The Uncomfortable Topic of – (gasp!) – Breastfeeding a Protein Intolerant Baby

Manimal BottlesAnyone who has known me for any number of years… ehem, weeks… OK, days… can tell you I struggle with the sin of a critical spirit. For example, when the hubs and I were first married, I had a big hissy fit because he scraped the bumper of our car on the road while backing out of a steep driveway. When he did this, I was not merciful and patient, and I was downright mean – over what? A twenty-year-old car that my coworkers called the “drug-dealer car” (because it was that ugly – and cops apparently agreed, because I got pulled over all the time – even when I wasn’t breaking any laws. Ugly-car profiling, I tell ya!). Anyway, the very next day, I drove the same said car into our other car. Yup. And The Hubs was sitting right next to me in the passengers seat. And guess who was very patient and merciful. Yup, The Hubs.

And that’s how God often deals with my critical spirit. By putting me in the same situation that I had at one time judged others…

So, you’ve probably figured it out, but I used to judge mothers who had decided to stop breastfeeding – c’mon – didn’t they care about their babies to give them the very best?! I may not have said anything to their face, but I sure questioned women when they chose to formula feed – even when they had good reasons like their milk supply was low, or their baby never latched correctly. And like the old saying goes, you are the best parent you will ever be before you have children.

I was the best breast-feeder I ever was before I had a baby.

Before having Lil Z, I had researched breastfeeding, and had talked to a lot of other moms who had done it. I was excited for it. I knew it was the best thing for my baby, and I was not going to be one of those mom’s who didn’t care about my baby enough to do it (insert critical, haughty-sounding voice here).

But then Lil Z arrived, and I actually put all my research into practice. And, it didn’t go so well. Actually, that’s an understatement. Don’t listen to what the boob Nazi’s say – breastfeeding hurts. It really, really hurts, at least in the beginning. Even when you do it right – it can hurt. And that’s what happened to me.

I worked with a lovely lactation consultant, Marjie, several times, but it never stopped hurting. After several sessions, we established he was “doing” it right – latch, suck, and so on. There shouldn’t have been that much pain – but there was. Marjie suggested I see my doctor about checking for thrush, because even though I didn’t exhibit any physical signs of thrush, I had described the pain of thrush (i.e. it felt like battery acid had been poured on my… ah, chest).

So, I saw the nurse practitioner at my OBGYN’s because my doctor was on vacation. She glanced at my chest and said I didn’t have thrush, and I should just stop breastfeeding. But I was too embarrassed to tell her that I couldn’t afford formula because I was no longer working (and this was before we knew he would need a hypoallergenic formula!). I had to make this breastfeeding thing work.

So I went back to Marjie, who was livid with the nurse practitioner. Marjie advised me to call my doctor and explain the situation. A doctor in the practice prescribed a topical powder (my doc was still on vacation, apparently), which helped ease the pain and make nursing tolerable. Z went on an anti-fungal medicine also. But the pain, although lessened, continued. It persisted the entire time we breastfed – 14 months (I would have quit exactly at 12 months, but the kid kept waking at night, and wouldn’t fall back asleep no longer how long I ignored him – but that is a story for another time).

By the time Z was four or five months, I was ready to call my insurance company, or the closest WIC clinic to see if I qualified for formula assistance. But I kept reading about how some PI babies never tolerate any formula, and it scared me – Lil Z was so sensitive, that I’m fairly certain he would have bounced from formula to formula in our quest to find one that “worked.”

Saying I hated breastfeeding is putting it mildly. I loathed it. But I was trapped. So Lil Z and I continued. It was rarely sweet bonding time like I’d heard about from so many women. It was uncomfortable and painful – made even more depressing by the fact that I couldn’t eat the things I really wanted.

So by the time I had worked up the courage to even have a second child, I dreaded breastfeeding so much, that I considered putting Manimal on formula right out of the gate. But I knew that was illogical. I had to at least try. Because… well, I understood breastmilk was the best food for a baby, so who was I to rob him of that if we could make a go of it? And what if he was PI, just like Lil Z had been, and no formula worked for him?

But this time… it worked. Well, other than the fact that I had to modify my diet again. But now I knew what I was doing. I could eat sorbet if I wanted ice cream, and Enjoy Life’s chocolate when I wanted a Hershey Bar. Don’t get me wrong. I was thrown into the PIT of despair when I realized that Manimal was protein intolerant, just like Z was. But, once I got over this, and the “mourning” of my half-and-half in my coffee (it’s weird, but that is what I really missed the most), I realized that Manimal and I were having the sweet bonding moments I had never experienced with Lil Z. It wasn’t as painful, and it was much more… natural.

At eight months, to my regret, Manimal went completely on formula. I had gone back to work full-time when he was two months, but due to my weird work schedule (which resulted in random pumping and missed meals) my milk began to dry up, and I just couldn’t keep up with him. After trying to increase my supply with extra pumpings and fenugreek, Manimal resorted to biting (hard!) and it was time to transition to formula. Luckily for us, Manimal was much less sensitive than his older brother had been, and he tolerated Nutramagin.

I don’t regret continuing to breastfeed Z, even though I hated it more than a lot of things I’ve ever had to do. I know it helped him, and and he rarely was sick (other than the whole, horrible acid reflux, PI thing!). But would I breastfeed again through pain like that? Probably not…

I do regret not being able to breastfeed Manimal longer. He is a sweet baby who loves to snuggle. Nursing him was really precious bonding time, and sadly, I feel like I missed out on some sweet moments those last few months.

And I guess what I am saying to you is that breastfeeding might be really, really tough right now, especially if you can’t eat the things you want, or it hurts. And I totally get it if you want to quit – I completely understand if you do. I truly do. But if you do decide to keep breastfeeding, it may be tough, but you won’t regret it in the end. And if you decide that you are quitting, just know that I certainly won’t judge or scold you for choosing formula – because sometimes life just is what it is. And nursing a PI baby is very, very hard.

Here are some verses that helped me keep my sanity while dealing with Lil Z, his reflux and breastfeeding:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

The Lord has an ultimate plan for you, your baby and your family. You simply need to ask and wait; and He will guide you in the right decision to continue or quit breastfeeding.

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2 thoughts on “The Uncomfortable Topic of – (gasp!) – Breastfeeding a Protein Intolerant Baby

  1. Amanda

    God put you in my path today. I’m nursing 7 month old twins and it is HARD. Backstory: I nursed my first child for 7 months before switching to formula because we just couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him and he seemed to do better on formula. Many months of screaming-in-pain later, we figured out he had food allergies. But then, they’re not really food allergies because his offending foods just makes him scream in pain hours later and go mentally crazy for a few days. He’s a PIC and since figuring it out, we have a healthy, happy and growing boy now. The twins, they aren’t doing too hot when I eat dairy or much bread or anything top 8… but this time around we know what we’re dealing with and nursing is going MUCH better. Thanks for this post, and your blog.

    Reply

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