Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Another option for swallowing difficulties...

The very elderly and the very premature often share a similar medical issue-- difficulty swallowing. When the swallowing mechanism is weak and doesn't properly direct the liquid, some of it can be aspirated into the lungs. If the fluid is not efficiently coughed out (as is the natural reflex in a strong, healthy individual), it can remain in the lungs and ultimately lead to pneumonia, a potentially devastating condition for those already in a weakened state.

Because of this, preemies' drinks are oftened thickened for many months, or even years. There are many ways to do this.

Very few doctors will recommend that you give your preemie water... preemies (especially micropreemies) are so very tiny that every little bit they can fit in their tummies counts. Every little thing they consume should have calories! So I will not address thickening water in this post...

Milk is the most easily thickened. This can be done with baby cereal (oatmeal or rice) or- once the baby passes the nine month mark- with yogurt.

Most babies don't "need" juice. Our little girl did. All that cereal that's used to thicken milk can constipate little tummies. Of course, we COULD have put her on a prescription laxative... I preferred to just give her 4 oz of apple or pear juice each day. Juice is most often thickened with a "thickening agent". I am familar with two such agents- Thick-It (which you can buy at most drugstores) and Simply Thick (which is available online). Thick-It does what it says and it just keeps getting thicker and thicker the longer it sits. Simply Thick is a gel that thickens the juice to a certain consistency (honey, nectar, or pudding) and then it stays that way. We liked Simply Thick. It worked well for us...

However, I was a little concerned about exactly WHAT was making it thick. What were we putting in her tiny tummy? Also, it gets pricey.

Another option for thickening juice is fruit puree. This is a more cost-effective, healthier way to go about it. You can use baby food, for simplicity's sake, or you can puree your own. Once I had a good idea of what "nectar" consistency looked like, I found it simple to replicate this with pureed fruit. I froze ice cube trays with puree and mixed up batches as needed. Super simple. Healthier. Thriftier. After over 750K in hospital bills, you need all the help you can get.

For more kitchen tips, please visit Tammy's Recipes!


Anonymous said...

Thanks SO MUCH!
My son, a 32 weeker, does not have much swallowing difficulty but allergies and SEVERE acid reflux (GERD) made us have to turn to rx laxitives instead of juice because it wasn't thick enough to stay in his stomach long enough to help. This was SUCH a good idea, I couldn't believe the difference in my little one! (We used "simply Thick" but I was searching for a more natural and healthy way to thicken drinks for him.)
We had to add 1tbs of unprepared rice cereal to the juice as well, (His stomach needs it THAT thick unfortunately.)
Thanks again! :-)

Brandie said...

That is such a GREAT idea...the fruit puree.

My son suffered Encephalitis at 6 weeks (he was also 4 weeks preterm) and has issues with swallowing.