• Life lately…

    I feel like I covered off a big money update last month… so, time for a life update!

    I’ve shifted into a new, slightly different role that’s just the challenge I need. Dreamed up a new awesome freelance offer (I’m often referred to edit books and help put together online courses, and now I’m seeing a need for ongoing strategic and editing support with regular daily/weekly content). Finished NLP (neurolinguistic practitioner) certification and now am cooking up a coaching offer (which I envision as being a next step up from my course, and broader – more life and money, not just money). Watching Parenthood and Better Things; next up Ted Lasso, and catching up on the later seasons of Gilmore Girls (even if I hear they went off the rails)

    But realistically the thing that takes so much time, energy, bandwidth… is parenting.

    Sooo… here’s a braindump of life on that front 😊

    Toddler eating + ongoing food intolerances

    Spud is firmly in the beige food phase. I don’t blame him. All his intolerances really do restrict things.

    Dairy, seafood and fish, nuts (though all are improving, especially I thiiiink that last one?) – it cuts out many options, especially for an already picky toddler.

    A couple summers ago he returned to nightly screaming around midnight, waking and squealing bloody murder. It took a few days but eventually I pinpointed the likely culprit: my granola, which he’d started eating as well. So much for healthier breakfast cereals! Nuts were not identified in the ingredient list, but I imagine there were probably trace amounts. And when you can’t trust the inclusions on the label, you start making your own. So, I now make my own granola every week.

    When we did Hello Fresh for awhile, he was also struggling at nights. Again, I can only assume trace presence in some of the ingredients.

    The last few months, he’s started vocalising it, constantly telling me he has a sore tummy. That’s helpful, rather than me just surmising it from his actions and behaviour.

    What’s helping? This kiwifruit bowel health stuff is magic for soothing digestive issues fast. Also still doing these Renew Life kids probiotics, but the kiwi stuff is gold for quick relief. (I also have these digestive enzyme tablets on hand as a backup.)

    Obviously avoiding, though not totally, those trigger foods helps (dairy is in so many things, and lingers in the body too, as it’s slow to process through).

    Favourite things

    Screaming surprise! at me constantly.



    Countdown farm blocks.

    Hot wheels.

    Dinosaurs and sea creatures.

    Counting out syllables.

    Sounding out letters.

    Asking questions, always. Are there lots of cranes in Ukraine?

    Revelling and struggling with…

    Teaching him how to think. This coaching really is the crux of parenting IMO.

    Responding neutrally.

    Asking questions. Open-ended, ideally.

    What have you tried? What else could you try?

    What about X? Strong-willed kids do better with suggestions than instructions, or at least this one does.

    I want him to form his own thoughts. Do things for himself. Learn to think and work through things for himself.

    So I find myself always trying to come up with analogies and examples.

    Sometimes it’s easy – ‘hug it!’ I said, telling him how to stay on the spinny thing at the park.

    Sometimes not. A page was ripped in his book – ‘”put it in the bin” was his response (as usual). I said ‘ if you get a scrape or scratch or bruise, are you no good, should I put you in the bin?’ Possibly a bit harsh but I think the message got through … nope, you’re still you and you’re still working just fine.

    I try to show when I’m learning too – making mistakes, having difficulty doing something. We saw BMX bikers doing all sorts of daring tricks as the Easter show, some wiping out pretty badly. I was thrilled. We were in the front row right up close. What better way to see people trying, failing, getting back up and trying again?

    His perfectionism tendencies (‘put it in the bin!’ ‘I’m done!’) are strong. “You’re perfect” he’s told me, even when I clearly show I’m not. But the other day, I heard “It’s not perfect but it’s fine” – and my heart soared.

    Staying calm, modelling calm nonviolent communication and a can-do attitude, reminding him we can figure anything out and fix things. Spilling milk in the morning always results in upset. But you know what? We don’t have to wipe up every drop immediately, as you’re probably going to spill more before you finish.

    My family of origin is very judgmental, quick to share their thoughts and opinions. I want to foster the opposite. Cultivate non-judgmental, open-minded curiosity.

    It’s possible. Could be.

    Very little is black and white in life here on earth. I try to reflect that in what I say.

    What I’m thinking about

    Thinking about starting school in term 4, and holiday care…

    Thinking about planning his first plane trip…

  • 7 reflections on parenthood (four years in – where has the time gone?!)

    7 reflections on parenting


    It’s been quite awhile since I wrote about anything parenting-related.

    That’s not to say I have nothing to say!

    It’s just been… overwhelming at times.

    Here are my latest reflections/lessons.

    On boundaries

    There’s a bit of a parallel here. I’m learning boundaries with my kid, just as I need them in my own life in general.

    It’s a little bit easier with a toddler, to be honest. I know we need them for safety, for example. With adults, it’s for the sake of sanity – which is easy to discount/dismiss. As a chronic overgiver/overfunctioner, learning to say no to people of any age is an ongoing journey. It’s a trip.

    On learning who I am

    Just like money makes you more of who you already are, I think parenting intensifies your personality traits. I’m clearer than ever on who I am. Sometimes I don’t recognise myself in my worst moments. Sometimes I’m blown away by how well I hold up.

    On patience

    There is no shortage of patience required in parenting. With the repetitive questions. With repeatedly setting limits. With often saying no.

    I default to calm whenever I can, take a breath, seek to understand the underlying cause of behaviour first.

    I try to be playful and give choices at every step.

    But wow, this is a challenging age.

    On tuning in and trusting my intuition

    When something is wrong, I know it.

    I have become somewhat sceptical of many doctors. I am a huge believer in private health insurance. I’ve had so much better luck being taken seriously and getting help from specialists. I’m sad that if I didn’t have the money, it might not have happened.

    And paired with that, I’ve always tackled experiments with a pretty robust test and learn mentality – without close tracking and monitoring, I would never have identified the trigger foods behind Spud’s issues.

    On letting go and the nature of impermanence

    You cannot control other human beings. Accepting this is essential.

    Nothing lasts forever. The good. The bad. Things always change. Everything is a phase. Just go with it.

    And this goes along with letting go of the need for perfection. I can improvise. Trusting I can come up with bedtime stories about all sorts of random things on request. They’re not very imaginative, I grant you. Usually I wind up weaving a safety lesson (the climax is often a car having an accident … don’t ask) or one about eating healthy (trying new foods). Whatever. It doesn’t have to be amazing. I can make it up on the fly.

    On hanging in there despite the discomfort

    Perseverance. And lots of repetition.

    Applies to everything. Offering different/new foods. Toilet training. Bike riding. And of course, desired behaviours.

    Getting uncomfortable being uncomfortable. The toddler years are TRYING. They’ve shaken the self-trust I’d built. The doubts are bigger and louder, I’m triggered multiple times a day, and ashamed of how reactive I am.

    The tantrums/meltdowns are not easy to hold space for, especially as emotions were not generally acknowledged in my childhood.

    I struggle to straddle the line between validating and holding space, and feeding too much into things and letting them go too long. Knowing when to skilfully redirect, vs just distracting as a band-aid.

    On being a role model

    I haaaaated being told I had to set a good example for my little brother. And now the stakes are even higher. I am so not perfect. But I’m hoping I’m doing okay, that I am repairing my wrongs, and that I can reparent myself along the way.

    Parenting ain’t easy. But I suppose I can say it is absolutely fulfilling. I can absolutely imagine a parallel child-free life. But I chose this one and overall, I’m glad I did – despite all the challenges.

  • What I learned from my kid’s disappointment in a crappy Christmas present



    As a rule follower, I shouldn’t be surprised by now when other people don’t play by the rules.

    Especially in this case. Gifts for kids are fraught!

    The daycare Christmas party had Santa handing out presents to every child, with each parent responsible for buying a gift for $10 or less for their own offspring.

    I personally didn’t expect whatever I chose for Spud to even make it back home from daycare – even more reason, in my mind, to keep it simple.

    But as it turns out, we had a massive outage at work that morning, and so with nothing to do … I nipped up the road to daycare to attend the Santa visit and witness the gift exchange.

    As some kids unwrapped big, cool trucks and whatnot, others (including Spud) quickly got Christmas gift envy. Longing stares and subtle drifts towards the coveted toys started to converge from all directions. Spud even threw his tiny toy on the floor and declared that he didn’t want it.

    This was a major trigger for me. We didn’t do presents in my household growing up (Not a money thing.) I still have issues around lack, scarcity, comparison and envy of other people’s stuff.

    My first instinct? SCREW IT! NEXT YEAR WE’RE GOING BIG! Forget the budget limit, clearly others totally ignored it!

    But I eventually came to see the real lesson here. A life lesson for my kid.

    Some people will have more than you. Some people will have less.

    It would be silly and futile to bend over backwards to spare him disappointment. That’s not how life works.

    I acknowledged that he wanted those other trucks. That maybe the others would share and they could all play together – but ultimately, that would be up to them.

    It was a lesson for me, too. To let him feel and express those feelings. To be his teacher and to steer him through the ups and downs of being human. If one thing is for sure, it’s that there will be countless more to come.

    Have you ever had to deal with Christmas gift envy?

  • Are regular baby formulas not working for you? Here’s what to try next

    not sure what baby formula to try? Read this


    What baby formula should I buy for my infant? It’s a question that probably only keeps getting harder to answer. There’s a huge spectrum of formulas out there – and I’ve spent quite a bit of money trialling different ones.

    If your kid is doing fine on a basic supermarket formula, you’re good to go!

    If you’re struggling with reflux, eczema, colic, etc – then you might be wondering what to try next.

    There are dedicated Reflux formulas or Colic + Constipation formulas on the shelves. Honestly, I haven’t tried these and don’t know anyone who has, though we definitely struggled with all those symptoms. But having narrowed down the cause of Spud’s stomach and skin reactions, we have been through the gamut of practically all other formula types. Turns out we were dealing with a pretty common problem…

    CMPI vs CMPA – intolerance or allergy?

    Our journey was harder than the average. Spud had severe intolerances to multiple foods that took months to identify with trial and error. And the worst of the bunch was dairy.

    I knew nothing about this beforehand, but oh how much I’ve learned since. How dairy lingers in your system for weeks. How most babies are reacting to the proteins in milk, not the sugars (ie, it’s not the lactose that’s the problem). How freaking common of an issue this is. And how dairy is in SO MANY THINGS. Even foods you might not expect.

    I quickly got up to speed with acronyms like CMPI (cow’s milk protein intolerance) and CMPA (cow’s milk protein allergy). Allergy = probably pretty self explanatory.

    Intolerances don’t show up on allergy tests and can sometimes just result in digestive and temperament symptoms. (And that’s if you can convince a doctor to test your baby, as many are reluctant to, and tests aren’t always reliable at a young age.) The only way to figure out if you’re dealing with CMPI is a food diary and elimination diet.

    The formula options

    When it comes to babies who don’t tolerate cow’s milk formula, the options look something like:

    Retail formulas  

    • Soy formula (if over 6 months old)
    • Goat’s milk formula (very similar to cow’s milk in terms of the proteins, and not recommended for that reason BUT Spud was okay on goat’s, and I’ve heard of lots of other babies doing all right on it as well)
    • Aptamil Allerpro formula (hydrolysed – i.e. the proteins have been broken down)

    Prescription formulas

    • Aptamil Pepti Junior (lactose-free and extensively hydrolysed – i.e. the proteins have been broken down)
    • Neocate (elemental formula based on amino acids, i.e free of cow’s milk proteins)

    We mix fed from the beginning. I spent 5 days in hospital where Spud was EBF. When we came home, he started on the odd bottle of goat’s. I was annoyed that T had bought the most expensive type (goat’s milk formula is NOT cheap), but in the end, I was glad for it.

    Because Spud did NOT take well to normal cow based formulas. He was already a spitty baby, but once we switched off goat’s (I was trying to save money, as it was literally twice the price of some of the regular cow’s milk formulas) his reflux hit the next level.

    Over the coming months we experimented with different cow’s milk formulas, then worked our way through the alternatives: Allerpro, Pepti Junior, and eventually Neocate. Allerpro and Pepti Junior did nothing for us; goat’s was still better. Doctors said to avoid goat’s, as per the conventional wisdom – but I had to trust my own eyes and instincts, because the evidence in front of me said otherwise. So we stuck with it, until I was able to nab some Neocate to try.

    And as soon as we were able to get a prescription for Neocate around 7-8 months, I weaned him. Between Spud growing his first (ridiculously sharp) teeth and the ever-growing list of foods I could not consume, it was time.

    Neocate was the game changer. The reflux stopped. The eczema improved. Spud slept through the night every night, no longer waking with tummy pains.

    We recently finished our last tin of Neocate. It was a little bittersweet; the end of an era. T always complained about it. And I can’t argue with him – but, ultimately, who cares how nasty it was, if it was the one formula that actually worked?

    The stuff is gross. It smells foul. It tastes nothing like milk. Lots of kids don’t take to it because of the flavour. But Spud didn’t take much coaxing. He was always a champion feeder. And I like to think that he knew, somehow. That this was the magic formula. The stuff that wouldn’t upset his gut. The stuff that would finally bring him – and me – peace.

  • All the times that traditional baby advice failed us miserably

    Baby Shoes

    Photo: Meagan  

    AKA: When to ignore traditional parenting advice and go against the grain.

    I’ve learned to take any advice about how to parent my baby with a grain of salt. My child is a happy kid, but he’s not exactly been an ‘easy’ kid until recently.

    It’ll all get better once he’s on solids (NOPE)

    People say solids help with sleep, because they stay fuller. Not in our case.

    Spud has always had a super sensitive stomach, and the more we ramped up solids the more haywire his sleep got. Solids meant more gas, more trouble pooping (getting backed up), and poops at random times (like the middle of the night).

    People say solids help with reflux. Nah.

    His reflux disappeared once we got on Neocate. That prescription formula changed our lives. He immediately started sleeping through consistently, his gastro problems stopped being an issue, and his temperament improved.

    But since starting solids, I think it may have resurfaced a little (certain coughs and grimaces suggest to me that there’s some nasty regurgitation bothering him) when foods irritate his system. If so, it’s mild, and nothing compared to his ongoing eczema issues – which are definitely linked to his diet.

    Feed them right before bed (NOPE)

    As mentioned above, his reflux made this a big fat LIE. We needed to ensure a fair chunk of time before that last feed and going to sleep. It was okay when he was brand new and tiny. But as he got a bit older, feeding him too late meant he’d just wake up shortly after falling asleep needing to spit up or burp. It wasn’t hunger disrupting his sleep; it was digestive problems.

    “I don’t need as much sleep; I’ll do the night wakings” (NOPE)

    Theory: Husband who needs less sleep will handle more night wake-ups

    Reality: Yeah, nah. It started off okay, but went downhill.

    Spud’s gut troubles (which were always at their worst in the wee hours) meant a lot of tough wake-ups at 2/3/4am. There would be no consoling him, really, during those hours.

    T had little patience or sympathy. He really only started taking the food intolerances seriously once Spud’s eczema got really bad (as in covering most of his back, among other body parts). His experience growing up with younger siblings/nieces meant he was convinced he knew all about baby sleep and that it was just Spud fighting sleep for the sake of it.

    I knew in my heart that Spud was in discomfort. It was in the way he arched and thrashed stiffly, cried shrilly while still half asleep sometimes, would calm after taking his gas drops or emitting a burp or fart, the bubbly sounds that sometimes came from his tummy. And therefore I would not leave him to cry it out generally (except on desperate occasions when I just couldn’t stay up with him anymore and would cry myself to sleep in the next room). This led to a lot of arguing at ridiculous times when nobody should be awake, let alone fighting with their partner. Frankly, it was fucking miserable.

    Everything is a phase – they’re always changing

    Babies are designed to keep us guessing. Just as I think we’ve settled into a routine, something changes, particularly around evening routines. It’s so hard to get the balance right.

    They say you can’t overfeed a baby, but I am certain he was overdoing it between solids and milk at dinner in the early days. When given finger food, he stuffs everything he can at once into his mouth and practically chokes himself trying to eat it all right then. He goes SO overboard. (There are also a few times, way back pre-solids, where I am convinced we overfed him and it led to absolutely miserable nights.)

    So he was definitely overeating for awhile; this kid is a champ eater and I wasn’t great at reading cues initially, I don’t think. Once I stopped giving him an evening bottle, that helped and he had much more settled nights.

    Then he went through a growth spurt and that topup bottle before bed became a necessity again.

    Now, he takes forever to drink that last bottle, rolls around and plays with it, and usually doesn’t finish it … so it might be time to phase it out again. Maybe this time for good – though I wouldn’t bet on it.

    I don’t want to jinx it, but things on the food front have been good lately, and aside from recent teething, so have the nights. But who knows – it could all change tomorrow…

  • What I’ve learned from a year of navigating the NZ healthcare system

    My experience of our healthcare system to date has been pretty dang limited. The odd GP visit, gyno/birth control stuff with Family Planning, etc.

    Since Spud came along, that’s changed. Now that he’s in the picture, I’ve dealt with specialists for the first time ever, and leaned on our mental health services, along with the day-to-day stuff that every baby goes through.

    Free healthcare and resources for children is a blessing

    I’m so glad to be able to take Spud to the doctor as often as needed and not pay a thing for appointments or prescriptions. To be able to call Plunketline any time of day or night for advice. Money shouldn’t be a barrier when it comes to any child’s health.

    Perhaps most of all, I am so grateful to have been able to access prescription formula that finally resolved Spud’s reflux and other digestive issues, and to be able to feed him in the way he needs. It came rather late, but better late than never. The alternative would have been living off a tiny handful of foods and being miserable; having a somewhat restricted diet and a somewhat unhappy baby (and thus an unhappy me); or possibly sourcing elemental formula some other way at a cost of hundreds of dollars a week. Food intolerances, get f-ed!

    But it is very, very hard to get taken seriously

    I’ve learned the hard way that I need to be an advocate for my son. I’ve learned to trust my instincts and know when things are not right.

    I am thankful he does not have anaphylactic reactions to anything. However, this has made it difficult to get his issues taken seriously. Skin, gut, poop, and temperament symptoms just aren’t as compelling, even though they are still horrifically distressing for us. And through social media I’ve seen much more harrowing stories of other mums struggling to get the medical attention their babies deserve.

    I’m so glad I opted to get health insurance for him, as I think trying to navigate the public system and get referrals would have broken me. I’ve seen stories of mums with much worse problems struggle to get their babies seen. At least I was able to just book in direct with specialists and get Spud in that way.

    Mental health matters and we need more in this area

    I’m stoked that mental health is getting more funding.

    I have been so grateful for the services I’ve been able to access when I was at breaking point.

    I’ve used the free 1737 helpline, and had someone sit on the phone with me while I walked and breathed and tried to reorient myself for close to an hour.

    I’ve been able to make use of free counselling sessions at my local women’s centre.

    I used my work EAP services before my redundancy went into effect, although I found that particular counsellor … not the best.

    While I had to pay to see my doctor to rule out post natal depression, they were pretty clear to me that I should come in any time to talk and that subsequent appointments could be covered under mental health funding.

    (It’ not PND. What it is, was situational stress and external factors, and actually serious marital issues – an ongoing story for further down the track. Bit frustrating to be treated like a hysterical woman, to be honest.)

    Social media is a lifeline when all else fails

    Social media has been a double edged sword during this time. An addictive time waster? Absolutely. But also a source of support from all corners? 100%.

    Support from people I know and people I don’t. My work crew (the four of us who popped out babies within a month of each other). My friends who had kids before I did. Members of various Facebook groups going through their own stuff, sometimes similar issues, whom I learned a ton from, and felt a bit less alone in the process. When I was losing my mind trying to figure out Spud’s food issues with little support from T. Exhausted from dealing with a baby who wasn’t sleeping, was super unsettled, had chronic gas, constipation, and eczema.  He’d be up at night crying, inconsolable, and I’d be crying along with him. He couldn’t sleep because of his digestive issues and I couldn’t do more to help (and worst of all, was the cause of those issues via my diet). Lately, his sleep’s been pretty haywire and I think it’s because his eczema is getting out of control. Right now it covers almost all of his back, and I’m going to try book him in with a dermatologist who comes highly recommended in a local eczema FB support group.

    Overall, I can’t really complain too much. I’ve managed to get us enrolled at a doctor that is literally around the corner from home, and we’ve had a good Plunket nurse though that will be changing next year. I’m sure I’ll have more to say as we continue to navigate vaccinations, dental care, vision checks and more!

  • 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. 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 …

  • The struggle is real: When your baby has a major dairy intolerance

    Difficult baby or Dairy intolerance? Symptoms of food issues

    Food intolerances. The culprit behind my poor, cranky, unsettled baby.

    At a month old, he started spewing up like mad. At two months, eczema and cradle cap kicked in. At three months, he started waking up screaming very frequently, struggled to pass gas, had what seemed to be digestive pains, and horrible reflux spells after almost every feed.  

    The last few months have been such a rollercoaster – I’ve learned that as long as your baby is gaining weight nobody takes your issues seriously.

    This makes it so hard to get to the bottom of what ails our little helpless beans. It’s incredible what babies and their parents are expected to put up with – everything chalked up to a stage they’ll grow out of, or that horrible catchall … colic.

    How we got started down this path

    When the osteopath suggested I cut dairy after noting Spud’s eczema I kinda laughed it off. I hardly consume much dairy anyway and expected to see no difference.

    And at first there wasn’t, especially since I only half heartedly committed and as it turns out… dairy is a bitch. Going dairy free is a long slow painful game.

    Thank the stars for Facebook groups – a total lifeline for anyone dealing with cows milk protein intolerance or allergy. 🐮

    In hindsight, I’m horrified at all the times Spud was screaming at night with gas pains. Knowing now that my milk was causing that. Feeding him is meant to be act of comfort and sustenance, but it was also hurting him.

    Cutting back, I noticed his reflux was better. No longer did we go through multiple bibs, outfits and burp cloths a day.

    Maybe there was something to it after all?

    So I decided to cut hidden dairy as well and do it properly. (Milk is in everything. Chips, hash browns, sauces, you name it… it is tough.)

    Between that and spacing out feeds 3 hourly (too frequent feeding wasn’t helping), his gas pains reduced dramatically.

    What symptoms of dairy intolerance did we have?

    ❎He used to arch his back and fuss after most feeds, as above.

    ❎Had horrendous cradle cap that lasted for months.

    ❎Eczema and rashes on face and body.

    ❎Spit up constantly (the spews he did when we tried cow’s milk formula were beyond).

    ❎Gas pains woke him suddenly and frequently all night, as often as every 30 to 60 mins at their worst. Struggling to pass farts, his insides rumbling and gurgling like a drain and vibrating like giant bubbles were popping in his abdomen.

    ❎He got constipated, screamed and cried to poo (at one point popping a blood vessel in his eye), his farts and poos reeked and were funky colours and sometime mucusy.

    ❎Had a constantly congested nose and daily earwax build up.

    ❎Was so unsettled and would randomly shriek and squeal, go stiff as a board in the torso and thrash his head and limbs around like a wild animal. Couldn’t be left to play or chill for more than a minute or two before losing the plot.

    I became a diaper detective, obsessing over the contents of his nappies – colour, consistency, scent, frequency. Read food labels with an eagle eye. Posted poo pictures to that Facebook group for feedback and opinions. 💩

    Cruelly, it turns out he has issues with nuts as well, so lots of the things I replaced dairy with had to go too. And eventually I identified seafood as yet another trigger. Maybe beef too, although that might have been paranoia. Who knows … by the end of it I felt like all food was the enemy.

    I amazed myself with how much self control I actually had over what I eat. A far cry from my usual MO! But when the alternative is being up at 2, 3, 4, 5, 6am with an inconsolable screaming baby, it’s an easy choice. That tiny bit of coconut cream in the curry, or trace of nuts in that dip? That only leads to regret in the dark cold hours of the early morning.

    I can’t believe how sensitive his digestive system is to my own diet. You will read all about how unlikely that is. And yet if you only look, social media is full of parents struggling with the same thing. I bet the real rates of intolerance and allergy are way way higher than stated. And I hate to think how many are suffering because they just don’t know, and many medical pros don’t know enough either.

    It is tricky, as all of these symptoms are not unusual in of themselves. But I know for us – and for many many others – it adds up to something more.

    Figuring out food intolerances out on our own

    I’m so glad for Plunket, Space group, and my friends who became parents before I did … thanks to them I felt listened to even when I felt particularly hopeless.

    Our GP was kindly but oh so patronising …

    Burp him more! (In response to the waking at night screaming with gas issues. Spoiler, this did nothing to help with the farts and belly pains.)

    You’re creating a problem for yourself holding and rocking him! (Because he’s constipated and miserable and hasn’t pooped for days.)

    … and declined to refer us for allergy testing.

    Then, one of my best friends who’s a doctor dismissed me saying all babies have gassy phases (and her own kid has severe allergies).

    I’m grateful I added Spud onto my health insurance and for the first time ever have actually used that cover to see a specialist. They were the only ones to not entirely patronise me, and ultimately to prescribe allergenic formula that changed our lives.

    Allergy testing didn’t yield anything, which was a bummer (it would have been validation) but odds are good for him to grow out of a “mere” intolerance.

    As a first time mum you often won’t be taken seriously. Now I’m not someone who makes a fuss ever. But I’m learning I need to be an advocate for my son.

    Nobody knows your baby better than you do. Trust those parental instincts and go with your gut. When you feel something is wrong, keep pushing.

    Next up for us, we’ll tackle introducing dairy closer to the 1 year mark using the dairy ladder. I’m both terrified and hopeful!

  • Month 6 of parenthood: Solids and much more!

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    I’ve fallen so far behind on these monthly updates it’s not even funny. This will be my last! I’m not sure how often I’ll do them going forward. But I do have a couple I depth posts on specific issues coming up.

    Anyway. This month Spud started solids, kinda by accident. MIL had him for the afternoon, she’s been encouraging us to start solids for ages (all her kids started early etc etc) and assumed we’d done so. I wasn’t all that upset about missing that milestone, more so worried that eating an entire can of purée having not had solids before might seriously stuff him up inside. Especially given his recent constipation dramas. Luckily he seemed fine that night, and all was well on that front.

    (I’d been planning to wait till 6 months for solids, which would be closer to 5 months adjusted given his early birth. Also, seeing how sensitive his stomach is … I wasn’t in any rush! This was just a few weeks ahead of schedule is all.)

    We went to the paediatric gastro specialist, who prescribed stool softener and Pepti Jnr formula. This is still cows milk based but the proteins are more broken down for easier digestion. Sadly, Spud reacted just like he does to regular formula, but even worse in some ways, I think. Probably getting more sensitised?! I felt we didn’t get taken as seriously as I’d hoped, as Spud is growing well, generally seems happy when out and about, and isn’t developmentally delayed (since reaching for toys seems to be the main benchmark right now doctors care about). But his deafening screech during the physical exam may have helped our case. He was extremely unhappy about being touched around the belly/groin. If not for that, I don’t know what the outcome would have been!

    He had an enormous appetite for a week or two. I started dreamfeeding him, which maybe helped a little bit?

    There may not be a 6 month sleep regression but his sleep definitely went a bit wonky and there was a lot of babble and chatter during some of these middle of the night/early morning wakes.

    We also had our first ever 3-hour wake time during the day. Holy exhaustion…

    Finally, he started to love his reflection at last! I was starting to think he was the only baby ever to not like mirrors. He did seem to enjoy or at least be intrigued by his reflection back when he was maybe a month old and I laid him on the dresser, but that was the one and only time up till now.

    As for movement, he still doesn’t like tummy time and shows no signs of crawling, or sitting up. He first rolled over at about a month and then didn’t do it again for a few months. Rolling is very sporadic with him, and I’ve noticed that when he’s having digestive upset he doesn’t roll at all. He’ll just lie on his back and not move when put down, for days (dairy reactions last for days, and his constipation has been prolonged). When he’s feeling okay he seems to roll all the time. After the specialist appointment, when the doctor did some prodding around his belly, it was like it loosened something up in him. When we got home he seemed more relaxed and was rolling over every which way on his playmat.

  • Month 5 of parenthood: Constipation, sleep training and some answers

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    Guys. This was the worst, scariest month. But there was also, at last, a ray of hope..!

    Where to start?

    Okay, so the tough and terrifying parts. We’d had a light brush with constipation before when summer started (just a few tiny firm specks of poop and less frequent #2s – a bit of cooled boiled water got things going again). But this time was for real … and plain water was not cutting it in terms of getting things flowing. It turned into days between poos – just a couple of days, at first, then more like 4 or 5. The last time we got up to 8 days, and he was MISERABLE, so I gave him prune juice in desperation and that seemed to unblock him. Those last 3 poop nappies were dark, smelly, and looked super weird. Plus, they had solid pieces in amongst the mess (the solid mass that came out after 8 days mass was truly horrendous). He screamed and cried while pooping, which just cut straight to my heart. And did I mention that at one point, he strained so hard he burst a blood vessel in his eye? (That didn’t even result in a poo – nothing happened after that incident, not even a fart.)

    Our GP didn’t seem to take my concerns very seriously, so I set about figuring out how our health insurance works, and booked in to see a paediatric gastroenterologist.

    On the dairy front … yep, my suspicions have been confirmed for sure. After cutting ALL dairy (including as an ingredient in anything), we FINALLY got a good night out of him again … our third ever 7-hour stretch. When I had a tiny bit of brownie and cheesecake as a test (oh so delicious) we had an awful night and all his symptoms reared up again … the reflux, arching his back and spitting up, the fussing and random piercing screams, the gas pains and struggles to fart at night, the eczema and dry skin.

    Naps were a screamfest, an absolute shitshow, for a week or two. He just fought and fought and fought. As soon as we’d walk into the hallway he’d lose the plot, god forbid we even step into his room! Then one day, after a big day (Wriggle and Rhyme at the library in the morning, Space group in the afternoon) he went down for his last nap quietly, and from then on was back to normal.

    And on the upside, we’re now putting him down awake every time for naps and nights. It went surprisingly well! I did a LOT of work last month to get him napping in the cot and not feeding to sleep. (Vigorous pram rocking helped with the transition, along with patting and shushing, as per Plunket recommendations.) I was amazed the first time I laid him down at bedtime, bracing myself for a long tearful protest. Instead, after a few whimpers, he was out! Honestly, that shortlived burst of crying was off and on and didn’t even last 10 minutes. And so it went from then on, until the end of the week when…

    We had chicken pie for dinner. I knew I should avoid the pastry, as it would have had butter in it … but I consumed a little bit, just a few mouthfuls. Straightaway, that very night the effects kicked in. It was a bad one. Sigh.

    I also started to suspect nuts might be an issue, along with chocolate/cocoa (even though I got vegan chocolate, Spud was suspiciously spewy afterwards). Annoying as it was keeping a food diary, I’m so glad I put in the effort – and that I started doing it in a physical journal. Much easier to review and spot trends than when scrolling through an endless iPhone note.

    T is a total dairy fiend (could drink multiple litres of milk a day, devours ice cream, yoghurt etc like it’s water) but has cut back during this time … and is spending noticeably less time on the toilet. Somewhat annoyingly, he still doesn’t take it THAT seriously – the other day he actually said to me, “I bet he would have been fine, he’d eventually get used to dairy.” ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? How many times have we been up at night helplessly trying to console our screaming child as a result of getting dairy-ed (yes, it’s a verb in the allergy world)? Don’t get me wrong, he has supported me in going dairy-free (and since he does almost all the cooking, that’s vital). And the chicken pie incident seemed to finally convince him… but I know he thinks this is something I’ve overblown. Clearly, Spud is super sensitive to dairy. But the degree to which he reacts isn’t extreme. So while I’m glad he doesn’t, you know, go into an anaphylactic state – it is harder to get taken seriously at this level.