Grey Greenough, 2, has overcome early nutrition issues thanks to his dedicated family and a team of experts at MassGeneral Hospital for Children.

Grey Greenough, 2, has always been a little guy, but don’t be fooled – he has learned to have a big appetite. During his first few months of life, Grey was diagnosed with laryngomalacia, or floppy vocal cords, when he was just 3 months old. His symptoms, however, appeared almost right after birth. He had reflux and struggled to latch properly while breastfeeding because of a tongue tie, according to his mothers, Jessica Pennell and Sarah Greenough, of Stow, Massachusetts.

After two surgeries to release the tongue tie, Grey’s coughing fits and gagging still made eating a challenging and uncomfortable task. It was also difficult for him to gain weight because he was taking in just 2 oz. of formula at a time.

A Growing Care Team

At 2 months old, Grey and his family arrived at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC). At MGHfC, Grey’s care team grew to include multiple specialties, ranging from Pediatric Feeding and Nutrition to the Pediatric Airway, Voice and Swallowing Center at MGHfC and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Grey Greenough proudly shows his empty plate after lunch. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Pennell.)
Grey Greenough proudly shows his empty plate after lunch. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Pennell.)

Amid the many appointments and referrals, Jessica and Sarah remained flexible and open to suggestions, focusing on their son’s long-term health when times were tough.

“Everyone here genuinely cared about Grey. He was passed around many specialties, but in a good way,” said Jessica. “The team never made us feel crazy and they were just as willing to advocate for Grey as we were.” Grey’s course of treatment included a bronchoscopy, trying several formulas and bottles and experimenting with different feeding positions to help him learn to eat with minimal to no stress.

Over the course of a few months at the Center for Pediatric Feeding and Nutrition, Grey gained enough weight to claim a spot on the growth chart – something his small size and slow weight gain prevented him from achieving in the past. He also learned how to swallow liquids and solids at his own pace. His moms tuned into their son’s hunger cues and helped Grey find a variety of foods he enjoys. Scrambled eggs with pickles and avocado is one of his favorite meals and he is always happy to munch on fresh pomegranates.

Getting Better Everyday

“When we gave Grey one of his first chewable foods, it was such a big moment,” said Jessica Sorbo, MS, CCC-SLP, a pediatric speech and language pathologist at MGHfC. “He took a bite and swallowed it, and the room was filled with cheers and applause. We were so happy to see him reach that milestone.”

“To see pictures of him happily sitting around the lunch table with his friends is just astounding …”

When it came time for Grey to attend daycare this summer, his family and care team were hopeful that his peers would inspire him to partake in meals and snacks. Not only did Grey sample snacks provided by his daycare, but over time, he also finished every last bite of his meals without distress. This past Thanksgiving, he gobbled up a full plate of turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.

“This was remarkable for Grey because when he first came to us, it was a desperate situation. He had a lot of negative associations with food, which was understandable,” said Lauren Fiechtner, MD, MPH, medical director of the Center for Pediatric Feeding and Nutrition at MGHfC. “To see pictures of him happily sitting around the lunch table with his friends is just astounding and he is getting better and better every day.”

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This story first appeared in MGH Hotline.