Mom backs real blended food for tube-fed tot

By Jennifer Han

My twins Andrew and Eleanor were 28-week preemies. Andrew came home from the hospital with three stomach surgeries under his belt and significant brain damage. The brain damage caused cerebral palsy and epilepsy, which put him at risk of aspirating and made feeding difficult.

At 21 months he had a fourth surgery to place a G-tube to ensure he was getting nutrition safely and in hopes of boosting his calories.

Andrew, I was told, could no longer eat real food. Instead, his diet would be a formula
that was described as nutritionally complete, but which I discovered is made up of 53 per
cent corn syrup.

The G-tube solved the problem of getting formula into Andrew, but it exacerbated his
reflux and vomiting. Andrew spit up every ounce, retched, lost weight, never slept and
stopped smiling. Instead of producing stools, he had green diarrhea once or twice a week.
He was on the brink of total dehydration and doctors suggested more surgery: a J-tube,
nissen-fundoplication or GJ-tube, but with the caveat that they might not work.

Then, while scouring the Internet for stories about children with severe reflux, I came across something called the blenderized diet.

In this diet, vegetables, fruits, grains and meats are blended in a super high-speed
blender until they become liquid, then fed through the g-tube.

Families out in the blogosphere said that real food had a calming effect on their children’s
stomachs and as a result, stayed down.

I had no idea that real food was a possibility with a G-tube!

This diet – which was never presented to us as an option by our medical team – has given
us our boy back.

The blenderized diet isn’t new or radical. Feeding tubes have been around for decades and patients were once fed mostly blenderized food. In the 1970s commercial formula was introduced; hospitals embraced the convenience and never looked back.

I told our doctor and nutritionist that before we did any more surgery, I was going to try
the blenderized diet. They weren’t happy. They said they had never had a patient go this route and that formula was best. With some reluctance, our medical team agreed to a trial.

The first week of the diet, Andrew did not spit up once. By day four, he was completely
off formula and having nice bowel movements one to three times a day. He went from taking multiple 10- to 15-minute catnaps a day to a single one-to-three hour nap. He started sleeping 10 to 11 hours straight through the night with no feedings.

At his weigh-in two weeks after the start of the diet, he had lost a few ounces. I was
disappointed, but knew that as the body adjusts from a mostly-sugar diet to real food,
this was common.

Ever since, Andrew’s been gaining weight!

He may spit up once a week or so but it’s usually if he’s overtired or constipated.

Now that Andrew’s body is responding in a healthy way to real food, it’s clear that
formula didn’t agree with him. We are bewildered and beyond pleased at how amazingly fast, drastic and profound the change has been. Not only is the blenderized diet treating Andrew’s severe reflux but it’s made him happier and healthier and prevented further surgery.

We know this diet isn’t for all children with severe GI problems. However, I believe medical staff should present it as a treatment option along with standard surgeries.

While the blenderized diet is a foreign idea to most North American hospitals,
there are a few – like Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Cincinnati Children’s –
that recommend it. In fact, in a 2010 study by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, 75 to 100
per cent of 33 children with failed nissen fundoplications who trialed the blenderized
diet showed an immediate reduction of 50 per cent or more in reflux and vomiting.

For Andrew and our family, the blenderized diet has been life-saving.

Before beginning any change in your child’s diet, run it by your medical team, as it’s
important that you have a supportive doctor and dietician to guide you.

Blenderized diet resources

Homemade Blended Formula Handbook by Marsha Dunn Klein

Ainsley Rae blog: great practical tips from a mom

Blended Food Resource Group

Facebook group for the blenderized diet

Andrew’s first blenderized recipe

This one comes out to about 34 calories per ounce. His Elecare formula is 30 calories per ounce. In the other recipes I’ve come up with, ratios for protein/grains/oils/veggies/fruits stay the same. I just swap different foods each time. His blends tend to be between 30 to 40 calories per ounce.

3 cups of roast chicken 700 calories
1 cup orange juice 100 calories
1 cup soy milk 100 calories
2 slices of whole wheat bread 200 calories
1 cup blueberries 70 calories
1/2 cup broccoli 40 calories
1 cup spinach 60 calories
1 tablespoon of olive oil 120 calories
1/3 cup apple sauce 60 calories
1/2 cup peas 60 calories
1/2 banana 50 calories
1 container pureed pear 45 calories

Total Calories: 1645

Read about Andrew and Eleanor and the latest edition to the Han family at The Early Birdies.