Weaning a special needs child - Part 1

Posted by Kath Megaw on 10/03/2015

"Special Needs" is an umbrella underneath which a staggering array of diagnoses can be wedged. Children with special needs may have a syndrome, like down syndrome or general developmental delay. They may have Cerebral Palsy due to birth trauma. They may also have an error of metabolism for example: The inability to break down a protein or starch or fat. Whatever the challenges a special needs baby and toddler faces, feeding challenges remains top priority. Without food no child can survive.

Weaning readiness in the special needs child

Weaning involves moving from a full milk diet onto a more solid food and varied diet. The right time for weaning a baby with special needs will be determined by the needs and development of the baby. One baby with Down syndrome may wean anytime around 4-6 months and do beautifully whereas another baby with Downs Syndrome may only be able to manage solid foods at 10 months. Some children with special needs will have struggled to take milk via the mouth and they may have a feeding tube that feeds them directly into the stomach. This will affect weaning in that foods will have to be considered that are either safe to eat or that can go through a feeding tube.

A special needs baby with an inborn error of metabolism may not be able to have certain foods and thus weaning foods will have to be tailored made for this baby.

So there are a lot of factors to consider when weaning your special needs baby. 

Feeding challenges

Feeding your baby with reflux

Green veggies like baby marrow, gem squash as well as avocado, pears and bananas tend to be good first foods for reflux babies. Avocado is dense and high in important nutrients and fats. Pears are very low in acidity and are easily digested. Studies have shown that Bananas have a mucosal property that actually aids in digestion.

Making homemade baby food is particularly great for a baby who has reflux. You will be better able to control exactly what your baby is eating and stay away from hidden fillers and possible irritants.

When feeding a baby with reflux, you should try to follow these tips:

Always feed your reflux baby in a upright position. This will help the food or liquid "stay down".

Do not lay your baby down directly after baby has been fed.

Space out baby feedings of both solid foods and liquid foods into smaller more frequent feedings. This will help the reflux baby keep the foods in the tummy and also will aid in digestion. It is far easier for a reflux baby to digest small amounts as opposed to large amounts.


Recipes that compliment this discussion:

Pear and Almond yogurt

Baby porridge

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