Shannon Paige was blown away by the overwhelming response to her TikTok video of the ordeal of raising a toddler who refuses to eat. More than 8.5 million people watched her 2-year-old son refuse any food offered to him. The Insider edition told an unusual story of a child.
He spits out food, pushes it away and cries. Towards the end of the video, a little boy is shown with a feeding tube in his nose.
“Like he went on a complete hunger strike,” Paige said.
A single mother from Essex, England, does not speak in her TikTok video, but makes written observations. She expresses her dissatisfaction with people, including some medical professionals, who gave advice that she said was not “helpful.”
“Unfortunately, only after Harley was so sick and had to be hospitalized, they really took me seriously,” Paige said. “They had no choice but to finally do something.”
She said that until her son was admitted to the hospital, no one took her seriously. Even pediatric nutritionists have said things like “all babies are fussy”, “this is just a phase” and “he will eat whenever he wants”.
The 24-year-old mother said doctors diagnosed him with a dairy allergy shortly after he was born. 7 months, he grew normally. When his son got older, he enjoyed eating plain baby food in the form of puree, Paige said.
“He loved food and ate a lot,” Page assured.
According to the mother, the baby was even chubby at some point.
Doctors were puzzled by Harley's refusal to eat
But when the boy was about 14 months old, a dramatic change occurred.
Around the same time, Page says, he developed a string of respiratory infections.
“It was infection after infection, and he was coughing to the point where he vomited,” recalls Page. “It was very hard to watch him suffer.”
He was prescribed steroids, but his mother became increasingly worried about his dramatic weight loss.
“He started to refuse lunches and snacks,” she said. “I was worried that he wasn't getting enough food.”
Doctors gave him a throat spray in case the problem was caused by soreness, but Paige said the problem persisted.
“Nobody knew what to do,” she lamented.
By August 2021, the little one had lost over 2 pounds (1 kg). Paige took him to a gastroenterologist who did a series of tests, but the doctor couldn't find the cause of Harley's problems.
Meanwhile, as in her TikTok video, Paige did her best to convince her baby to eat. She tried to feed him pasta, chicken breast, vegetables, mashed potatoes, bread and crackers, but he steadfastly refused everything.
“I gave him all kinds of food in the world in the hope that he will try them,” she explained.
According to the mother, medical staff were often skeptical about the child's problems. They asked: “Is it your first?” suggesting she was an overly anxious and inexperienced mother: “I felt ignored and no one wanted to listen to me.”
Things got so bad that Harley ended up in the hospital. His weight dropped below 22 pounds (10 kg). However, the doctors did not know what was wrong with him. He underwent blood and gastrointestinal tests, but the results were normal.
“He was so weak that he slept 23 hours a day,” Paige lamented about Harley’s month in the hospital in February 2022. “When my son woke up, he lay in bed staring into space and was lethargic.”
The feeding tube helped the baby gain weight again
Eventually another gastroenterologist took over Harley's case and acknowledged the severity of the problem.
The baby was put on a feeding tube and discharged. Subsequently, he gained weight – now the child is much healthier, his weight is 28 pounds (12.7 kg), but he was not diagnosed. Paige said he was referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital – one of the UK's leading children's hospitals – for further evaluation.
“We just need answers,” she explained, noting that Harley has recently shown some improvement with a small amount of solid food.
The mother said the baby is energetic again. Even though the feeding tube restricted his movements, he started playing again.
Meanwhile, TikTok users are bombarded with unsolicited advice. One person wrote: “Just give him something to eat and go.” The amateur nutritionist continued: “If he wants to eat, he will eat.”
Paige says she was upset by some of the “uneducated” comments, but most of her followers supported her.
< p class="p1">“I've been receiving messages from parents of children who look like Harley,” Paige said. “If our story helps at least one child, it is worth telling.”