a giant leap forward

We’ve been on a food journey with Little One. Before she came home, we knew she might have some challenges due to her past and her cleft. We knew she’d have trouble sucking on a normal bottle or eating certain foods. We packed a few cleft bottles, did our research on what formula her orphanage used and figured we’d either sink or swim.

The first bottle went okay.

The rest of the feedings in China were more of a sinking than a swimming. It was rough, to say the least. She had no interest in any type of food. Her strong aversion to food isn’t common with clefts or her orphanage. We figured we’d get home and with a little time she’d be ready to try food.

A couple months went by. Visits with therapists. Lots of ‘techniques’ and ‘methods’. Her progress was slow, but she eventually transitioned off of Chinese formula and the one taste she had always known.

Another month went by. More tips from therapy. More trying a million things. She began accepting new flavors and textures…so long as they were in her bottle. Touching food was still out of the question for her.

And then one day she touched my granola. And then a few other food items. Slow, slow, slow progress. In her own time.

A few months later with no end to the bottle in sight, we began making her smoothies (the tip of the nipple of her bottle is cut off). Lots of veggies. Lots of fruit. Almonds. Tofu. Wheat germ. Oatmeal. Flax seed. Anything nutritious got dumped in. Just fyi, if you give a toddler a bottle full of a green smoothie in public you might get some very confused glances from others.

So that is where she has been for the last 7 months. Just taking bottles. Refusing to let food within a foot of her face. Seeing a therapist. Enduring all our attempts at various methods to get her to eat. Just doing her own thing in her own time. Her diet may not look like most toddlers, but she is one crazy healthy little girl. And we are very much fine with that. She is strong, healthy, adjusting well…the food stuff will come eventually.

We’ve been playing pretend eating. She’ll pick up food and feed it to me, but never let me feed it to her. Then out of the blue while we were in PA, she fed me a pretzel. I told her to put it in her mouth. And she did. And then she repeated it with a few other things. I so wish Chris could have been there for the moment that she first touched food to her mouth. I can’t even describe how proud I was of her in that moment. It felt so much bigger than even when she learned to walk. Such a huge step forward for her.

She still isn’t eating, but just willingly putting food near her mouth is incredible for us. We are so proud of our girl!

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  • lila - always happy to hear any progress for little one.. i never thought that food is matter for toddler with cleft history.. (off course lips is sensitive for her) so thank you for share it..

  • Vickie - So sweet!

  • creole wisdom - Praise God! Love hearing great news :) You are wonderful! Lots of good thoughts for more food-to-mouth motion and full on eating, too. She’s one beautiful little girl!

  • mandi@herbanhomestead - This post made me cry! So proud of this little one! I felt this way last Wednesday night when I looked across the youth room at church and saw that our little one had willingly gone to a youth worker and let him hold her for about 20 minutes! This was a huge step for her with her intimacy “issues”. Even now thinking about the faithfulness of God, makes me teary! He works beautifully in our messy world, doesn’t He?

  • Kathy - Way to go, Little One!!! Baby steps!!!!

  • Erin - Congratulations! So exciting! Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your world each day. I have learned so much about clefts and love from your posts. May God bless you all. Can’t wait for the next milestone.

  • Nuria - As a mom who battled lots with breastfeeding and weaning I can totally empathise. This must have been really stressful for you all. So glad that it seems this phase it´s finally coming to an end. Well done little one! And congrats to you for your love and persistence.

  • elizabeth H - SO SO Sweet!! what a milestone for Little One!

  • rachel - We adopted our daughter from Ethiopia and she also experienced a lot of feeding issues. We adopted her when she was 10.5 months old and I pureed her food until she was 18 months old. The OT felt it was sensory related and we made a lot of progress with that through their techniques. At 18 months, they felt it was behavioral (she had overcome her sensory issues) and they told us to stop with the purees and only offer solid foods. :O That was tough advice. We consulted with our pediatrician who agreed. Our daughter refused to eat for the first meal or two but then after took to solid foods and hasn’t looked back!

  • Linda - That is great news. She is making progress.
    Our little one is making progress, too. He doesn’t feed himself at all, but has recently licked a few crackers, which is huge. He only takes food from a spoon and it has to be pureed. He doesn’t chew at all. And there are only a few foods that he will eat. We’re working on sensory issues as well as the feeding issues. It’s good to read the comments of others who have been through it and are now on the other side.

  • tara - so proud of her hard work..and yours, mama. :)
    you’re right…she’ll get there eventually..this is part of her story. He’s doing huge works in her heart right now. praying now for all of you as you continue to adjust.

  • Diana Cote - I just have to say you are amazing and this story was so touching it had me nearly crying. so happy for you and your family. :D Wishing you all the best of the best!

  • Lynn - This is my first visit to your wondrous world. What an inspiration you and your family are. Your little one is so lucky to have a momma like you, so much love and patience to share.

  • Susan - We adopted a little girl from China 2 1/2 years ago. She will be 5 at the end of this month. She still drinks from a bottle. We didn’t have a problem with any food issues, but emotionally the bottle quiets her anxiety of being abandoned. I feed the bottle to her while I rock her in the rocking chair and her emotional behavior has improved dramatically. The bottle represents security to these little kids. They have gone through so much! Good job and keep up the good work!

  • Johanna - My first visit too, via DesignMom. This post brought tears to my eyes too. Love the patience and respect of the mama, the courage of the babe.

  • Sheila@Chinaberry - Wow, what progress you’ve made. Your story makes me realize that we all have such different challenges with our little ones. Your positive attitude shines through! Best wishes to you!

  • angie - Hello, my friend found your blog and forwarded it to me. So good to know we are not alone in the world. Our little girl is almost 3 and had bilateral cleft lip and palate both repaired this past year. And while we got off the bottle this past January, before palate surgery (I taught her to drink from a cup) she only eats baby food; and that only came after months of working with her and an OT feeding specialist. We are now doing the food therapy/food play as well. I know one day she will eat but it is hard waiting and sometimes exhausting to prepare her food. We just now are adding texture…woooooo. It’s a big deal. And she just started putting things in her mouth. for example…a toothbrush…yep 11 months home and we hadn’t brushed her teeth. Glad we got that in before the one year home mark next week!! So all this to say, I totally understand what you are going through. I wish I had been as good about putting nutrition in her bottles! You are amazing with that! Blessings! – angie

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