The 2020 World Breastfeeding Awareness Month and Black Breastfeeding week just finished (in August), and I had to pay homage and write about my breastfeeding experience. The good (bonding with the baby, etc.), the bad (mastitis) & the ugly (a baby with a dairy intolerance & food sensitivities).
Adeline has been drinking the mom milk for almost ten months now, and I have to say, I am fortunate that I love breastfeeding (and I am shameless about it). At this point, I will breastfeed wherever and whenever she wants it.
No apologies here. I could totally join a hippie commune and walk around all day with no top nursing my child (since COVID hit, I have kind of been doing that anyway).
Sadly, there is so much taboo around breastfeeding, especially in the Black Mom community. Whether people choose to do it or not, love it or hate it; where they do it; or whether they do it for two months or two years, there is judgment. It is a bit tragic as breastfeeding offers significant benefits to your baby. I write as an unapologetic breastfeeding momma, giving major kudos to all the moms out there feeding their babies, breast or not: Cuz, either way, it's hard work to nourish a child.
How to describe breastfeeding?
A friend once told me,"breastfeeding is one of the most natural, unnatural things in life,"
and she is 100% right.
Learning how to breastfeed as a new mom is crazy. It’s pain and it's pleasure (endorphins released from the brain for both mommy and baby); it takes a lot of the time; it is uncomfortable AF; it requires work and long hours. Many of us have to get extensive consultation to figure out how to do it right, and the pain that comes with figuring it out is crazy, from cracked, bloody nipples to engorged blocked ducts. It makes you sweat, it messes with your hormones, it drains you of energy, but at the same time, it gives life (to you and the baby). Babies do the funniest things when trying to find the breast; they claw at you like little animals, bite you and pinch, and even bang their heads against their cushiony softness. Yes, it's weird.
Breastfeeding is weird. Period.
Despite all that, the feelings that come from feeding your baby in this way are incredible — relief, wonderment, joy, awe. I selfishly relish our little world together developing our unbreakable bond.
Alternatively, breastfeeding is not for everyone; as I said before, it is hard work. It took many lactation consultations, La Leche League mom-support group meetings, and Youtube tutorials to find my breastfeeding groove. As a first-time mom, I was determined and finally, Adeline had latched on and was eating like a champ. Unfortunately, the breastfeeding saga raged on.
It turns out; she had a dairy intolerance and food allergies. Something I was eating was causing her a sh$t ton of discomfort. It was heartbreaking to watch.
At certain times of the day (usually when she needed to poop), she would scream and writhe with pain. She had blood in her stool, which was the number one indicator she had some sort of food allergy, and she wasn't just a colicky baby. I was distraught and went into problem-solving mode (that's what I do when I am upset, basically distract myself with finding a solution, I couldn't just sit by and do nothing). I read everything I could and tried to get as many opinions as possible.
One Pediatrician said that her digestive system was still developing because she was born a few weeks early. Another said she had a tongue-tie and was sucking in too much air, causing gas. She didn't have a tongue or lip tie, but it all seemed very doomsday at the time. We tried probiotic drops, colic drops, and even a baby chiropractor (it was like an adorable little baby massage). Whatever it was, her digestive system was working overtime. The only thing that seemed to make it less severe was if I avoided certain foods, that and, holding her like a football with her legs and arms straddled around our forearms. We would lean over and swing her back and forth like a pendulum (the pressure and gravity pulling on her belly helped digestion), and she would scream on and off for a few hours clutching our arms as tight as she could — our poor baby.
I almost quit breastfeeding altogether, but it did get better, as per the Doctor's recommendation, I cut out milk, dairy products, soy, eggs, corn & corn starch (and as a result, every yummy food ever made). It felt near impossible.
It was basically the Whole 30 diet (without the benefits of losing a lot of weight) because my new regimen consisted almost entirely of straight carbs; non-dairy bread, rice, pasta, fruits. I found it difficult to find things that I could eat; milk, soy, and corn starch are in EVERYTHING.
The good news, the blood in her stool had stopped, and she was gaining weight no-problem, and I was happy I could still breastfeed.
Fast-forward to now, she is fine!
Since she started eating solids, something just changed. Slowly, I started reintroducing dairy into my diet (oh, how much I missed cheese and cookies), and I still breastfeed her 4-5 times per day; when she wakes up, before her two naps, before bed, and in the middle of the night for a dream feed.
I am not exactly sure how much longer I will breastfeed. I wouldn't mind a bit more freedom, and if COVID weren't around, I probably would have stopped by now.
Either way, I am grateful for my breastfeeding journey and why I am sharing my top 8 survival tips for breastfeeding a baby with a dairy / food intolerance.
Stay away from processed foods in general. Unfortunately, very few pre-packaged foods are void of any of the above mentioned ingredients, so this meant preparing my own food. The benefit of this, even with the carbs I was consuming I did lose some of the baby weight, and I felt healthier eating lots of veggies, fruits, hummus, and proteins.
Beware of packaged snacks as there were few that I could find that worked with my dietary restrictions. Nature's Bakery Fig Bars were one of the only ones that fit what I needed. They were a godsend and the perfect on the go breastfeeding snack (warning, not every single flavour is dairy free, so make sure to read the label first).
Stay away from the freezer section. This was incredibly the most difficult because the easiest thing to do when you are a new parent is to stock up on frozen meals. Unfortunately, I could find little in the freezer section that worked for me. We had to make sure we had simple, easy-to-make meal options (or my husband did), like rotisserie chicken and bag salad.
Read every single label. The good news is that most Countries must declare in bold letters whether a product has Dairy, Soy, Wheat, or Nuts.
Take a page from the vegan cookbook. Now that veganism is widespread, it is also easier to find vegan snacks, like cupcakes and cookies. Totally necessary for those days when I needed something sweet.
Make a lot of smoothies & Substitute milk for Almond or Oat. When in need of finding a quick and nutritious snack or mini-meal, make a smoothie! Almond milk smoothies with berries, banana, oats, flaxseed were an everyday staple for me.
Use a butter substitute. I found one butter substitute that worked for all my restrictions. Earth Balance Soy Free Butter. It was available almost everywhere, and I was grateful for this because I could bake snacks (like lactation cookies and alter the recipe). Here is a link to one of their reviews.
Hope these tips help you to hang in there! Most babies with a dairy intolerance do outgrow it and you will be enjoying that cheese plate, chocolate, milkshake, pizza, or whatever food you crave sooner rather than later.
Here is an additional reference from another Mom Blogger that was helpful to me! She provides some great menu examples of what she ate while breastfeeding her little one.
To read more about my breastfeeding journey, check out my post 14 Breastfeeding Tips for a New Mom