By: Jamie Hinchey, MS, CCC-SLP

We hope everybody is well and staying close at home, keeping themselves and everyone in their community safe. In this week’s episode of Tube To Table, Heidi and Jennifer are back together to answer a question we have been receiving from many families. Is this a good time to move forward with a wean? In the past, we have talked about how high stress times can be a difficult time to wean, but now that we are looking at the long-term view and unknown of how long this “new normal” may last, it’s important to address the pros and cons. There may be multiple opportunities that this crisis lends towards children with feeding tubes and their journey towards oral eating. Throughout this episode, Jennifer and Heidi will break down the important pros and cons to consider when choosing to wean during a quarantine. 

You can download this episode from ItunesStitcher, Spotify, Google Play, or listen to it below:

What are the benefits to choosing to wean right now? 

Togetherness and Consistency: 

Life can get crazy and it can be very difficult for families and caregivers to be around at the same time. Many families don’t know how this would work throughout a wean, and although they can make it work, it can be difficult. With everyone being at home, this can be a time to have consistency throughout all caregivers. It can be hard to coordinate and manage “normal” life during a wean, although our Thrive therapists try their best to ensure that all caregivers have a role. This can be an advantage to choosing to wean now because there is consistent support for the child and for the people who matter most. This  

Safety: 

During a wean, we typically discourage people from going anywhere where their child could risk getting sick. In this instance, this is naturally avoided because everyone has been practicing precautions to ensure safety. By following these guidelines, the families are able to do their best to minimize any risks. Although it seems strange, this may actually be a “safer” time for a wean since your child is having less playdates, not going to school, and their overall exposure has decreased.  

More time for Cooking: 

This may depend on the household, but many families have shared that they have started to cook more, find new creative recipes, and had to have different foods at home because of availability. Although this all sounds scary, this is typically what we see during a wean! Families are often finding themselves having new foods in the house, may be cooking different foods, and trying to get creative. This is a great time to build exposure and have your child get used to that new routine within mealtimes.  

What are some reasons to wait? 

Different Routine: 

With all of the changes going on, your routine is likely different and you may not be as comfortable within your new “normal” and that’s okay! There may not be as many new activities, which is typically when we see new skills emerge, so that can be harder in many ways. 

Stress: 

Everybody is in a different place right now for their stress levels, and that’s okay. Take this time to think about how your stress level is right now and talk with your partner about where you are both at with stress. As we’ve discussed before, weaning can be very stressful to begin with, so if you are feeling overwhelmed already, it may not be the best time. During a wean, parents often share that their “security blanket” feels like it’s taken away, and right now, may be a time when you are not able to handle that. If you have a new normal and are in touch with your stress level, then go ahead and take the next steps to work with your medical team. 

If you’re feeling ready… 

When we look at readiness, which we discussed in Episode 5 “Ready or Not”, we talk a lot about several parameters that we discuss with your physician. During this time, this conversation is SO important to find out exactly what you should be looking for if you decide to go ahead with a wean. Sometimes there may be loose parameters, so we encourage you to talk with your physician about specifics in order to feel comfortable to move forward. It is likely that you are going to be less inclined to take your child to the doctor, which is why it is even more important to have these conversations with medical team prior to getting started.  

You know yourself, but it is important to think about ALL of the people in the house. Siblings may have a tough time with this transition already, so think about how they may be impacted throughout a wean.  

Ensure that you have enough food on hand. This can be a hard time to find food or go to the grocery store, so do what works for your family. It may be helpful to make sure you have a variety of foods that other families would eat, so you are not wasting any food. In the early days of weaning, we typically don’t know how children will respond, which is why we generally recommend to have food that you are comfortable with to increase variety.  

It CAN’T be about food all of the time. With being home and not getting out of the house, it may be tempting to want to focus on food ALL day long. Resist the urge during the day to keep getting food out and “trying” all day long. It’s okay to offer slightly more frequently, but try to get as close to as a normal schedule as possible. When things are hard and parents are worried, they offer more frequently and may try TOO hard. Work on building opportunities throughout your day and make a plan for what works for your family. 

If this feels hard, take a break! It’s okay if you need to take a break, or if you don’t feel ready. If you’re feeling ready, reach out to your medical team to start the conversation. At Thrive, we are more than happy to talk with you about this decision and help you weigh out the pros and cons. Do what feels right, and if nothing feels “right” right now, do the best you can to take care of yourself.  

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