Monday, August 10, 2009

Breastfeeding and intolerances : when it doesn't always feel like breast is best

It was breastfeeding awareness week last week (I'm running a bit late on this post) and I read some great posts both on breastfeeding and also on bottle feeding and wanted to write about the unique challenges of my experiences.

My mother breastfed my sister and I longer than most. I was over two when I was weaned and my sister was just under two I believe. As a result, it was a natural assumption for me that I would nurse my children - it never occurred to me to do otherwise. That being said, I never had an aversion to the idea of using some formula, as long as it wasn't compromising nursing.

My first son was 10 days old when my mother suggested that perhaps a reason he was up all night every night screaming was a dairy intolerance. My father had been hospitalized as an infant for cow's milk protein intolerance so there was no harm in trying. I stopped eating cheese, stopped drinking milk, and there was an immediate improvement. Kiernan was obviously also milk protein intolerant. But as time went on, things got progressively worse and worse - by three months old he was up every half an hour all night long and Eric and I were on the verge of losing it. A few specialists later and we discovered that A) He was not only cow's milk protein intolerant but also soy protein intolerant and B) Cutting out milk and cheese wasn't enough, I needed to start reading the ingredients on everything I ate if I wanted to cut out what was hurting his tummy. I don't know if you realize how much food has either soy or milk protein in it, but let me tell you, it's a lot more than I knew before I started this process. C) He also suffered from acid reflux and started taking prevacid.

Kiernan started sleeping better after I cut these foods out, but it was never perfect. I often made mistakes, and sometimes he just seemed in distress when I was sure I hadn't eaten anything offending.

I knew that when I had any subsequent children I would cut out dairy and soy from the start to make sure that we reverse introduced any possible problematic foods. I stopped eating all dairy and soy about 5 weeks before the twins were born in order to make sure it was all out of my system.

I think part of my problem is that I have babies with sensitive tummies. All three of them have had reflux, all three of them wake up a lot more than most babies I know. And now, with twins, I have double the wakings and double the guilt. Every time they are overly gassy, or wake up more in the night I immediately wonder what I've eaten that has set it off.

These are the things that weigh on me:

* Am I doing them more harm than good. I was in a wedding on the weekend and so the babies had a LOT more formula than usual. They slept a lot better. Is it because I need to be cutting more out of my diet, or is it because I had a glass of wine both evenings? ;)
* I keep wondering if I should be cutting out more and if I can handle cutting out more. Plus, we never proved dairy and soy are actually an issue (although I believe they are). The thought of trying to figure it out makes me even more weary than I already am, I don't know if I can do it.
* I cannot seem to stay awake when I'm nursing in the night. As hard as I try, I fall asleep. I think this leads to innefficient feeds because the babies also fall asleep and I can't coax them to continue, and then they wake up again far sooner than they would have because they didn't have a full feed. Even when Eric sets his alarm to keep coming in and getting me waking me up, we don't have improvement, and the time we tried to have eric stay with me to keep me awake and efficient, it also woke the babies up completely and then they wouldn't go back down for a couple of hours. This means I almost never sleep in a bed but instead sitting up. I describe how I feel on most mornings as feeling like I have been kicked in the head repeatedly all night. It sucks.
* I just keep asking myself if they would be better off on formula. Part of me wouldn't want to do it because nursing is so much cheaper and, it seems to me, less of a hassle. Would they feel better? Or do they not even care that they wake up a lot. They DO seem less fussy than they were before they went on the nexium for their reflux.

And I haven't even touched on the fact that I'm almost exclusively nursing TWINS. With REFLUX. I'm really tired ;)


Capital Mom said...

Wow! That sure was a lot to deal with in terms of dairy and your son. Is he still intolerent to dairy now that he is older? Or did it go away?

I think that when you have twins your should just do whatever gets you through the day! I don't have any suggestions, except to ask if you have talked to any other moms with twins who breastfed. I wonder if they would have good advice.

Away2me (Deanna) said...

Okay, as a breastfeeding mom of twins I feel your pain. I too wake up with that kicked in the head feeling every morning. I don't get more than 1 1/2 hour stretches of sleep at night. (I got 3 on Sat morning, cause my hubby watched the boys and I felt like a new woman).

I also quit dairy for the first 3 months of the boys' life due to what I thought was a dairy intolerance. I slowly allowed it back in and they do fine as long as I don't over do it. Wesley gets really gassy and Nathan's reflux acts up if I do too much dairy.

I wish I had more advice, but really all I can do is commiserate with you regarding the lack of sleep. I've limited the night nursings to 2 per baby And because they never nurse at the same time, that means I'm nursing at least 4 times a night, but that's better than nursing 8 times a night like I was 3 weeks ago!

Mary ZP said...

I can't imagine breastfeeding twins so I can only marvel at your dedication.

I bottle fed Isabella because she just wouldn't breastfeed. She was premature, it was Christmas and I had no resources available to me. Anyway -- it didn't work. At four months, she was sleeping through the night but it was a challenge to find the right formula that didn't make her sick. Not to mention the guilt I felt.

I breastfeed Noah to eight months (after which he started sleeping the night - go figure). I loved the experience but gave it up when I felt it was no longer the right thing for either of us.

Trust your instincts. You're a great mom so just listen to your inner voice. It's always the right choice when you do it out of love for your children.

Lara said...

I'm feeling a lot less discouraged today and more inclined to just think we need to work on good solid feeds in the night instead of blaming foods. It helped that I got some sleep last night when I crashed at 7:30 and Eric kept the babies away until after midnight :)

Sadia said...

You're an inspiring mom. I believe that breastmilk is best, and worked hard to nurse my twins which holding down a 40-hour job.

However, even more important to our kiddos is a happy, healthy, as-rested-as-possible-while-parenting mom. Some moms can't nurse at all, some moms don't make it past colostrum, and some nurse to 2 and 3 years. Do what's best for your family, and give yourself permission to evaluate whether breastfeeding IS best for everyone in your family. If the answer's no, so be it. You've already given all your kids a great head start.

Good luck!

nonlineargirl said...

You aren't hurting them, no matter what you might worry. I am impressed by your ability to cut out dairy and soy. I have severely limited dairy, but use soy milk for cereal and for occasional coffee (okay, decaf) .

Nursing is harder than we are told, even under the best of circumstances. I gave up nursing at night because I could not keep the babies sucking without falling asleep (them and me). Be flexible and know you are doing the best for your children, however that works out.