Like most moms I get a lot of satisfaction from feeding my children a nutritious well-balanced meal. For my two oldest children this isn't always possible since they have to actually EAT the food. But the one and only advantage to Ainsley having multiple medical issues is that I CAN actually feed her perfect nutrition via her g-tube. Now don't get me wrong, maybe it's not perfect perfect. After all, what in life is truly perfect? But it's close, especially when compared to what you can typically get the average 2 year old to eat. There is no struggling to get her to finish her meat, or eat her green leafy veggies. No arguing that watermelon is wonderful with a kid that swears the texture is icky. No begging for sweets. No surviving off goldfish crackers alone. No reminders to chew the food better.
Now I'm making it sound wonderful aren't I? It's not, but it is the silver lining in the looming cloud of feeding issues. Good nutrition is important. I would like to illustrate a point: What if I went to my typical son's pediatrician and told her he is a picky eater and I thought it would be better to switch his diet to Pediasure (or any other canned formula) just to be sure he was getting the right amount of nutrients? I highly doubt I could find a doctor anywhere that would agree that was a good decision (well maybe I could pay Michael Jackson's doctor to agree, but you know what I mean). Well I have to ask why then is this okay for g-tube fed children? Think about that a minute. Kids with g-tubes often have medical issues and need good nutrition even more than our typical kids. And no doctor would recommend a diet of formula for a typical kid. After all canned formula is just water, corn stuff, powdered milk, sugar, oil and vitamins. Logically it just doesn't make sense that it's the best choice for our tube-fed children either.
This is why I am an advocate for the blenderized diet for g-tubes. Doctors and dietitian's like canned formula for it's convenience and because they can know exactly the calories the child is getting. They are worried that we parents can't do this. I am here to tell you that making homemade blenderized formula does not have to be time consuming or difficult and you CAN do it. There are days that we are too busy and rely on the convenience of popping a can. But I take a lot of pride in the fact that Ainsley is getting good nutrition despite being physically unable to eat. You can see it in her glowing skin. She is healthy.
I don't want this to be too long but want to give a little history. After hearing about the blenderized diet from other parents and hearing about the many possible health benefits we tried it in Feb. 08. We too noticed an improvement in Ainsley's health and I was sold. I had started out using a stick blender and purees which worked fine but required making or buying purees. While this is a great way to start out, we knew we would eventually move toward a high speed blender.
I had heard that you have to have a Vitamix, but I'd never seen one. It seemed like an awfully large amount of money for a blender. I already had a good KitchenAid blender so I wasn't thrilled about spending $700 so I put it off. One day this past April Costco was having a special event with demonstrations of the Blendtec blenders. The man doing the demonstration made chicken tortilla soup in 3 minutes using raw vegetables, hot water and a chunk of cheese. I finally got it that THIS IS NOT REALLY A REGULAR BLENDER. The blender even heated the soup. I liked the idea that I could return it if it didn't work for making formula. Because I thought it might not be as good as the Vitamix. I actually preferred the way it looked and liked the fact that it's a bit shorter than the Vitamix so it can slide under a kitchen cabinet. Oh, ya, plus I liked that it was only $400 brand new.
Initially when I purchased the Blendtec I still use the same basic recipe. Then as I got comfortable I started to experiment with substituting one ingredient for another similar type of ingredient and therefore varied her diet. For example instead of rice cereal I might use about a cup of bread, cooked leftover rice or pasta. One day I even used left over curried tofu. For the meat I no longer use puree but add about 1/3 cup chicken breast that I simply buy already cooked from Trader Joe's, or a leftover. Some days I don't add carrots (I think they were turning her skin yellow) and use another vegetable instead. For the green vegetable I might use frozen peas or green beans, spinach, broccoli, zucchini or cucumber, even lettuce. I still almost always use a fresh banana because it's easy and provides natural sweetness. I still like to use applesauce for the same reason. But I also might cut up an apple instead. I still add oil and Poly-Vi-Sol vitamins with iron. The main thing is that the ratios remain the same. About the same quantity of starch, meat, green veggie, orange veggie, and fruit.
We still do an 8 oz water bolus in the morning (because the stomach is empty) and follow each of her 4 tube feedings with a 4oz water or milk bolus to make sure she gets enough free water. Doctors and dietitians like kids to get a prescribed amount of fluid. Just remember that we as adults are ideally supposed to drink 8 glasses of water a day. Does every adult you know do that? Does every child drink exactly a certain amount of fluids? There is range of fluid intake that works for all people. Watch your child for signs of dehydration and for weight gain/loss and adjust the blenderized diet accordingly. And if you are lucky enough to have a verbal child he/she can tell you when they feel full, hungry or thirsty. They can even help select foods for their formula. Work with your child's doctor and dietitian and you will win them over. Together you can safely feed your tube fed child real food.
After posting my previous blog post on the blenderized diet I've had a number of parents contact me, some who found me randomly through Google. I am excited to help people make this transition because I really believe in it. I hope that this video too will also help parents that are considering this change and the purchase of a high speed blender. Happy Tube Feeding!