A surgical procedure is something to take seriously, and ensuring the child’s nutritional needs are met will help in a smoother recovery. Here are some things to keep in mind while planning post-surgery care.
Surgery briefly means “hand work”, and it’s a skilled technique performed by surgeons with immense experience in the field. Surgery is of various types for different medical conditions; most common among the paediatric population are:
- Dental Surgery
- Surgery for Childhood tumours
- Congenital Malformation/Birth Defects
- Abdominal wall defects
- Heart Defects
The nutritional build-up of a child before and after surgery is crucial to make sure they have a better and quick recovery post the procedure. Therefore, it is important to maintain a balanced diet before the child undergoes a surgery. The child not only needs nourishment for his growth but also needs more support to be able to tolerate the surgery and to aid better recovery.
Diet regime will be individualized depending on the type of surgery and site of surgery. Depending on needs, child may be given special nutritional support intravenously or through nasogastric feeding (as the name suggests from nose to stomach through a tube) and most commonly oral feeding with a transition from liquid to a soft to a normal diet. The process of feeding a child post-surgery is a slow and step-by-step procedure to assure the child is nutritionally supported while allowing the body to cope with surgery.
Clear Liquid Diet
As the name suggests, a clear liquid diet includes coconut water, vegetable clear soup, lemon juice, fruit juice, barley water, glucose water etc. A clear liquid diet slowly improves the child’s appetite and eventually he can shift to a full liquid diet.
Full Liquid Diet
Once the child gives a heads up to tolerating clear liquids, full liquids such as milk, buttermilk, lassi, milkshakes, blenderised vegetable soup, pulse soup, ragi porridge, wheat porridge, rice flour kheer, chicken broth etc. can be included in his diet. These foods should be well blended before feeding the child. Powdered nuts can be added to make it calorie-dense.
A soft diet mainly includes of semi-solid food items. Dal khichadi, mashed vegetable, curd rice, makhana (lotus stem seed) kheer, scrambled egg, vegetable upma, poha soaked in milk, chila (besan/ mix pulse/ oats/ nachni), dhokla, idli, appam, with sambhar or coconut curry, sheera ( rawa/ carrot/ bottle gourd), rasgulla, barfi (home-made), ice cream, vegetable cutlet, fruits like stewed apple, ripened banana, papaya, watermelon, muskmelon, strawberry or chikoo would be good nutritious choices for a soft diet
As the child’s appetite gradually improves, there will be a visible improvement in energy levels and child’s activity and mood. Now the child would be ready for a regular home based diet with improvement and more variety in food textures. According to the requirements of the child, and based on his/ her likes – dislikes, the dietician would advise a balanced diet with focus on providing necessary nutrients for appropriate and quicker recovery. The use of taste enhancers like spices should be gradual while use of lemon and black pepper can be as per the child’s liking. And while you will also see improvements in his/ her weight, it is important to focus on a well-balanced diet rather than just increasing the quantity to improve immunity and strength.
- On initiating fluids in the child’s diet, especially after the surgery it is recommended to use straws or spoon to feed.
- Small frequent meals spread through the day would be a more digestible way to provide meals to your child as his/her physical activity may be restricted and eating large meals may lead to early satiety and not help in appropriate digestion.
- Follow up with your doctor and dietitian to check child’s progress over time.
Hygiene tips post-surgery:
- Remember to wash hands before and after touching the surgical area with an antibacterial soap.
- Change the dressing as per doctor’s advice to keep the operated area clean.
- Keep the child protected from contagious infections that spread through air or touch like cold, cough as in case of major surgery the child’s immunity is compromised.
- Use antibacterial agents while cleaning your home; remember not to dust the floor – mop instead!
- Food that is given should be freshly prepared and served.
- Refrain from using ready to eat food packages readily available in market to feed your child. as every meal at this time is very important for a sound, uneventful recovery.
Author: Megha Terse Mandke – Senior Nutritionist, Cuddles Foundation.