Nothing rings worse in a mother’s ear than the distant whimper of her small child. Tiny moans, followed by the little cry of “mama!” is often followed by swiftly running feet and the clinking of the big bowl that hopes to catch the inevitable nastiness projectile-ing from that precious baby.
Stomach bugs, strep, colds, coughs, pneumonia, and flu season – every childhood illness can prove to be quite intense for many families, but perhaps most for those whose children have recently weaned (or are in the process of weaning) from their feeding tubes. So if you fall into that category, and you're navigating the world of sick kids who are mid- or post-wean, we have a few tips that might be helpful.
1. Keep in mind that it is very common -- if not expected -- for a child's appetite to decrease when sick, so don’t be alarmed if your child whose appetite just picked up suddenly says no to food. When that happens try as best as you can to not let your anxiety get the better of you. Offer foods that are appropriate for the illness, but don't worry if your child doesn't eat much. As you would with any oral child, focus on hydration and offer comfort alongside plenty of rest.
2. There's no need to rush immediately to tube feeds at the first sign of decreased appetite. This is especially true if your child is already weaned. So, keeping tip number 1 in mind, only consider re-tubing your child if you are seeing signs of dehydration that would lead to hospitalization. Otherwise, trust your child to listen to his or her body and to eat as much or as little.
And no matter where you are in the process of recovering from illness, keep this last tip in mind: restful cuddles are likely the best medicine you can offer, so hand them out in droves! The time together will likely give both of you a lot of relief!
Elisabeth Kraus, MIT, Parent and Family Coordinator