Every mother thrives on feeding their children a balanced diet – there is nothing better than seeing an empty plate! It is a key emotional connection between a mother and child that starts at birth, so when it is taken away it can be devastating. After a brain injury many children can no longer eat by mouth as it is too difficult for the brain to coordinate his function. These children therefore are fed via Enteral feeding, which is the delivery of a nutritionally complete feed, containing protein, carbohydrate, fat, water, minerals and vitamins, directly into the stomach, duodenum or jejunum.
This was one of the hardest processes for us to accept, it was something we had never experienced before and to no longer be able to feed your child and have that level of satisfaction was heart-breaking. However it soon became clear from his increased reflux that Jago could not tolerate these synthetic formulas provided by the NHS and I therefore had to discover new ways to successfully feed my child – this is when I discovered Real Food Blending.
Every child needs a varied and balanced diet to ensure the following:
- It helps to improve their concentration, learning and behaviour.
- Promotes proper physical growth and development.
- Builds up their strength.
- Promotes resistance to infection.
- Gives plenty of energy.
…our children are even more vulnerable so it is vital that their diet is packed full of healthy nutrients to build their immune system and ensure successful growth. The Real food blended diet can deliver this.
The Real Food Blended Diet
This is a diet of real food which has been blended to a puree consistency and is given via the g-tube. My son Jago had terrible reflux which we tried to manage with all sorts of medication and various different formulas. I began to read about the real food diet and it made sense that this could be a more natural path for his diet.
So after a horrendous admission to hospital where he was literally bringing up blood caused by an ulceration in his tummy due to extreme reflux I decided to give it a go! I have never looked back, Jago’s reflux completely disappeared. We started the diet VERY slowly in January 2014 and within a month he was a different boy. No more reflux, which meant no more pain and no risk of aspiration, hence no chest infections (he’s had one chest infection in a year which was caused by the common cold!).
Our resident expert Emily Harrop sees a number of families at Helen & Douglas House who are successfully using this diet, she says: ‘There has been an emerging trend among the families of children who experience feeding difficulties, when using milk based feeds via gastrostomy, to consider using blended ‘real food’ instead. Early experience suggests that some children cope with this better, and may have an improvement in their feed tolerance and bowel habit. There is no published evidence available to support this practice yet, so some dietetic services are understandably reluctant to recommend it. There are numerous resources available, including books and social media support groups.’
Concept & Benefits
- Less reflux, retching, vomiting – The heavier homemade food blends stays in the stomach more easily than a thin watery formula.
- Better digestion – You can select foods that are more compatible with your child’s body which can increase gastric emptying.
- Improved bowel function – Homemade blends typically contain more fibre which helps to aid improved bowel movements and prevent constipation.
- Less sickness – Overall children are less sick and experience a decrease in mucus production.
It is impossible to get any support from the NHS with this diet although the British Dieticians Association do recognize it and have introduced some guidelines (PDF here). Many parents are already using this diet so there are support groups and books available. As with many things the US are ahead of us with research and practice guidelines so it is useful to join some of their groups and blogs. Links to these are below. I cannot stress how important it is to start this diet slowly, just like you would with a baby, introducing foods slowing in conjunction with existing formulas and noting any aversion or reactions to certain foods. I came across a very useful interview with an American dietician called Laura Schoenfeld which gives a really good introduction into the pros and cons of this diet.
Complete Tube feeding: Everything you need to know about tube feeding, tube nutrition, and blended diets by Eric Aadhaar O’Gorman (21 Mar 2012)
Brainstars does not replace individualised medical nutrition therapy, which is best provided by a partnership between the family, a physician and a Registered Dietician.