Only 9 months in this big world, Amy has already been on quite an extraordinary journey with feeding. Like a lot of preemies, Amy (born at 25 weeks) found feeding enormously challenging. At many times it just seemed too much for her very fragile nervous system and was one of the main triggers for the severe apnoeas or “near-death spells” that kept in her hospital for that extra length of time. In fact, it was suggested by some health professionals that Amy shouldn’t and wouldn’t orally feed. However with the help of caffeine, which she is still taking now, Amy overcame this major hurdle, learned to feed (safely) from a bottle and was allowed home to us after 143 days in NICU.
At home feeding continued to be very challenging; the apnoeic episodes were replaced with bad reflux and then unsurprisingly Amy started to show signs of an oral aversion; battling and refusing every bottle every day. Naturally, weight gain became a bit of an issue and when Amy began to slip further and further down the grown chart, it was decided by her medical team that, at just 3 months corrected, it was time for the spoon.
I remember thinking “yikes” and memories of weaning my first baby came flooding back; I was like a crazy lady up to my eyes in steamed sweet potato and trying to figure out when, how and how much! And so I dug out the weaning chapter of my baby book again. First up, the developmental check list:
- Can your baby hold her head upright? Sort of.
- Can your baby sit up well? At 3 months? Most definitely not!
- Is your baby showing an interest in your food? Nope.
Needless to say, I put the ‘manual’ away. Instead I took out the baby cookbooks and started steaming! At first, Amy didn’t seem too impressed with all my efforts and refused point blank to even open her month. We battled on. I continued to wear my best jazz hands, sought out loads of advice and while Amy didn’t quite share my enthusiasm I knew we’d get there. Eventually about 6 weeks in, Amy finally opened her mouth and we haven’t looked back since. She’s almost 6 months corrected now, enjoying three meals a day and thankfully the weight is starting to creep back on.
Reflecting on the past 3 months of weaning, I am reminded once again that raising a preemie sure doesn’t conform to the guidebooks (but does any baby?!). That said, when it comes to Amy, I’m starting to see a pattern emerging: everything starts too soon, takes a little longer to get going but she gets there in the end and most importantly in her own time.
For parents in the thick of weaning, I thought I’d share some of the advice that we got along the way that really helped.
10 tips that might make weaning your preemie easier:
- Get advice – use all the resources available to you and especially the hospital dietitian. We also sought help from a Speech and Language Therapist which was really invaluable.
- Seating – if like Amy, your preemie is weaned earlier than 6 months corrected he/she may not be able to sit comfortably in a high chair so try feeding in a bouncer or a bumbo seat.
- Baby cookbooks –If I was to buy just one book I would really recommend Neven McGuire’s Baby & Toddler Cookbook it’s really great one that works though all the stages and has lots of recipies that the whole family will eat. I also found these ones good:
- Side spoon – a great tip I got from Amy’s Speech & Language Therapist, hold the spoon at a sideways angle to the mouth – it’s much easier for them to lick the food off this way.
- Company –apparently it’s great for babies’ feeding skills to see others eat too, so eat with your baby or feed older siblings at the same time.
- Fun – make feeding time as much fun as possible; put on some fun baby music or nursery rhymes and wear your best jazz hands!
- Bibs – it’s a messy affair so invest in a few wipeable bibs or sleeved ones are even better. Love these ones from Jo Jo Maman Bebe.
- Baby pots – love the Mummycooks Storage Pots for storing baby food and they come in lots of different sizes for the different stages of weaning.
- Be patient – weaning takes much longer with a preemie.
- Forget milestones and focus on progress – a preemie is unlikely to conform to the timelines outlined in our baby books so instead focus on the progress they are making.