting with other people and generally having a blast. He was obviously unimpressed by his weight but was convinced that his time would come, and he would suddenly start eating and gaining weight. He put some of this down to Zeph not eating enough, and our genetic make-up; neither I nor my partner are big, and I was pretty late on the puberty front…so perhaps it all contributes. The doc said that early on in his lengthy career he would submit patients like Zeph for all the necessary tests, but he could count on one finger the number of times these tests had revealed anything interesting. So he discouraged me from testing for anything and said to return in three months.
This was shortly followed by a six-day puke bug which wiped out my little boy. No eating and endless puking and he seemed to waste away in front of our eyes. Our family doctor suggested that it was time to see a pediatrician she knew who specialised in gastric issues…so off we went. Now this pediatrician was actually very friendly with the ex-pediatrician and confirmed his excellent reputation. But she agreed, upon examination and a weigh-in that my little boy had finally (at sixteen months or thereabouts) deserved some tests to be done. I think she got a far worse impression of Zeph than was necessary. Because of his pathological fear of doctors’ rooms he wailed from the moment we arrived until the moment we left when he then danced around the waiting room as though nothing had happened. However, I took the horrible poo and wee samples in to pathology and Zeph screamed his way through the blood tests. And….they came back all clear. Nada. I had mixed feelings about the nada. I felt utterly helpless. I had kind of hoped that something insidious might be detected so that we could deal with it and it would make sense of this very weird situation. However, the pediatrician sounded extremely relieved, told me to make an appointment with the dietician to assist with upping Zeph’s calorie intake, and assured me that Zeph would eventually catch up in the weight stakes over time.
Around this time, Zeph suddenly became interested in food again. It seemed that he was interested in earnest. And things started to turn around for him at childcare as well where he was eating as much as anyone else, sleeping well and playing like a loon all day. He was properly chowing down on his nosh; prawns, fish, chook, sausages, pasta bolognese, fried rice, risottos, yoghurt, mac cheese, veg…it was all starting to happen. We could see on our very unreliable scales, that he was gaining a wee bit. Also, around this time, we suddenly saw some normal poos. Up until around 17 months, probably 80-90 percent of Zeph’s poos were explosive or just runny affairs; never a good old-fashioned nugget! Probably indicative of an unsettled tummy, a passing intolerance or a troubled lining of the tummy from too many antibiotics. Dunno, but we have been enjoying some sort of improvement on this front.
So we went to the dietician, and predictably she provided no ground-breaking suggestions to improve my chances of increasing Zeph’s calorie intake. She confirmed that I was doing all the right things; cooking everything in oodles of butter, cream, milk. She wrote me a list of the foods I ought to be focusing on which i have posted below in case it is of any use to anyone out there. She insisted that Zeph should have iron-rich protein at least two meals a day, aiming for two tablespoons per meal. Sometimes this is achieved and sometimes not. But that’s all I can do – keep offering, making it as goddam tasty as I can and make mealtimes a light, fun affair. I steam or boil veg, and then fry them in butter and lemon juice with a splash of tamari and they go down a treat. Prawn and fish with loads of butter and lemon juice. Chicken risotto, scrambled eggs or French toast for breakfast. Always trying to get him to drink milk when his sister does at night (he happily drinks an entire sippy cup full of cold milk two days a week at childcare but not for me!) but he flirts with it, makes a performance of it but drinks sod all. I have cut back boob, trying for just the one breastfeed before bed at night in the hope that he will eat more but I haven’t truly noticed any difference so I worry that I could be filling him with more milk. Nonetheless, some days this works brilliantly, particularly on nursery days. But when I have to put him to bed at home without boob during the day, shits are trumps!
I forgot to mention that I started taking Zeph to a cranio chiro early on in his little life. She was great but it was very costly and not something I could keep doing on a regular basis. She made a big deal out of probiotics but I had no success with the powder probiotics which you have to mix with water, as the boy refuses anything on a spoon. I wonder if I had persisted if this might have helped out a little. I think possibly that medications caused some distress to the lining of his tummy which led to a lack of absorption and endless runny poos. I’m just guessing, but something went wrong at around five months, and I’m clawing at things which might be responsible. Now he takes half a chewable probiotic tablet daily and vitamins with iron.
So look, I’m wittering now. The point is we’re still very much in the middle of it all. We are by no means through all of this. Teething sets us back on the eating front, as do colds and general illness. Zeph is a titch and will be for some time but he is all the cuter for it!