Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thankful Tuesdays: When baby doesn't grow


Both our boys were pretty small when they were born, but grew to be rather chubby after a few months. I love chubby babies. I love how their arms would have many folds and remind me of the marshmallow man. We enjoyed giving Junior J squishy hugs when he was small, and always marveled at how he got stuck in the bumbo seat because he had such chubby thighs:


However, Junior J became a really fussy eater after we started solids. He hated the texture of meat and would keep his food in his mouth for ages, and would then spit out the bits of meat that he didn't swallow. He took ages to eat. We tried everything, from self-feeding to distractions, and even resorted to letting him play with the iPhone to get him to eat. Unsurprisingly, he lost his baby fats. But even though he was difficult to feed, he was still nursing frequently, and still growing. Since then, he has been on the petite side (but both the hubs and I are also small-sized), but we were comforted that at least he was still following his percentile chart.

When it came to baby J, it was the same. Same squishy chubbiness when he was a few months old... 


... and then some fussy behaviour when we started weaning.


However, this little boy showed a lot more interest in food compared to this brother, and we let him try all sorts of food. And he was still growing. 


Then, when he was almost one year old, he stopped putting on weight. By this time, he was eating a fair bit of solids, and still nursing, but he just didn't gain any weight at all. We started to get worried. We did all we could to get him to eat more. I would prepare three course meals (soup, puree and fruit). We would let him have lots of finger food to encourage him to eat. We let him self-feed. We tried to distract him so that he could eat a little more. And eat he did. But he still didn't gain weight.

So we brought him to the PD in Germany for a check, and the PD dismissed it as a case of getting not enough calories. So we desperately tried to feed the boy more. Winter came, and baby J fell sick twice, and the next check at the PD showed that not only had the boy stopped gaining weight for a few months, he was starting to lose weight. The PD still thought it was not enough calories, but took a blood sample and sent it for testing, all while brushing all our concerns aside. With Junior J, we knew how it was to have a fussy eater, but he still gained some weight every month. In baby J's case, this boy was eating way more than what his brother ate at the same age, but not putting on a single gram!

The test results came back and the PD said that the boy had an egg and milk allergy. He advised that we should stop all egg and dairy (since that might have irritated his gut and caused malabsorption), as well as soy in case of cross-reactivity. By this time, I had already freaked out and had eliminated many things from the boy's diet, thinking that things that gave him rashes or made his eczema go worse were possible things the boy was allergic to. The PD gave us hydrolysed formula to try, but baby J hated the smell of the formula and refused to drink it.

After eliminating dairy from his diet (I had already stopped eggs since the boy would throw up if there were eggs in his meal), baby J seemed to put on some weight. We heaved a sigh of relief. We continued feeding him as much as we could, hoping that the boy would make up for lost time. Unfortunately, after a few weeks, he stopped putting on weight again!

By now we were rather frustrated. The PD had thought it was insufficient calories, but if it was the case, the boy should be hungry and should want to eat! However, there were some days where he would refuse to eat halfway through his meal. We had to distract him, we had to sing songs to him, we had to do all sorts of things just to squeeze in a few more mouthfuls. I wasn't too sure if he was allergic to other foods (since the standard panel tested only a few food groups, and this was a panel designed to suit the European kids). Restricting a food group based on the presence of a rash was also iffy, since the boy's eczema also flared up when the boy was hot, or with exposure to the cold, dry air outdoors. I found meal-times stressful, since I had to feed baby J, while fretting about his lack of calories, while trying to make Junior J eat too. I stopped making bentos for Junior J too, since I didn't have the time as I was busy trying to make nutritious soups for the baby.


Since we were nearing the end of our stint in Germany, we decided that we would stop seeing the PD over there, and continue to feed the boy the best as we could. When we finally moved back to Singapore, one of our first trips out was to pay a visit to our PD. By this time baby J was this skinny little thing, who had grown in height (albeit slowly), but not in weight, and he looked like a starved little kid, despite all the good food we had been stuffing him with (This was a boy who had bak kuh teh or chicken broth every meal!). She listened to our story, looked at the test results, and mentioned that the doctor may not have ran the appropriate tests. In the end, she gave us some hypoallergenic formula samples, asked us to try feeding him that (while monitoring his eczema), and to come back for a review in two weeks.

Thankfully, the formula she gave us didn't smell as bad as the one we were given in Germany, and we have managed to feed the baby some everyday. He refuses to take it from a bottle or sippy cup, so we've resorted to spoon-feeding it to him. Every calorie counts, so its something we're willing to do, time-consuming as it is! However, its been hard to tell if his recent eczema flare-ups are due to the hot weather or the formula and the new foods we've been trying on him. Its heart-breaking to see him so skinny, and to see how he scratches away all the time, saying "titchy!". We're praying hard that he would have gained some weight by the time the review comes up.

However, after going through all this, I'm still thankful that:
:: We can rest and trust in God, that He is still in control and that He cares for our children. God saw us through all the major health scares we had with Junior J, from his bouts of wheezing and the time when his liver and spleen were enlarged, to the time when he had to be hospitalized and put on a drip. He was there when Junior J fell from the playground and had to have stitches. And He will see us through this.

:: We have good doctors here that we can go to when our children are sick. The feeling of helplessness, and of not being listened to when we were overseas was terrible, and I'm glad that we're home and can seek medical advice easily.

:: While Baby J's physical growth was affected, his mental milestones have been on time. This little boy is quite the imp and never fails to make us laugh, and he's been amazing us with the words that he's been picking up recently.

:: We have friends and family who cover the boys in prayer.

What about you? What are you thankful for this week?


Mum in the Making
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19 comments:

  1. Oh man, having had dietary and digestion issues ourselves, I can so relate... in the end, my daughter was sensitive to gluten... so we have gone gluten free for her. It brings about different reactions in different people, and it was finally an enzyme therapist whom we saw that suggested that she might be allergic to gluten. Is it something you might want to consider?

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    1. Hello, thanks for sharing! We actually went gluten-free for a period of time, which seemed to help for awhile. Then he stopped growing again, so we're thinking it probably isn't gluten/wheat.

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    2. Ah well... keep digging... praying that you'll find the answer sooner rather than later... :)

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    3. Thanks! We really hope so!

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  2. Our youngest started out as a 9 lb 6 oz (97th percentile) baby. She is now 21 months old and only 22 lbs (in the 7th percentile). It feels like we feed her all day long but she puts on little weight. It's frustrating and I definitely feel your pain.

    Love and prayers.
    xoxo

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    1. 97th! Wow. Thanks for sharing Jennifer... totally understand your frustration! Hope things get better on your side, hang in there!

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  3. I hope the PD here can help solve this mystery for you! I understand how difficult and worrying this can be! We're still dealing with eczema again with Bubs' eczema and it can get quite bad as it affects her sleep. I recall she stopped putting on weight for a long time between the ages of 1-2 as well - maybe half a year? Now I reckon it must have had something to do with allergies and the gut having problems absorbing nutrients! Is Baby J on probiotics? It helped Bubs (LactoGG), although it was not a miracle cure.

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    1. Oh dear, sorry to hear about the eczema. Its such a headache, and an expensive problem to deal with! I remember how she was uncomfy holding berries the other time when we met. How is Bubs' growth now? Big hugs and hope she gets better soon! Sending prayers your way.

      We did try probiotics for awhile, but it didn't seem to work, so we stopped. Might try it again after the review!

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  4. Sorry to hear that! It must really suck to have him eat and not be able to gain weight and THEN to hear others say he is not getting enough calories like it's your fault. I'm glad that you are still keeping a thankful heart and I'm sure Baby J will get better soon! :)

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    1. Thanks Madeline! Yes, we're thinking he might be putting on some weight after we started all that formula. Praying hard it is the case!

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  5. Hang it there Jus! And don't mind what others (especially relatives) comment of Baby J being so skinny etc ya. I can totally feel the frustration and helplessness when questions are not answered and the figure not going up. Hoping that the next review will have more positive outcome!

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    1. Thanks Rachel! And yes, we're just trying to focus on getting him to grow a little!

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  6. My Sophia was always small and your experience actually reminds me a bit of when I was struggling with breastfeeding and giving her sips and teaspoonfuls - every bit counts. Its a terrible feeling and I really feel for you having gone through it for so long. Just a suggestion, not to sound like a smarty pants, you may want to skip the soup in your 3 course meal or at least move it to the last course. I recall reading, when researching about nutritious meals for my aunt who was undergoing chemotherapy and hence not having a good appetite, that asians tend to think of things like soups (especially cantonese thick flavourful soup) as being nutritious and containing the "essence" of all the ingredients gone into it, when soups are actually a very diluted form of calories and nutrients, so if someone with a not-so-good appetite drinks soup, it fills up their tummies with mostly water and not much nutrients. Hope this helps!

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    1. Sorry to hear about your struggles with breastfeeding Sophia, and your aunt! I hope things are better on both ends. Thanks for the tip, we usually give the soup at the end to help him swallow when he starts to keep his food in his mouth... will remember your tip when we feed! :)

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  7. Both my kids and I have battled with allergies and eczema too. The key is to be sure of the triggering causes and eliminate them completely or as much as possible. That might take some luck though. Good luck!

    P.S. Relevant article: http://eczemablues.com/2012/05/friday-dr-qa-with-dr-liew-elimination-diet-and-allergy-test/

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    1. Yes, I agree, it takes quite abit of trial and error to pinpoint the causes since there are so many confounding factors!

      Thanks for the link, will read it soon!

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  8. I feel ya! My second son also seems like he's not gaining weight although he has been on formula since 4 months after I went back to work. He was born small lar, and had some struggles when we tried to bottle feed him back then. He seems to grow taller, active and hitting on his milestones development on time, its just his appetite for solids is quite small and sometimes when it comes to milk, he can stretch quite a long while before he realised he's hungry! And you mentioned that the SG PD took a blood test and found out baby J is allergic to eggs and dairy, now I'm not sure if this is also the case with my son.

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  9. Gosh! My boy twin Asher has a tough time with food as well. But it seems like he's just a lazy eater, so we're lucky in that sense. My parents call him a miracle boy coz he doesn't seem to eat much and yet can grow and gain weight. He's not meaty like his twin sister Shawna is, but at least he does put on weight. Here's praying that you find out exactly what is bothering Baby J!

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  10. Will be praying for you and baby J! Hang in there, keep trusting Him. Hugz

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