When I was pregnant with Ivy-Joan, I researched absolutely everything that I felt that I had failed with when I had TJ. I felt pretty confident about the whole thing if I’m honest, haha I was so wrong! I’d done it before and of course the sleepless nights were going to be exhausting, but it was totally manageable when I had TJ. It sounds silly to say this, because it’s so blatantly obvious, but every baby is different. However, I never truly realised exactly how different until Ivy-Joan arrived. Things I had learnt with TJ just didn’t apply to our little madam and I realise just how naive I had been about it all.
Ivy-Joan had been sicky since the day she was born. No matter how many times I said to family, friends, health visitors, GP’s about the amount she was sick, I was told it was normal. I knew something wasn’t right though. I gave up wearing perfume, or body spray, my new scent was “eau de baby sick”. Our wash baskets were never empty, they were full to the brim with Ivy-Joan’s clothes, muslin cloths, my clothes, and I swear down I washed Elliott’s dressing gown more times than I care to remember. I was told it wasn’t possible to overfeed a breastfed baby. That they would bring up what they didn’t want, and that she was obviously using me for comfort rather than for milk. I didn’t mind, I always loved the fact that breastfeeding didn’t seem like a chore this time round, no-one else could settle her, feed her, comfort her like I could. Ivy-Joan took to breastfeeding pretty well (unlike TJ). I will always be thankful to Nickelodeon and Paw Patrol for getting me through those first few weeks with two children.
Ivy-Joan has always been such a happy baby, settled easily, fed well. It was very rare for her to show signs of discomfort, other than when she was passing wind, it was so odd to see trumping causing pain. When she reached 6 weeks old, we were concerned that her milk spots still hadn’t settled, they were as red as the day she was born, her wind was causing more discomfort than ever, and although her nappy output was regular, it became green, mucousy, not like any poo I’d seen in a nappy before, and as a nursery nurse, I honestly thought I’d seen it all.
I continued to bring it up to my health visitor when she visited, would mention it to the community nursery nurses at baby clinic. They continually told me they had no concerns, the milk spots would settle eventually and because I had no evidence of the nappies (children never poo on cue do they, only when you want to leave the house, or when you’ve just put a clean nappy on them!), they didn’t see it as a problem, she was gaining weight well, she was meeting her milestones. On paper, to them, she was just a sicky baby.
I remember a feeling of utter helplessness. All different holds and patting, nothing would work. I would veer between what am I doing wrong for my baby to throw up so much, to selfishly thinking I cannot take anymore vomit today. Then, of course, I felt terrible guilt that I was neglecting my son, who up until a few weeks before had been an only child with his mum and step-dad’s full attention and now not only did he have a new sister, he had a poorly one who took up all of his mummy’s time. I am so grateful for friends and family over this time who helped us out.
It wasn’t the GP or even my Health Visitor that suggested what the problem might be. No, in the end it was good old Facebook. Some really helpful Mums on there suggested it might be CMPA. At this stage, she also had more of a rash all over face, which we initially thought was milk spots, but it turned out to be linked to her dairy allergy. At my 6 week check (at 10 weeks post partum) I mentioned the symptoms to the GP. And lo and behold, Ivy-Joan had pooed in front of a professional. The look on the GP’s face said it all, that was not normal. She suggested I remove all aspects of dairy from my diet and asked me to read up on Cows Milk Protein Allergy. I had never heard of this in my life. CMPA is the most common infant food allergy affecting 3-7% of infants worldwide. CMPA is an immune system response to one or both proteins, casein or whey.
I cut dairy from my diet immediately. It was terrifying, that anything I ate could affect my daughter. Did you know that dairy can be found in absolutely anything? Wine, crisps, ham, even the teething granules we bought for her contained lactose, which although she doesn’t have a lactose intolerance, there is a huge risk of contamination through them. The prospect seemed really daunting at first, we eat so much dairy in our foods and it’s hidden in everything. But, after 3 weeks the difference it made was incredible. Jojo became much more settled, her skin began to clear and she began putting on even more weight.
I lost the will to go to a supermarket, walk around and do the food shop. It would take me hours with all the label checking and I’d give myself anxiety attacks just thinking about the possibility of causing my daughter pain. Online shopping became my best friend, meal plans became routine just to ensure that I regularly had tea ready and dairy free, so that my shop rarely had to change. It’s become a lot easier to find foods I can eat, it doesn’t take me half as long to do the shopping anymore and I have been dairy free for Jojo now for 8 months. I could have easily put her onto a dairy free formula, but do you know what? I didn’t want to. And as her Mama, that’s my decision to make and stick to.
Breastfeeding is incredible.The bond I have with Ivy-Joan is amazing. I’ve been told so many times that ‘I’m lucky to breastfeed’. No I’m not. I’ve worked my ass off to provide the best nutrition for my baby. That’s not bashing, that’s science. I’ve battled sore, cracked and bleeding nipples, an oversupply in my left boob, thrush as well as facing the overwhelming anxiety that comes alongside feeding in public. That is not lucky, that is sheer determination, also known as stubbornness if you ask my darling other half.
I hope he’s proud of me. He knows how hard I’ve worked to achieve my silver boobs, 6 months of exclusively breastfeeding. Absolutely nothing else but booby milk until she turned 6 months old. And to continue to feed her now, at 10 months alongside solids. Yes I have made several sacrifices whilst breastfeeding, and some days I feel like all I am to our daughter is a pair of breasts, but I know that to her I am her comfort, her nourishment, her safe place, her mother.