By Jennifer Stroble
At some point in raising their child, every parent has wished they came with a manual. Don’t try to deny it. The next best thing to a manual is a tribe or support system. The kind of people that won’t judge you for wanting wine at 10:00 am, because your child cried for two hours after you gave him the wrong colored cup at lunch time. These type of people are there to lift your spirits during troubling times, and generally make your life more enjoyable.
I found my tribe, also known as my mom’s group; when my oldest son, Keagan, was just shy of a year old. They have since kept me sane in times I thought I needed to go to a loony bin. I needed them most when Oliver, my last baby was born in September. That’s when all hell broke loose in my life.
Seven months ago, I had no idea what was in store for my son and I. We endured a whirlwind of ups and downs. We’ve overcome jaundice, torticollis, and hospitalization for bronchiolitis. Although, nothing will compare to my current struggle: breastfeeding.
Throughout my entire pregnancy I told myself, and anyone who’d listen, that I’d breastfeed exclusively for a minimum of one year. My breastfeeding journey with his older brother came to a halt after three weeks due to illness and a less than ideal support system. I was determined to have better success this time around at providing my son’s nutrition, and having those special bonding moments with him.
My inner circle of friends tried to prepare me for my journey ahead. They tried to teach me that there would be many struggles, and that breastfeeding wasn’t going to be easy. It’s something you have to constantly work towards, but in the end would be worth every frustration. Some mothers have struggles latching or dealing with reflux, forceful letdowns, clogged milk ducts, and more. Not to mention, the sleepless nights and insatiable hunger.
However, none of them could prepare me for what I was about to withstand.
Oliver was born September 17th, 2015. Those first few moments were a blur. I remember crying from overwhelming amount of joy that he was here, and being in pure bliss with my baby boy. By the time I was discharged from the hospital 36 hours later, those tears had turned dark. I was beyond sleep deprived because my sleep cycle only occurred once every 30 minutes, if I was lucky. Trying to feed my child was becoming a nightmare the more I tried.
Oliver was miserable. He’d cry nonstop, nothing would calm him. I was told by the doctor that he may have a tongue tie and to get it evaluated. I found myself at Dr. Sierra’s office, in Tampa, the following day for a free consultation. As it would turn out, he had the “most obvious” lip AND tongue tie that Dr. Sierra had ever seen. He encouraged me to feed him right after the lip and tongue tie revision, to help comfort him. I noticed a difference almost immediately. It no longer hurt as badly to feed him, and a weight had been lifted.
I battled with everything my friends warned me about: the sleepless nights, the hunger, the never ending nursing sessions and more. One thing nobody had warned me about though, was food intolerance and other food sensitivities while breastfeeding. If I ate something that the baby didn’t digest well, how would I know? Would he grow horns? Cry like he’s dying? Would he bleed? Get rashes? I had no clue. I had limited knowledge with food intolerance.
At six weeks old, I was proud to have made it that long, still being his source of nutrition. After all, it was an important milestone. Most mothers give up within the first six weeks. In that time though, Oliver had always had diarrhea, and it was almost always green. It would range from neon, to ninja turtle green. He was severely moody, spitting up, gassy, and just over all unpleasant. The doctors suggested I go dairy free.
Goodbye, ice cream. Farewell, cheese. See you later, yogurt. Smell you later, baked goods.
I found myself crying during most feeding sessions. After all, it was my milk that made his tummy so upset. I was doing my best, but it just didn’t feel good enough at that moment. His pediatrician and the lactation consultants at Baby Café, said it could take upwards of another six weeks before I saw a drastic improvement in his stools and overall attitude.
As time went by, I was second guessing myself more, and more. I’d think to myself, am I eating the wrong stuff? Am I over-thinking his poop? Could there be another cause? I was feeling so out of my element. At his three month check-up, they still found microscopic traces of blood in his diarrhea. I was told to eliminate soy as well as dairy. The world of processed foods had instantly vanished. No more late night munchies of Oreos and milk, or quick take out from our favorite fast food joint. Convenience was a luxury, and I no longer had it.
I went another six weeks of trial and error. At this point, Ollie is now 4½ months old. I had become what I would consider a master at examining infant poop. This is not a title I’d want on my resume. My silver lining was that he was noticeably happier on a day to day basis. Other than his runny number twos, he was a perfectly happy and healthy baby. He was gaining a slow but steady amount of weight, which was the only thing keeping the doctors (and myself) happy.
I hit a rock wall, as I knew there was still something wrong with my baby. I was begging and pleading for answers. No one could tell me why he had diarrhea. I was fed up with his pediatrician. They told me to start solids and/or formula, even though I told them I want to exclusively feed him myself, and those were not currently an option for me. I begged for a GI specialist referral. I was referred to Dr. Izizarry in Brandon. She gave me three options: start solids, start a total elimination diet, or give formula.
Friends and family thought I was nuts. Who in their right mind would give up everything just to breastfeed their child? They tried to comfort me, and continue to support my decisions regardless of what I chose. After crying for what felt like forever, I went home and did my research on what foods I could do during a total elimination diet. I was determined to reach my goal, and to never give up. In the end, I felt that if I couldn’t make things right within my diet, how was a container of formula supposed to help? My milk was made especially for him.
I went approximately another six weeks slowly introducing one thing after another back into his diet. I hit numerous stand still periods, but continued forward. I brought back eggs, nuts, and wheat into my diet aside from my “safe” proteins and produce.
I saw only one improvement. He went from 10+ poops a day, to 3-5 a day.
I cried. I felt lost. I had given up everything, living off of lamb and veggies. Everyone around me could tell I was unraveling and continued to push formula on me. I knew they all had very good intentions, but I still resisted.
Last month, it came back that his older brother Keagan had mild allergies to cow’s milk, peanuts, eggs, and wheat. I decided that since we were still struggling to find the culprit for his digestion issues, that we’d resume a normal diet and only avoid his brother’s allergies, with the exception of soy.
I’m happy to announce, that even though I’m still clueless as to what has been causing mayhem on my baby’s belly, he’s doing much better. He’s gone roughly a month free of wheat, peanuts, eggs, dairy and soy. He has had normal bowel movements in this time frame, as well.
Due to my determination, and overly supportive group of friends, I’ve managed to stay on track. There’s now a light at the end of my tunnel, and I hope to make my goal of one year.
If I had struggled in silence, I likely wouldn’t have made it to my first six week milestone, let alone my six month milestone. Take it from me, find your support system to carry you through your struggles and keep you sane. I’ve had a large network of like-minded mothers to guide me through my journey thus far, and family to comfort me in moments I wanted to give up. Every hard decision I’ve made in the last six months, has been entirely worth it.
I’m Jennifer, a 25 year old mother of two amazing boys. Keagan is four years old, and Oliver will be one in September. I’ve been married five years now, and have grown up in the Brandon area. I am a sarcastic, laid back stay-at-home parent with a hectic lifestyle catering to my children and two rambunctious dogs. Each day I’m simply trying to survive the never-ending ride that is parenthood.