My journey with breastfeeding has not been as easy one. In fact, almost to the day that it became easy, it became a whole lot harder.
I always knew I wanted to breastfeed, but to be honest I wasn’t looking forward to it or thinking of it as something that would be some amazing bonding experience.
But I couldn’t have been more wrong.
After quite a few lactation appointments, practice with a nipple shield (thanks flat nipples!), and a few days of excruciating pain (razor blades to my nipples pain), we got into a routine. Somewhere around 4 weeks, I started to look forward to our nursing sessions. It was 30-40 minutes of tenderness and quiet. I can’t quite explain it, and maybe a big part of it is hormonal, but I really started to enjoy it. The feeling of being needed, of nourishing her, watching her and stroking her hair. It just felt special.
Around 5 weeks I started noticing that her diapers went from normal breastfeed yellow color to a strange mucousy green color. At that same time she started to become inconsolably fussy. She would nurse, appear happy and then like clockwork, about 30 minutes later start to scream. Not a “I’m wet cry” but an “I’m in pain scream”.
After a few calls with her pediatrician I brought her in only to be told they thought it was maybe a virus, or something I ate that caused her to react like that. They reiterated she was doing okay, although her weight gain had slowed slightly. They noted that we should watch her skin – all along we were told she had “baby acne” but we should gently wash it a few times a day to hopefully help clear it up.
I left that appointment feeling like something still wasn’t right. On top of that, the fact that her weight gain slowed down made me terrified that maybe I wasn’t producing enough milk if she wasn’t gaining as fast anymore.
A week later, and many more mucousy diapers, and a lot of very bad days and I just knew. I won’t lie, everyone around me thought I was overreacting. It’s “colic” they said. In fact the morning I asked the Husband to drop off a diaper at her pediatrician to look again, he flat out said I was overreacting. But something in my gut knew, no this isn’t right.
An hour later they called. Blood in her diaper. They suspected – between her skin, the lower weight gain and the mucousy/bloody diapers that she had a milk intolerance. Different from an allergy or being lactose intolerant – just that at this point apparently she was having a hard time digesting milk protein.
And so committed to still breastfeeding, I gave up everything with dairy and soy. Soy because apparently most milk intolerances come with soy intolerances as well. It wasn’t just the obvious milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, etc. but I read every single label carefully. I quickly replaced my old Siggys yogurt with Almond milk yogurt. I started to eat plain meat, eggs, veggies and fruit and actually felt pretty great.
Brooklyn’s skin started to clear a little bit, but 5 days after starting we had probably the worst day of all. 7 hours of crying – again the high pitched, I’m in pain, inconsolable crying. So bad and so long her voice went completely hoarse. At her 5am feeding I couldn’t find it in me to nurse her again only to follow it with screams so I took out the hypoallergenic formula that I made sure we had on hand for emergency purposes. She gulped it down and went to sleep. And I cried, if you can call those deep sobs just crying, for four hours straight.
The next day we went back to the pediatrician and this time they said, well it could be eggs or tree nuts also, but the only way to know is to do a total elimination diet. Eat (real) turkey breast, white rice and carrots for two weeks to see but to know that it could take up to 8 weeks to fully get out of my system and then hers. That her diaper did still have blood, but she had gained weight and she did have a visible sore inside her anus, causing the blood, a result of her GI tract being pretty messed up.
I left that appointment feeling pretty sad. I think deep down I knew what was coming.
So for two days straight I ate nothing but turkey, carrots, and white rice. I was miserable. For the most part Brooklyn was miserable too, not taking a single nap during the days. And when she tried, she would wake up screaming in pain.
And so last night, I decided to sleep on the couch with her. We co-sleep anyway – a post for another time – but I wanted to be closer to her. To nurse her through the night, knowing deep down this was likely the end of my nursing her.
It was not a decision I made lightly. In fact, I’m still on the fence about it all but deep, deep down I know this makes sense and it’s what is best for both of us. I know, after feeding her formula and watching her laugh through tummy time and then drifting off into a peaceful nap, that this is best.
I have only a few weeks left with her before I go back to work. I want to enjoy this time with her. I don’t want her in pain because I slip up or accidentally eat something that hurts her. I don’t want to spend the next few weeks on an elimination diet, only to find it doesn’t work, and to find myself completely consumed by this all and missing out on all the so many other special moments. The doctor also recommended that we make sure if we do plan to use formula that this one works (which I knew when we went back to work we would supplement anyway) before we put her in daycare. They weren’t yet sure if she would potentially need a prescription for formula.
So this morning at 10am was the last time I nursed her. To say my heart aches thinking about not getting to nurse her again is an understatement.
8 weeks we made it.
And for now, I pump and dump. Ironically, it turns out my supply is just fine, more than fine actually. Slowly I’ll have to lessen my supply.
I feed her a bottle of formula, and put a smile on my face and look her in the eyes and tell her how much I love her. That she is my world. That she is smart, and kind and perfect.
But it’s the worst heartbreak I have felt. Ever. It’s the hardest I have cried, well, ever. I sob while washing the bottles and plastic nipples.
I know in time I will feel better about my decision. I know I’m a good Mom and that I love this girl more than anything in this world – and no longer breastfeeding doesn’t change that.
But right now, I can’t help but still feel guilty. Still feel like I could always somehow do more. The breastfeeding Nazis everywhere don’t help that. Most of all I’m just sad. I’m mourning the end of this relationship. The first of many ways in which I experience heartbreak when it comes to her.
And so I want to end this post by saying. Please never judge a Mom for her decisions when it comes to breastfeeding. Breast is best is thrown around so much, but ultimately, whether by breast, expressed milk or formula, just remember you’re still feeding your child with love.