The only person in the world? Really? Apparently, the reporter didn't bother to do much research on the subject other than on the boy featured in the article himself. I belong to a support group on Facebook called "Pediatric Feeding Disorders/FTT/GERD/Kiddos with Feeding Tubes" with over 6000 members. Six thousand members. That's six thousand parents and caregivers of children with feeding issues. It's estimated that approximately half a million people worldwide have a feeding tube. The lack of understanding for pediatric feeding disorders is astounding and quotes like the one in the article only perpetuate the lack of awareness.
Eight month old Little Dude is one of the many children who have a feeding disorder. He rarely shows hunger cues and, if it were not for his strict feeding schedule, would go all day without eating. Every three hours, I make a bottle and work with him to get him to drink it. Sometimes he drinks the whole thing, but more often then not, he drinks very little or none so I have to feed the rest of his formula through his feeding tube. Despite my constant efforts to feed him orally, he gets about 50% of his food via his G Tube. After running dozens of tests, his doctors still have no idea why he doesn't eat. The lack of diagnosis means that it can be hard to get people to take his feeding disorder seriously. I've been accused of overreacting or just not trying hard enough to feed him. Some people see the feeding tube as the easy way out (Sorry, but having a hole in your child's stomach and dealing with tubes, syringes, infections, etc, is actually NOT easy). Let me tell you, until you have watched your child waste away and starve in front of you, you cannot understand how absolutely heart wrenching that is.
|Little Dude at 2 1/2 months old, shortly after having his G Tube placed|
|Little Dude at 7 months old, 5 months after getting his G Tube|
The article concludes with a plea from the parents. They're desperate to find others going through the same thing as them both for the support and to help them find answers. It's heartbreaking that they think they're alone in this struggle.
So why aren't they aware that so many others are dealing with similar issues? Probably because pediatric feeding disorders are not usually talked about. The general consensus is that children who won't eat are spoiled and manipulating their parents. Telling someone that your child has a feeding disorder opens you up to a lot of criticism and critiquing of your parenting skills. Not being able to feed your child, the most basic of parental care, makes you feel like a complete failure as a mother or father. Parents of children like my Little Dude often hear statements such as "He'll eat when he gets hungry enough. Babies won't starve themselves!" or "Let me take her home for a while. I'll get her to eat!" Both of these comments are untrue and hurtful because they only make a parent who is struggling to feed their child feel even worse than they already do.
If you have a child with feeding problems, know that you are not alone. There are many groups and pages on Facebook for support and information, internet forums and websites (www.feedingtubeawareness.com is a good place to start and has many resources), and some areas even have local groups where you can meet other parents with similar issues.
If you are blessed to have children who eat normally, don't take them for granted and please don't jump to conclusions or judgement when you see another parents struggling to feed their child. You can find tips on how to support a parent with a child or children with feeding disorders here.
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