The highs and lows of breastfeeding – and why I finally called it quits

Breastfeeding a baby with food intolerances is tough!I was always half convinced that breastfeeding wouldn’t work for me.

And indeed that first night in hospital, he wouldn’t feed, and I failed at getting any colostrum into him. (Although he did latch on right after birth, with help from my midwife kneading and squeezing me like a lump of dough … so he did have that initially to keep him going.)

In the morning we got him latching and sucking again, luckily. And while he was a very sleepy baby – probably due to being born early – aside from having to wake him regularly to feed, it seemed like it was going okay.

But then on night 2, or maybe it was night 3, they wanted me to start pumping to make sure he was getting enough, to regain the weight he’d lost, to get more wet nappies out of him. It was miserable going, but I did. Pumping was depressing and I hated everything about it. Though I guess it helped pass the time, since I was stuck there for 5 days with my poor jaundiced baby, not allowed to leave, hoping to be released every day and getting my hopes up.

“It’d be a shame to go on formula” (OH FECK OFF!)

They’re kind of militant about it. Not just the lactation consultant but the midwives and nurses. I was seriously afraid they wouldn’t let me go if I didn’t lie and tell them that yes, I would go buy a pump on the way home. “It’d be such a shame to go to formula!” WTAF.

I lost the plot when the lactation consultant tried stopping me on my way out when I finally got the all clear for us to go. (She was thankfully only sorting out a referral for the tongue tie clinic; I was expecting a lecture about breastfeeding and bloody pumping.)

Mostly smooth sailing from then on…

I relaxed a lot when I got home, and that same day I swelled up hugely as the milk came in for real.

The physical act of feeding was surprisingly easy, and enjoyable. There’s the intimacy factor, plus the convenience, and the fact it’s basically free. Unless you pump, because holy cow those things are expensive. And yeah, I’m ignoring the value of my time here.

Our bodies are amazing – how our supply can rise or fall in response to baby’s needs, how milk towards the end of the day contains more sleep inducing amino acids, and can change consistency to suit the hot or cold weather.

It took me forever to figure out the difference between drinking and comfort sucking, and I was never totally sure. No biggie, though. Also, I never really knew if I was latching him on the “right” way. The proper method seemed rather … forceful. But he seemed to be feeding fine, it didn’t hurt much if at all, and was gaining weight. He was always a shallow latcher, though it improved a bit over time as he grew (physically, his mouth got bigger!) and we had his tongue tie snipped a couple of weeks in as well. I became a bit obsessed with the fact his top lip never flanged out … until at 3 months it finally did, phew!

I also eventually realised that he has an upper lip tie, which apparently will get assessed at the 1-year dental checkup.

Until it turned out my milk was making him miserable

But I didn’t count on food intolerances. They made breastfeeding hellish for us – though I didn’t realise that was the issue for a long time.

I hate that I was responsible for causing Spud any discomfort. I know I can’t blame myself, but towards the end I was so on edge when he woke constantly distressed at nights, because I KNEW it was due to something I had consumed.

Going dairy free fixed most of his symptoms, but then as my diet changed to adapt, eventually I realised nuts were an issue, and so was seafood. Maybe other things too that I just couldn’t pinpoint. Gosh it got hard to eat, and food really lost its pleasure for me.

Science is awesome, thank you very much

We mix fed from the day we came home, usually one bottle in the evening. Sometimes not at all, sometimes more than that, depending on what was going on.

We definitely wasted some money trialling different off the shelf formulas, none of which quite worked for Spud. The one exception was goat’s milk, which he was initially fine on but then seemed to develop a sensitivity to as well. I hated throwing out all that powdered stuff, but partly used formula tins are hard to pawn off!

(Annoyingly it seems only one brand does sachets, and no brands offer samples – sometimes for older babies, but none for newborn formula. Marketing of infant formula is hugely restricted here. They can’t advertise formula for young babies or give out free testers.)

We also trialled Pepti Junior, a prescription formula where the cow’s milk proteins are more broken down, which Spud reacted to, but not enough for the specialist to do anything about except tell us to persist for longer and go back to goat’s formula if he didn’t get used to it. (Given that Allerpro, which is available off the shelf and is basically the same thing, already didn’t work for us … I didn’t bother.)

The one formula that DID work was Neocate, a prescription amino acid based formula. I was able to get a few free tins to try through a Facebook group, and after a couple of days to adjust, it worked beautifully.

Luckily, our allergist appointment got moved up a few months, and I was able to go in, state that Spud had zero issues on Neocate, and convince her to give us a prescription. Given his issues are basically all GI related, she seemed sceptical to start with, but became a lot more sympathetic after inspecting him and seeing how much eczema Spud had.

The end of the road

And so, at nearly eight months it was time to call time on our journey. Finally armed with the dairy-free formula Spud needed, I started to wean him off for good. The restrictive diet was just too hard to maintain. I know other mums have it harder – cutting soy, gluten, even eggs, etc. That is a tough gig and I don’t know how they manage.

It was bittersweet, weaning, but it was the best thing for him. My milk was hurting him too frequently and I didn’t always even know why towards the end. I did it gradually over about a week, and nursed him for the last time on a Friday morning briefly. It took a few days to dry up, plus a random comeback about a week later on one side.

I definitely felt sad about stopping and bottle feeding is  more work logistically (plus formula poops are grosser) – but overall he’s happier and so I’m happier. No more stressing about what I’m eating. No more guilt about it. He started sleeping through the night consistently right away, throwing up completely stopped, and his skin improved too. If only we could have done this earlier…!

Solids are a whole new ballgame, of course. Peanut butter seems to aggravate his eczema, and I’m not sure yet about several other foods and whether they may be making his skin flare up (egg/gluten/berries). It’s hard not to be an overprotective, paranoid control freak …

4 thoughts on “The highs and lows of breastfeeding – and why I finally called it quits

  • Reply Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life August 5, 2019 at 15:14

    What a rough ride y’all have had it with the feeding! For both your sakes I’m glad you’ve found a good formula to switch to and that you can stop given the misery associated for you both. May the sensitivities wear off with age, and soon, and may you get to enjoy your food again!

  • Reply Stephanie August 5, 2019 at 15:54

    Here to reiterate what Revanche said! Glad you found a formula that works for your little one!
    Weaning at any age is bittersweet, but I’m glad you figured out what works best for everyone.

  • Reply SP August 6, 2019 at 05:49

    So glad to hear you found a manageable way to feed Spud that he (and his parents!) are happy with. 🙂

    PS – saw you have a new job. Yay, congratulations!

  • Reply Financial Nordic August 8, 2019 at 21:15

    Stay strong! 🙂

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