January is Esophageal Atresia/Tracheoesophageal Fistula (EA/TEF) Awareness Month. Because our son was born with this rare birth anomaly, many of Different Dream’s post will feature EA/TEF this month. To kick things off, meet Ursula Herrera, mom to a son with EA/TEF. The birth of her son, Matias, led her to start a blog about creative food options for kids with eating challenges. Today she’s here to share healthy food tips for kids with reflux and feeding challenges she discovered while raising her son.
Healthy Food Tips for Kids with Reflux and Feeding Challenges
I have a beautiful, healthy four-year-old son Matias who was born with a rare birth defect called EA/TEF. It is a disorder of the digestive system in which the esophagus does not develop properly. It occurs in about 1 out of 4,000 births.
Our son had surgery to reconnect his esophagus at only 2 days old. We stayed in the hospital for about two weeks and were sent home with lots of assurances from doctors that our son would need constant monitoring with food, but would develop normally but will need constant monitoring with food. Doctors also mentioned we should be prepared for lots of respiratory illnesses and a constant barking cough.
At about six months of age, my son started showing signs of reflux. A specialist who prescribed reflux medication. He had to take this medication daily and according to the doctor for life! At about 9 months of age he got sick for the first time and was diagnosed with bronchitis. He recovered in about 5 days but his cough lingered for about 2 weeks. After that episode, he started getting sick often: fevers, respiratory infections, and a barking cough that seemed to never go away! We were at the doctor every 2 weeks! We came out with more and more medications.
This is when I started to think about ways to boost his immune system and find natural alternatives to cure his reflux and his numerous respiratory problems. I started researching and investigating about nutrition. I then started making my own purees, which are twice as nutritious, instead of the processed baby food. I started looking into natural ways to cure reflux. When my son turned 1, I started giving him ginger and aloe vera.
My son also got food stuck in his esophagus all the time. He no longer wanted to eat everything in a puree consistency, so we had to cut everything into tiny. tiny pieces. We needed to pay close attention to his nutrition to optimize his health. Getting fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat into his diet was a challenge because of his difficulty swallowing. His reflux was not getting better and we had to use albuterol and steroid treatments constantly.
Thankfully, my wonderful husband believes in cooking with fresh ingredients. He learned to make souffles all the time, blending vegetables and meat so our son could eat them without problems. We used our slow cooker a lot because it makes meat tender and vegetables extra soft. I also started giving him fruit and veggie ice pops with added ginger, raw honey, probiotics, and aloe vera for his reflux. We came up with new ideas as he grew older: veggie nuggets, homemade chicken nuggets, and other recipes and ideas I share on my blog.
Now that he is four he can eat a great variety of food without any problems. He still gets food stuck when he forgets to chew well. We will always need to closely monitor his esophagus but we are hopeful that with time, he will be able to learn his limitations and eat everything.
He also grew out of his terrible reflux and has not taken any medications since he was a little over two. We monitor it with periodic reflux tests but so far, natural remedies are working. Respiratory problems are also history. He has not needed a dilator or steroid treatment in over one and a half years! Of course the barky cough is still present when he gets sick and lingers for a while, but it is something EA/TEF survivors deal with.
We do not know what other challenges we will have to face in the future, but we feel confident. We have an amazing pediatric surgeon, Dr. Burnweit, who saved Matias’ life when he was only 2 days old. And we know a healthy lifestyle will make a big difference in his development.
I am a huge believer in natural medicine and nutrition. After extensive research and life experience, I truly believe we can improve and most of the time overcome health problems with a natural approach. My husband and I also became more conscious about the foods we eat. We wanted to set the right example with our own food choices, so our son will eat the same meals. As a result, we now eat more vegetables and fruits than we ever did before. I want to inspire more people to eat healthy and help EA/TEF families sharing my recipes and ideas. You can learn more about them at my Facebook page and my website Creative and Healthy Fun Food.
What Healthy Food Tips for Kids with Reflux and Feeding Challenges Have You Discovered?
Are you the parent of kids with reflux and feeding challenges? Have you stumbled upon some helpful food tips? Feel free to share them in the comment box.
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