Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nursing Naomi

originally published Jul 17, 2009 at 12:49 AM on Cafemom

I just wanted to get down the story, it was bouncing around my head as I was nursing her a little bit earlier....

So, nursing Lilly was/is pretty much a breeze. Sure, I had difficulties with pain, frustration, etc. until I was just about crazy with it all and only my determination kept me going, but I never once regretted nursing, not even when I was exhausted and in pain and afraid she wouldn't sleep and would wake me up and want to nurse on my sore side. I knew I was doing the best for both of us and just like I was promised, it got better. One day, it was like some magical switch flipped and the bad parts were just a fuzzy memory. But with all the issues, they complimented each other. She had a terrible latch, which should have made her not get milk, but her suck was so strong and my breasts were so eager to release their milk that she never wanted for any.

So, when I got pregnant again, I was confident with experience under my belt that I could face all the challenges coming my way. I had talked to moms with horrible nursing stories that ended poorly and thanked my lucky stars I hadn't had those problems.

Then I had Naomi. She was so sleepy that it was hard to get her to stay awake long enough to try to nurse. When she did finally nurse, it was weak and with a bad latch. Since I have large breasts, I can't feel letdown, so I had no idea if she was even getting milk. She tried to nurse maybe five times while we were at the hospital and lost less than her sister (who was in the hospital for three days instead of the one Naomi was there). The nurses knew I'd done well with Lilly and never brought up formula, even though I hadn't had a chance to tell them not to.

When I got home, I started getting worried... and then my husband went back to work only a few days post-partum. I was alone, tandem nursing my babies and getting worried about my little sleepy baby with the weak suck. She started arching, screaming and getting so upset she couldn't nurse at all.

Well, I was determined, so I broke down the problems into smaller problems. First, she needed to eat. She couldn't do that if she was screaming, so I went with Dr. Karp's 5 Baby S's before each feeding. I'd shush very loudly when she was crying at my breast and it would stop the crying instantly, she'd find the nipple and try to nurse.

Her mouth was so small and my breast was so big! I used the C-hold to overcome this, as it had taken me a long time that it was okay to do with Lilly. It is how I'm used to nursing. Those big boobs needed to be manageable for us both. Hands-free nursing is for side-lying an older baby or toddler at my size and I'm fine with that! The people teaching you to nurse make it sound like a rolled towel/blanket will solve everything when it does nothing but add an unnecessary, obnoxious step in the nursing process (at least, for me).

I worked on her latch/suck by having her suck on my finger, which she had no issue with (and which told me that bottles would be deadly to our nursing relationship, because they would be so much easier for her and she needed to learn to nurse what she had) and then quickly pull my finger out and offer the nipple. It took a week of doing this before I was able to stop, but it was successful in improving her latch and suck and she was growing strong and healthy, though it was her diapers I had to rely on to tell me that she was getting enough--she had about 12 wets a day, I knew she was doing good!

Nursing hurt my baby, because of my letdown. It was too hard for her. I tried having my toddler take the brunt of the first letdown, but that didn't help (it did, however, make it easier for baby to stimulate letdown in the early days when she was having trouble with her suck, to have her sister get it going first--I suppose I'd have hand-expressed, since a pump doesn't work for me, if I hadn't had Lilly to get things going... DH also volunteered, lol, bless him, he never got that opportunity ;) I needed time to heal!). She was textbook colicky, but I don't believe in untreatable colic.

Since the Baby S's couldn't work this problem out, I decided to assume it was gas and treat it accordingly. But when looking for the baby Gas-X, I found Hyland's Colic Tablets. They said that they were also helpful in relieving the pain from overactive letdown. I decided to give them a try.

It was like a miracle. The baby who had started arching and screaming at the sight of my breast was given two tablets and a few moments later, after I shushed her calm to latch, she was sucking--and all signs of pain vanished! Within a week, the arching/screaming cycle stopped! I forgot about the tablets and it resumed. I resumed them and it was gone. I would need them until she was about 3 1/2 months, but by then, all the other issues were long resolved.

My magic switch actually happened earlier with Naomi than it did with Lilly, at 6 weeks (Lilly's was 7 weeks). But I never would have made it if I hadn't been determined and believed in my body's ability to nourish my baby. There is little more heartbreaking than your baby screaming in fear at the sight of your breast, like you're trying to hurt her. I know that with her delicate stomach, anything else would have been even worse.

If I hadn't had the support and research I'd had for the past two and a half years, I don't know that I could have made it. Not knowing if my baby was getting enough and it looking like she couldn't possibly be getting any--but there were the diapers. There, I was reassured. Having my baby not know how to latch instinctively--that was terrifying and I was so depressed, I couldn't even bring myself to ask for help. I just kept going, doing what I'd been told should work and believing in it. Having her scream and arch--if I hadn't had the Happiest Baby techniques, I couldn't have got her semi-calmly to eat. The obvious signs of pain? I had to go with my gut and try something new (the Colic Tablets) and I was validated.

It was a hard start and with the depression, I also had serious bonding issues with my baby. But we persevered. We did it and I'm so proud to still be nursing Naomi. I wish I hadn't been so depressed I couldn't bring myself to call my friends for help when I desperately needed it, but I still did it because I believed. And I have no regrets and a good bond with my baby, as delayed as it was in coming. I'm so grateful for the friends I've had and the support I've had and the resources available to me.

Addendum: Naomi self-weaned at 2.5 years old in July of 2011. It may have been partly influenced by pregnancy, but I offered and she refused for about a week or two before I stopped offering and realized that she was done. I am happy with our nursing relationship and the natural end it found. I am sad that I have no pictures of her nursing after she turned 2.
A Little Bit of All of It Preparing for Birth Series

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"I Want My Body Back"

"I want my body back."

Those words have been spoken by more pregnant and/or nursing mothers than I think anyone can ever count. I don't understand it.

If I say those words, I'm going to be talking about my body from February, 2007, when I was the thinnest I've been in decades. Although, sans the faulty gallbladder, thanks. At that time, I was exclusively nursing my firstborn.

Why wouldn't I want to look like this again?
Now, I know what is meant by those words, but for me, I suppose, it's either not an issue or I just disagree that cessation of nursing and/or pregnancy will provide that. I've been pregnant and/or nursing for over 6 years. I've been postdates twice. Neither of those babies caused me a great deal of anxiety to hasten their arrival. With my first, I wanted to stop being pressured into induction and I wanted to meet my baby. I did not want her to come before she was ready, however. With my third, I just wanted a break from prodromal labor and symphysis pubis dysfunction. I actually wanted her to stick around long enough to be a Sagittarius (not that I don't totally love my little Scorpio).

10 months: Lillyanna
Nursing Lilly

But once they were out, that didn't mean that I would magically stop nurturing my baby. Even if I had chosen to bottle feed, my baby still would have been dependent on me for everything for the next six months minimum (at which point, she could at least put food in her own mouth, though it wasn't for sustenance, still) and still dependent on me for the next... oh... eighteen years or so. I suppose a child becomes independent around 16, when they can get a job. Although, since they can't rent an apartment or get married without an adult, maybe not.

39 weeks, 5 days: Naomi

Nursing Naomi
Sure, my kids won't be physically dependent on me that long. They learn to wipe their own butts around 18-24 months around here and Lilly could use the toilet without my help at all when she was 2 (Naomi still likes a boost up from time to time and sometimes her clothes frustrate her when she waits too long). They could walk by a year, crawl by 8 months, no longer totally dependent on me for moving around.  Lilly has been able to make her own food and feed her sister, minimally, since she was 4. They still need me to make most food (especially anything particularly complicated) and will for quite some time. They still need hugs and affection. They need me to hold their hands in parking lots and carry them in bad weather.

10 Months: Katarina

Nursing Kat
My body has never stopped being mine. Not when I nursed or grew a child or my husband was handsy as a 15 year old boy with a hooker. Once the kids are done with them, my boobs certainly aren't going back to being ignored or simply ogled. My husband is biding his time until the day he can declare they're all his alone again. And I can't describe how much I miss the feeling of a baby poking around in my womb (though I don't miss the SPD, contractions, peeing every 15 minutes, food aversions, etc. etc. of course).

My body is mine. I'm simply sharing it. Maybe it's because I'm an extrovert, but there's a sadness, to me, at the thought of being alone in here again. This post was inspired by the one by Jessica for the Carnival of Weaning because what she said spoke volumes to me, even though I've only been nursing for half a decade. I won't necessarily be sad to be done nursing--I've been happy with both my nursing and weaning relationships thus far. But being done with pregnancy does sadden me, but more, I'll be a very sad mama the day our nest empties for good.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Musing on Baby Devices

Now, since you know I'm an attached mommy, the first thing I have to say before getting into this is that I own two double strollers, two exersaucers, a jumperoo, a baby bucket, a bouncy chair and a bassinet. So: hackles down, I'm not one of the extremists who thinks that all devices are evil detachment machines.

Exersaucers: letting moms shower and cook since... uh, whenever they were invented!

However (yes, you knew that was coming), just as there are people who are vehemently against any kind of gadget, there are, sadly, far, far more who overuse the baby gear. I read in one article that the average American baby is in arms for only 3 hours a day. This is not acceptable. Babies need to be held--that is not an opinion, nor a theory, it is a fact.

How does this happen? Well, first, the baby wakes in his crib, then is transferred to a bouncy chair after getting a clean diaper. Baby is given a bottle and often, that bottle is propped (a deadly practice). Baby is then moved to a swing while Mom catches up with the housework or desperately takes some social time on a network (as I write this, my baby is sleeping on my chest, her ear resting on my heart--keeps her asleep the longest). Then if Mom has some errands to run, baby is moved to a bucket carseat, where they will likely spend the next few hours. At the store, the bucket is placed in the cart (or, unsafely in the child seat on the cart) and then returned to the car. At friends' houses, baby stays in the seat most of the time. Then back home and either remaining in the bucket or into the bouncer, swing, pack and play, bumbo, crib (if it's nap time) or exersaucer. Older baby may spend some time in a high chair with some solid food play. Tummy time on a mat on the floor. Back to the crib for bed.

Even if mom breastfeeds, baby may only be held marginally longer if she goes from crib to device in between feedings. There is also fallout from all this time in these contraptions: plagiocephaly.

These devices were invented for our convenience, but like many tools, they are often abused. What is the solution?

Pay attention to how long baby is in the device. If you need to clean, set a timer for 15 minutes (assuming baby doesn't have his own internal timer!) and do what you can't do with baby strapped to you (laundry, picking up, etc.). Save vacuuming, sweeping and mopping for after (since you probably already logically do!) and pick a comfortable baby carrier (a wrap is my preference or a mei tai, but slings are well-loved and there are many other carriers, too!), put baby in it and sweep, mop, etc. Not only will you be giving baby valuable contact, but you'll burn more calories if you're looking to lose pregnancy weight (or, if you're like me, the extra from before pregnancy).

My second child riding in the mei tai, picture by my mom

Shopping is another time to use a baby carrier. Personally, I am uncomfortable shopping without one with my pre-mobile babies. Sometimes I want to walk five feet away from the cart without dragging it into the aisle (especially a busy one!) with me and I can't leave it behind if there's a baby in it.

Car seats are for the car. I know how tempting it is to bundle baby under a blanket into the store in a cold snap, but trust me when I say baby is warmer if you take them out of the seat in the warm car and stuff them under your jacket to get into the store. You're warmer, too, by the way! If you must use the bucket (my first loved hers and spent probably too much time in it), if your baby gets upset, take them out. Find a place to sit for a few moments and feed the baby! Yes, it drags out the trip, but it's better for you both to take those moments to reconnect. Plus, non-vehicular time in car seats is considered one of the highest risk factors for flat head syndrome.
January 2, 2009; 20-some degrees outside and we were quite toasty!
Baby swings. Why are these so popular? Because babies like to be in motion. It simulates the way they spent the first 9 months of their lives! The problem with baby swings is that it's very easy for baby to sleep in them and then not want to sleep anywhere else. Now, for some babies, that may just be what you have to do, but with most, if they want to rock, it's better to do it in your arms or in a baby carrier and then set them down on a safe sleep surface (or wear them while they sleep! I get a lot more writing in when doing that, because she will stay asleep longer). Swings are still great for getting a few minutes, but like bouncy chairs and exersaucers, they should be used a limited amount of time. Plus, the less often they are used, the more likely they are to continue entertaining baby if you have something come up that needs your attention for longer than normal.

Tummy time. Now, when baby's doing it later and trying to crawl, they'll need to be on the ground, but early on, when you're just playing anyway, you can start with baby on your tummy. The same muscles will be worked, but it could not only make it more fun, but the babies who hate tummy time might feel different when they're lying on Mommy! Breasts make a wonderful boppy substitute, but not having any is no deterrent!
Awesome dads can participate!
Baby holders surely have their place. I love my double stroller for safe walks or the zoo (or places that might be crowded, especially if I have a runner). My exersaucer lets me cook and take showers (well, not with my high-needs middle baby, but my third will happily play in it while I get to feel human again). Bouncy chairs are a lifesaver for babies with GERD or those who just like to sleep in a more upright position while you're doing things that you need to do with your arms and chest free.

An argument can be made that baby carriers are a device, but that's just nitpicking. You don't have to eschew all baby devices to be an attached parent and even if you're not interested in attachment parenting, there is no ethically-supportable reason for your baby to spend more than a few hours in baby devices (this does not include their sleeping areas, such as the crib or bassinet, when they are asleep).

Be mindful that baby gets enough loving physical attention. It shouldn't need to be said that this is a necessity, not a want and vital to good health. Babies who are not held are at risk for all sorts of psychological issues. In fact, it's been found that babies that are not held, snuggled and nuzzled enough can stop growing and in severe cases, even with proper nutrition, they can die. The fact that this data exists is enough of a prompt to comment that babies need to be held (though the data comes from orphanages, which are unlikely to be reading my blog).

There is also a field of study that all this time in objects may be affecting healthy developmental milestones. Some experts say that placing a baby in an object that assists them into being in a position they are not capable of getting into on their own (a newborn should not be assisted to sit, for instance and walkers are pretty well known for being dangerous now, though that is more about accidentally falling down stairs) will interfere in their normal development.

I think it's ridiculous to totally shun them. "Pushing a stroller is pushing your baby away," is, in my opinion, extremist and ridiculous. Ignoring your crying baby in the stroller is bad, but pushing a happy, safe baby around (and having a place to stick the diapers [or potty for the diaperless crowd] and purse, etc.) is not going to make your baby think that you don't love them. Sticking them in the seat of the cart once they're big enough is not rejecting them (heck, it's the only way I can nurse while walking through a store). You can follow your baby's cues and use devices responsibly.

There is a lot to think about, but I think the most important thing is to remember this: A baby is only a baby for three years, anthropologically. They are only a baby by our society's standards for about 12-18 months. That is a tiny part of our lives, but such an important one for them. Finally, it's time you can't get back. I don't think I've heard a mother say, "I wish I'd held my baby less," or "I wish I'd spent less time with my baby." Baby devices steal that time from us (unless you're a super mom who only ever uses them while actively interacting with your baby! Kudos if you are! That's certainly not what they're designed for, regardless of the images on the boxes). They should be given as little time to do that as we can manage.

I've heard so many older mothers entreat younger mothers to remember that it will be over all too soon and not to get wrapped up in everything else, because you can't get it back. We need to remember that advice. Our babies should be in our arms or against our body as much as possible and in plastic as little.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Musing on the Time Cover and Attachment Parenting

Everyone else is, so I guess it's time to blog my bit as well (Bridge? Why that one looks quite lovely to jump from!). I've been posting other bloggers' articles all day (thinking I wouldn't want/need to write this) and I think I'll start with linking to some of my favorites (just because you aren't here doesn't mean I didn't love your article--it might just mean I haven't had a chance to read it yet!):

First, the interview with the cover model

An interview with my friend, fellow (better) bloggess and one of the other mothers who was in the photo shoot

Her post on Huffpost.

Another interview with said friend:

An article by Daniél at Three House Wives

An anthropologist's take on the issue.

This article by Phil Giannotti on Attachment Parenting.

This post was originally a facebook status before being expanded, by the wonderful Lindsay!

This photo, taken by The Heady Housewife, shows that the cover image is a kind of optical illusion, making the boy look far older than he is. Her son in this picture is younger than two years old:

Tales From A Kitchen Witch shows that Time perpetuates a sizist notion of beauty:

A response to the title by hobomama.

What about the Daddy Wars? Charlie (awesome lady I'm proud to know) writes.

Interview with Mayim Bialik, one of my favorite attached celebrity moms:

And a response on FB via photos that I enjoyed (which is where the cat picture at the top came from as well):
Now, the article was supposedly on Attachment Parenting. I don't know, as due to their tactics, I have no interest in buying the magazine and supporting the fuel they've added to the "Mommy Wars" that simply should not exist. Instead, it's all become about breastfeeding and specifically, full-term (also known as 'extended', but I don't like that term as it implies that it is abnormal when it is the biological norm) nursing because of the cover.

So, people are talking. Some of it is good, honest curiosity. Like the majority of moms, I had no intention of nursing a three year old, much less a four year old! My initial plan was to nurse for a year or so, then give my toddler pumped milk in a sippy until she was two. Ha! First, I don't respond well to the pump, so it's from the tap or almost none at all. I thought it would be weird to nurse someone who could talk about it. Then I got the first, "Mmm, ice cream!" and all of that went away (I was eventually informed that the other produced fruity milk while the ice cream breast tasted like various confections).

Like Dionna said (and I've said and many other mothers have said), you don't wake up one day and have a two year old (well, you do, but that kidlet doesn't look any different than she did the day before or the week or month before). It seems strange, looking down at a twelve month old and knowing that some people think that's too old to nurse. That's a baby! I didn't even notice a difference in nursing a one year old versus a six month old, or an eighteen month old versus an eight month old.
My opinions slowly changed as my baby aged and I became more comfortable with nursing (I once thought I wouldn't be able to bear to do it at all), being a mother and the biology and science of it all. As I became better educated, was more exposed to other nursing mothers and watched my children grow, I knew that all that I thought I'd 'known' before just wasn't so. At least, not for me and my family.

We practice child-led weaning. From solid introduction (where the baby feeds herself based on signs of readiness) to the end of nursing, I follow many cues. With Lilly, the final indication that our relationship was ending was her losing her latch. She couldn't get milk and I had an aversion to nursing her. We talked about it and she stopped. It was more mutual than child-led (Naomi weaned on her own a few months later--I kept offering and she just slowly stopped). 
From baby
to toddler
to our last nursing photo, when she was 4
(Sadly, I don't have any photos of Naomi nursing after she turned two--I had camera issues during that time and was busy writing a book and gestating Katarina)

What are the benefits of nursing a toddler or preschooler? Much the same as nursing a baby, only to different degrees. Nutrients in milk becomes more concentrated as Mom's body senses the child's increasing needs and becomes extra loaded during natural weaning, preparing the child to be on his own, immunologically and nutritionally. It's not full nutrition anymore, but more like a dose of vitamins with immunity information in the stem cells. It's still comforting, reconnecting and contrary to popular old wives' tales of the day: it encourages healthy independence. There has been no upper age limit found on the benefits of nursing--they continue stacking. You can read more here.
The age children reach independence (not true independence, of course, as for that, you have to be able to hold down a job, pay bills, etc. -- you certainly can't expect independence from someone who can't wipe their own posterior!) depends on the child. Their personality plays a lot in it, but studies have shown that nurture is also very important. A child whose needs are consistently met is more confident and secure in their independence. They also may reach it sooner (but I think that has more to do with temperament--a clingy baby is likely to be a clingier child regardless of nurturing). I have two very independent little girls and I do believe my parenting, which nurtured attachment and respect has a lot to do with that, particularly with my oldest.

As for Attachment Parenting--what is it? Well, it's about creating an environment for your baby that supports healthy attachment (hence the name). It is the 7 Baby B's, for starters. But that's just a rough guideline, not some set of rules. A mother who cannot nurse can still easily practice attachment parenting. As can parents who do not feel comfortable having baby in bed with them (cosleeping in a crib is a wonderful second choice!). Also, mothers who cannot handle the strain of babywearing on their body, for whatever reason. It's not a competition. It's not a club. It's simply based on the most natural ways to care for a baby that supports the health (physiological and psychological) of an infant, toddler, etc. 

Technically, full-term nursing is not even a part of attachment parenting! It's a part of Natural Parenting, which is complimentary, but not the same thing. Cloth diapering, elimination communication, baby led solids/weaning, etc. are all Natural Parenting and not AP--they are lumped together because they are agreeable. You can read more about what AP is not here.

I am so sad to see that people are flocking to denigrate parents who are simply trying to follow their instincts and do what they feel is right for their family. I am sad that the "Mommy Wars" even exist or that so many people seem so quick to join the ranks and take up arms. I hope that people can put aside their prejudices and try to use this as a learning experience instead of falling into cultural xenophobia.

We need our sisterhood back, as mothers. We need to remember that which connects us all as mothers: love. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Musing on Elimination Diets

Ahh, the elimination diet. The first thing that many moms suggest when someone's baby has so much as a painful toot. We Americans are obsessed with food. Some with eating it, some with not eating it. It's become the most popular trend in 'crunchy' circles to blame everything on food and insist everything can be cured with it. A lot of people have great success and improved health discovering what they are intolerant or allergic to and removing it from their diet and that's great. Others seem to be nothing but miserable and even unhealthier while on their special diets and eventually abandon them for their sanity.

This has trickled down to babies at the breast. For some babies, an elimination diet is a lifesaver--both for the baby and his parents! However, when it's the go-to for pretty much any upset tummy or rash, are we doing more harm than good?

Courtesy stockxchng

Many studies have come out in recent years that suggest that our clean, sterile environments and avoidance of allergens may be contributing to (or causing!) our poor health here in the US. For instance, a study of babies who ate peanuts earlier in infancy vs. those who wait until after a year as guidelines have recommended showed that the babies with earlier exposure are less likely to be allergic to peanuts! Autoimmune diseases are being linked to clean (sterile) environments, calling for an end to things like Clorox wipes. Pets, once considered a cause of childhood allergies, are now suggested to actually reduce the risk by over half (and kids raised on farms have less allergies, too).

Children learn about the local diet that they are going to be eating through amniotic fluid that they sample in the womb and the milk they drink at mother's breast. It makes sense, then, that places that have diets heavy in fish, such as Japan, have nearly no fish allergies (something I envy, as salmon, tilapia, sardines and several other fish all slam my throat shut like an angry teenager's bedroom door) and announcing you have such an allergy leads the people there to wonder how you can even live, as surely, you must starve if you can't eat fish! So, what does it do to a nursling's expectation for a mother to drastically change her diet to something that does not reflect what the child will grow up eating (or eat when grown up)?

courtesy stockxchng
Now, moving past studies into my own personal experience. My first daughter, Lilly, had a lot of gas. "She could toot so loud," I joked, "that the neighbors blamed the dog." Her poop was nuclear green and on and off frothy. She spit up a lot. A lot. There were few to no signs of pain, but still, I thought that I didn't want my daughter to be ill, so I considered a dairy elimination. Then I considered all the new information about exposure being related to a reverse allergenic response and I decided to try the opposite: I increased my dairy consumption. Of all things, her symptoms disappeared.

I should note that at the same time, I also started adjusting for my overactive letdown/oversupply. Her poop remained green (I did not produce much foremilk, however, I believe due to my poor hydration habits), but she still had no signs of pain, the frothiness disappeared and the gas even took a step back. So, clearly, her problem was not dairy.

With my second, I didn't even think of food allergies when confronting her myriad of nursing problems. I got through them all without ever touching on the subject.

With my most recent, Kat, again, I was looking at a baby who had the symptoms of a dairy intolerance (these, by the way, are also the symptoms of overactive letdown, which is a known problem for me, so I took that into account). When blood appeared in her green, mucousy stool and she cried in pain at every bowel movement (and quite a few toots) while breaking out in an unexplained rash, I decided that I would try an elimination diet.

While I was doing this, I also worked on my overactive letdown and started pumping off some of my early milk to slow the flow (and noted that my foremilk/hindmilk was well balanced). I also forced her to block feed (she was quite opposed, but eventually allowed me to do this). The blood vanished from her stool and it started appearing seedy and turning butter yellow while losing the foul smell.

For the rash, I took all of her clothes and rewashed them in the detergent that I use for myself (Era). Voila, the rash disappeared (it recently reappeared and now I believe it was either a reaction to cinnamon or clove, as that was heavily present in my diet when the first rash appeared as well as the new one--but she also tried on clothes that were washed in the original rash-giving detergent, too! Oy!). Her diaper rash problem was solved by adding baby powder to our diapering routine.

My elimination diet was a failure, however, as I did not realize that my coffee creamer had dairy in it! I had switched without checking, as the other creamer I had been using was dairy free, so it didn't occur to me. None of her symptoms remained or returned when I reintroduced regular dairy back into my diet.

With Kat's symptoms, an elimination diet was even recommended by my pediatrician and was most definitely warranted. However, it turned out that it was not caused by a food allergy, but rather, my milk ejection reflex and laundry detergent. Had I only attempted the elimination diet, she would have continued suffering.

Right now, it seems that the first (and often only!) answer given to any nursing mother with a baby displaying digestive issue symptoms is to eliminate food. Dairy, soy, wheat, corn, eggs... there are lists available to check off one food after another in an attempt to find what's wrong with the baby. Personally, I think that LCs (no matter how many letters precede those two) need to remember to bring up other common problems as well. "Food sensitivities in breastfed babies are not nearly as common as many breastfeeding mothers have been led to think." -- Kellymom.

Elimination diets are a great tool for babies who truly do have sensitive systems, but more than simply gassiness or fussiness must be present before we go recommending that Mom cuts out what may be one of the primary sources of protein for her (we're talking milk, cheese, yogurt--all of that and more, for a dairy elimination). A dairy intolerance is not 'lactose intolerance,' but rather, difficulty processing cow milk protein.

First, as far as straining and pain with passing gas and stool: babies have to learn basically everything. That includes how to fart and poop. They do not know how to relax their sphincter and often get in their own way attempting to simply eliminate. This can cause pain and frustration. Typically, it's outgrown after a few weeks and they learn to relax instead of fighting to have a bowel movement or pass gas.

Green poop: This can be a sign of a lot of things, from allergy to letdown to hindmilk/foremilk imbalance. All of these should be considered. Blood in the stool can be caused by all of these problems as well. The position in the stool tells you whether it's internal (inside the poop, meaning it got there before being passed) or anal (outside the poop--caused by anal fissures from straining).

Symptoms of food intolerance include: fussiness and crying for extended periods, sudden waking accompanied by cries indicating pain, rash (particularly a red ring around the anus--how I identified a food allergy to strawberries in my first and spinach and broccoli in my second), hives, eczema, congestion, vomiting and unusual stools (green, mucousy and/or bloody). These area also all symptoms of other problems, so experimentation may be needed.

If baby displays these symptoms within four to twenty-four hours of you eating a new food, there's a good chance that baby is experiencing a reaction to the food. Usually, symptoms will pass within a few hours if it is a new food. Symptoms that are ongoing indicate a regular food in mom's diet.

In closing, my thoughts are that while elimination diets have their place, like any other treatment or tool, they can and are being abused by well-meaning mothers and their breastfeeding counselors. I think that starting an elimination diet without real symptoms (just over normal baby developmental issues) is not the best idea and may actually be doing baby a disservice when it is used as a first recourse. 

I am not calling for an end to elimination diets--far from it. Babies who are diagnosed 'lactose intolerant' (a pet peeve of mine) or 'allergic to human milk' (flat out impossible, however while galactosemia and similar conditions obviously exist, they are not an 'allergy') would definitely benefit from mom figuring out what it is in her milk that is causing the reaction. And mothers are good at identifying that something is 'wrong' (far better than society gives them credit for). These are just my observations that I wanted to share as an alternative 'food for thought.'

Did an elimination diet help your baby? Did you try one and have it fail? Did you wish that you had been given more options?