Last week on on Facebook, I think I confused a few people when I excitedly announced the arrival of our new Blendtec blender. I said that we would be using the blender to feed our tubie baby, and some commenters thought that I was blending food to feed Elsie orally. Well, as much as I wish that were the case, it just ain't happening right now. Elsie is still extremely limited on what she eats by mouth. She doesn't actually "eat" anything orally, she just tastes things and then spits them out. We did have a very exciting moment a few weeks ago when Elsie ate an entire Gerber cereal puff. It was pretty awesome, and I cried, but she hasn't eaten any since. She just sucks on them and spits them out. Same scenario with yogurt melts; she ate a piece of one once but hasn't repeated the amazing feat yet. Just sucks on them. She tastes lots of foods, which is very encouraging, and she's heading in the right direction for eating orally someday, but it's still going to take a long time. So anyway, we're not using the blender for oral foods. We are blending food to feed her through her tube.
There is a relatively new trend in the tube-feeding world, and it's called the Blended Diet, or Blenderized Diet. Let's call it "BD" on this post so that I can be lazy with my typing. The basis of the BD is that formula (what the majority of tube-fed babies/children/and even adults are typically fed), while great in certain situations, is not the best thing for your body to be fed for a prolonged period of time. The human body is designed to digest food: fruits, veggies, meat, grains, dairy. A slice of pizza. In many many instances, tubies who had a hard time with formula (chronic vomitting, constipation, retching, poor weight gain, and other digestive problems) have been able to improve their overall health when switching to a BD. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: if I wanted my kid to be on a formula-only diet, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble and stopped pumping breast milk a looooong time ago. Hence, when I heard about the BD, I knew that it was what I wanted to do for Elsie's tube feeds when we transition off of breast milk. So what exactly is BD?
BD is simply that, a blended diet. It is natural food blended into a thin enough consistency to be able to go through a feeding tube. One of the greatest things about BD is that you can individualize exactly what goes into your BD. Need to go gluten-free? No prob. Just don't add gluten to your blends. Need more calories? Add more calorie dense food to your blends. Dairy-free? Nut-free? Doritos-free? Easy. You can put virtually anything in your BD--or omit anything you don't want--and make it specific to your exact needs. Another benefit of the BD is that tubies are sometimes more likely to start eating orally when they are fed real, blended foods. The reason is that the tubies can "taste" the real food when they burp, they get familiar with the tastes, and are more likely to try foods orally because they recognize the taste. Not so much with formula. Have you ever tasted a formula burp? Gross.
There are a few different approaches to BD. Some people are very conscientious about calorie-counting; putting in very specific amounts of carbs, fats, and protein, in a specific amount of calories, to meet the tubie's dietary needs. Some people are all-organic, all-natural, wholesome foods only, etc etc etc. Some people, whose dietary needs are less strict, resort to simply blending whatever the rest of the family is eating. If the non-tubie family members are eating scrambled eggs and pancakes, that's what goes into the blender for the tubie. There's a blog that I've been reading about an adult with a feeding tube who, when his family goes to a restaurant, brings his Blendtec blender to the restaurant, orders off the menu, and has the kitchen staff blend his order so that he can "eat" it. BD is extremely versatile. As long as you are using a blender that can sufficiently blend the food and remove ALL chunks, you can blend just about anything.
We are just starting out on our BD journey. Elsie's doctors have recommended that she receive breast milk or formula as her main source of nutrition until her adjusted age is 12 months; same as any other baby. Since she will be 12 months adjusted in May, we are starting to introduce new foods so that her tummy can get used to other food besides milk. We've started out slowly, introducing one new food at a time, just like any other baby, to make sure that she doesn't have any adverse reactions. So far we have blended and tube-fed pears, peaches, sweet potatoes, applesauce, pinto beans, and brown rice with chicken broth. We mix her food with breast milk and either coconut oil or vegetable oil, for added calories and fat. And she's doing great so far! No digestive problems at all.
One of the few negative aspects of BD is the possibility of clogging the tube. As long as you have a high-powered blender OR you are sufficiently removing chunks via a fine strainer, clogs in the tube are easily avoided. However, I must admit, I clogged Elsie's tube for the very first time today. Ha ha. But really, it was my own fault because I was being lazy. I had previously cooked and blended brown rice with chicken broth, as I mentioned before, and had some in a container in the fridge that I was mixing in with Elsie's pears this afternoon. Since the rice had been in the fridge for a day or two, it had solidified, but could be easily stirred into the pears with a spoon. Or so I thought. Unfortunately, my spoon missed a chunk, and the chunk got stuck in her tube. Luckily, after making a big mess and trying for 15-20 minutes, I was able to push the clog through with some warm water. What I *should have* done, was throw the pears and rice into the blender before serving it, even though it was previously blended. The Blendtec would have smoothed out any offending chunks and prevented the clog. Lesson learned.
Anyway, that's the basics of the BD. Any questions? I'm so happy that I have a wholesome way of feeding my little tubie. Someday, someday she'll be able to eat by mouth and enjoy the taste of food. Someday she will find eating a pleasant experience. Until then, I'll be in my kitchen with my blender.