Our first son, Carl, was born via c section, his delivery is a story for another time. But our breastfeeding journey ended up being pretty adventurous. I started breastfeeding immediately after my c section birth in the post op room. I found this to be extremely difficult as I had no clue what I was doing, and my body was still adjusting to coming out of surgery. I chose to wait to feed until I was settled in my room. I was a lot calmer and this helped me figure out our first feeding.
We got home from the hospital a few days later and continued our feedings. After being home for a little over a week, things started to become difficult with our feedings. I felt like I was constantly feeding our son around the clock. He would no more than finish a feeding and an hour later wake, screaming for another feeding. This became exhausting real fast! We were triple feeding to ensure he was gaining his birth weight back but much to our dismay there was a whole other issue we were about to discover.
My diet consisted of pretty much anything and everything I could eat. Breastfeeding seemed to make me extremely hungry and very thirsty 24/7. I was eating cheesy scrambled eggs, turkey and cheese sandwiches, and Panera teriyaki chicken every second I could! After all, the experienced mom’s I had talked to mentioned the extra calories I would need to sustain breastfeeding so I took full advantage!
At our two week check up with the doctor, we mentioned Carl’s fussiness. We said how exhausted we had been and didn’t think this much lack of sleep was normal for a newborn. At this time, his signs and symptoms were chalked up to be “colic”. One of the worst words a new mother and father want to hear! If you’re not familiar with the term colic, it basically is a catch all word for an extremely fussy baby with no diagnosis, or "treatment", to what is causing their discomfort. Another two weeks went by and Carl kept getting fussier and fussier. I was working with our local breastfeeding group, Milkworks, at the time as well. Our lactation consultant was starting to have doubts of colic as well. At this point we were convinced, no way is this “normal”. We transferred our care to a pediatrician for a second opinion and more specialized expertise.
Between our lactation consultant and pediatrician, we finally started moving towards some answers!! Our lactation consultant was the first to mention food sensitivities. The foods a mother eats directly passes to her child through breastfeeding. Some nutrients are filtered but the majority of the proteins and molecules pass to the child. She mentioned the top foods that cause sensitivities are dairy, soy, wheat, corn and eggs. I started on an elimination diet after this consult. I first eliminated wheat as I was eating a sandwich pretty much every day. Carl started slightly improving but we were still struggling. Next food to go was dairy. And boy oh boy do I love my cheese!! It was at this point that I contemplated stopping our breastfeeding journey. Continuing to breastfeed meant so much to me and I felt I needed to provide this for my baby. We again saw improvement but things were still rough. I cut out soy next, which is when we saw the biggest improvement with Carl’s symptoms. We discussed this diet change with our pediatrician who was very familiar with babies who had sensitivities. We learned Carl was diagnosed with MSPI—Milk Soy Protein Intolerance. We had so much education to do as parents for this. We learned that Carl’s tummy wasn’t developed enough yet to process and digest milk and soy proteins. This caused tremendous discomfort in his stomach. We started a probiotic for Carl along with the changes to my diet. It was a long maternity leave, and by the time it came to an end, Carl was much better and sleeping well.
When our second son was born, I started eliminating dairy and soy from my diet two weeks before he was due. Although we were told every baby is different, we did not want to re-experience what we had with Carl. The lack of sleep and crying from all parties, was traumatizing to say the least. We spent countless nights awake and knew we couldn't do that again with a new baby and toddler as well. We took everything we learned from baby number 1 and started right away with baby number 2.
I think food sensitivities go undiagnosed frequently, unfortunately. There is more information and resources available now, compared to when my husband was a baby. My husband was a fussy baby as well but was diagnosed with colic. We can't help but think he had food sensitivities as well. Sensitivities aren't just in breastfeeding moms, but formula fed babies too. There can be some ingrident in a formula that a baby might not tolerate. There have been many formula changes to accommodate certain sensitivities, and many brands have different ones formulated for the babies needs.
My main advice to the mama with an MSPI baby...
You are not alone, failing or doing anything wrong!! You are exactly what your baby needs! And just as a new baby is learning how to "baby", you are learning how to be a mother. Grace is extremely crutial during this process, and literally telling yourself, "I am a good mother, who's having a hard time". There are brighter days
ahead, even though the sleepless nights seem never ending.
Lean on your support system! Let those around you who offer to help, help. If you're friend is stopping by and asks if they can pick you something up, go ahead and ask for that favorite coffee drink from Scooters you've been wanting. And when they arrive go ahead and let them snuggle baby while you drink your coffee HOT (or cold if that's your thing). It is more than ok to ask for help from those around you. You are going to need it! Schedule your support people to filter by from day to day, or week to week. This ensures someone is always stopping to help and check on you and baby. My husband and I both wish we would've invested in a postpartum doula. Sleep and nutrition are so important when navigating a new family, and hiring a postpartum doula would have definitely given us more of that!
Work closely with the professionals. Now of course not every doctor or lactation consultant is going to have the exact answer you need. But those professionals see tons of babies and mom's every day so don't be afraid to ask for help or voice your concerns! Their advice can be very valuable and helpful. They can be there to ask questions to and for resources to help you along the way.
Probiotics!! We started Carl on a probiotic from Klaire Labs. It was a powder that I mixed in with one of his bottles a day. This made a huge difference in the process of healing his tummy. We chose this probiotic because some of the over the counter ones can still have proteins from dairy and soy in them. We did our research and found this brand to be the most trusted, and free from dairy and soy.
This is just one of my postpartum events that led me to postpartum doula work. Every mother deserves to have a valuable support system made of people who love her. How can I help support you on your own journey?!