Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Hindmilk / Dairy / Egg Experiment

Warning: this one's all about breastfeeding strategy.  Move on if you're not interested because it's full of boob jargon and specifics that will bore you if you're not in this phase of life.

At about four weeks old my Josephine changed.  Of course babies change all the time, but this was different.  She had become irritable and stiff, arching her back and stretching her neck like it was her job. Fussing, congested, making sad "I'm in pain" facing for a whole half hour before she would poop.  She kicked her legs and flaled her arms like she was struggling. It was emotional for this mama because I felt helpless, and nursing didn't seem to comfort her.

I really knew something was up when her poop turned dark green. Not like "poop-gree"n, but more like dark forest green.

I explained the situation to my online breastfeeding support group and got an overwhelming response from seasoned moms that these could be early signs of a food intolerance (such as dairy protein or soy protein). 

Then I got to googling and read an overwhelming amount of information about food sensitivities and baby allergies.  Since Penny (my toddler) never had any food issues, I always kind of thought they were over-diagnosed or and least overstated.  This blog post  by Robin at A Balanced Life Online really got me thinking though.  And not coincidentally, most of the moms I heard from in my breastfeeding group had eventually gone on an elimination diet, starting with dairy and soy.

Gah.  So overwhelming.  No dairy?? Soy??? reading the labels on every single food item?  And, it can take up to a whole month to get them out of your system completely and see changes in your baby's symptoms to confirm the hypothesis.

Hats off to you ladies who have done this.

But a few women said the green poop and tummy discomfort could be due to an imbalance in foremilk and hindmilk  (the milk at the front of the boob vs. the milk in the back of the boob, which baby gets at the end of a feeding.)   They also said that "oversupply" (producing more breastmilk than your baby needs) can cause babies to miss out on the good stuff in the back of the boob because their tummies are full before they get to it.  I have definitely had a little bit of oversupply going on up in here.  Hashtag placenta encapsulation.  So this really got me thinking too.

I didn't know where to start, but I knew I wanted Josie to feel better.

For the next week I didn't eat any obvious dairy (I say "obvious dairy" because I didn't read any labels, I just passed on cow's milk, cheese, cottage cheese and ice cream).  Almond milk in my cereal.  Blegh.

I also decided to make darn sure Josephine got herself some hindmilk every feeding.  I mostly accomplished this by forcing her to stay on one side until it was empty before letting her move on to the other side, and in the middle of the nights I pumped one side completely and only let her feed on the other for her 2-3 dream feeds.

Pretty much immediately, her poop was back to it's normal yellow/orange, and she was back to her calm happy self.

Since then, I still have been eating very little dairy (so much ice cream in my freezer calling my name... but I shall resist!), but I'm assuming she does not have a bonafide dairy protein intolerance because her symptoms would not have gone away so quickly after cutting down on dairy for just a few days.   However, the other day I ordered a decaf mocha at our local coffee shop and forgot to get it with almond milk instead of cow milk, and I will say that little miss Josie was pretty grumpy that night.... but it could have been the coffee, not the dairy.

I'm also assuming that the increase in her hindmilk consumption helped a lot.

Later I realized that her worst symptoms, that jump-started this whole frenzy, coincided with me eating a large helping of scrambled eggs for breakfast like three days in a row.  So a big part of me has the hunch that the real culprit was eggs.  I haven't eaten whole eggs since.  But I'm also not reading labels.

I'm probably going to eventually give in to one of my ice cream cravings, and that will confirm or invalidate the cow milk theory.  I'm going to some day probably eat eggs again with hopefully the same closure.  I'm going to keep making sure she gets her hind milk.

Until then, I hope my Josie (now seven weeks old) stays happy!

A lot of this is guesswork, but the takeaway is: what we eat definitely affects our babies.  Hats off to all you ladies out there who go on complete elimination diets for the wellbeing of your little ones.  Breastfeeders unite! 

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