Jenny’s son Hayden has some severe food allergies, so she has some experience with feeding issues in children. But when her daughter Solvej started having problems with food, it was entirely different.
“That’s been the mystery,” Jenny said of her daughter’s unusual relationship with food. “She would not eat. She is not on the autism spectrum, and doesn’t have any of the characteristics of other children that typically have feeding difficulties. She simply never transitioned to solid food.”
Solvej started having problems when she was 9 months old. “We’ve had her tested for allergies, Celiac Disease, everything. We’re not exactly sure if she’s allergic, or simply sensitive. We still don’t know.”
It was difficult for Jenny to find help for her daughter, or even to convince people that her daughter truly wouldn’t eat. A pediatrician even accused her of making it up. The only thing Solvej would consume was a non-dairy medical formula called EO28.
“This isn’t a teenager who is having body-image issues. You don’t ever think about having a kid with an eating disorder at 9 months,” she said. “To find anyone who will treat it is very hard. To get anyone to take it seriously is very hard.”
By the time Jenny found the Fraser Feeding Clinic, Solvej was not doing very well. She was weak, so much so that her daycare providers were telling Jenny that she could barely sit up.
“Parents are blamed a lot in these kinds of situations, but I would never choose this.” Jenny said. “Kids with food issues do weird things. She was very weak for a long time. She was not well. There are pictures of her I can’t even look at.”
Fraser began working with Solvej when she was 18 months old. Her progress has been slow, but she has made progress. “It’s so slow, but you can see it when you know how bad it’s been,” Jenny said. “It’s a big commitment, but the alternative is a kid who’s starving to death.”
Solvej is now 7 years old. Her diet is restricted because her stomach is very sensitive, and she has many rituals with her food. She will not eat foods in combination, and will often only eat certain foods. But she is eating.
“As a parent you lose perspective on what is normal. I’ve seen toddlers eat in a meal what Solvej eats in a day,” Jenny said. “She still eats lighter than most people, and it takes a lot of coaxing, but we finally got to a place where she eats.”
“Fraser was awesome working with her teachers and her preschool,” Jenny said. “Solvej has a lot of food ritual, but you’re not going to change her. You have to work with her. I don’t think her teachers had ever seen someone quite like this.”
Solvej is very small for her age, perhaps as a consequence of her feeding issues. She also still prefers the EO28 formula, which Solvej calls her ‘power juice,’ over solid food, but with the help of Fraser, she has made tremendous progress.
“When you have a kid who won’t eat, when you get them to eat, who cares about the rest?”
Last year Jenny finished her dissertation and dedicated it to Letty Faller. “Fraser and Letty are really leading the way on these issues. Her help was lifesaving, not just for Solvej, but for me.”