Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rebecca’s rant

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Rebecca Atkinson rants about her trials and tribulations dealing with “helpful” comments from strangers when what it really comes down to is what’s best her daughter.

This week my post was going to be on Mom2Mom sales, but I’ve delayed it by two weeks because no matter how I tried, I kept running, I seem to keep wanting to rant.

As a mother you want to do and provide the very best for your child – while finding bargains of course, but sometimes that can be difficult especially when everyone has their opinions on how you should raise your child.

From the beginning we’ve heard – often from complete strangers – what we should or shouldn’t do and of course what we were doing wrong.

My daughter Meredith was born three weeks early and after a very long and stressful delivery (on both of us), she ended up back in the hospital because she had jaundice and as a result of the hard labour she never got her food groove on. So the doctor had us do a couple of things.

First, try some formula in a bottle to make sure she would eat. Once we established that, I then pumped milk into a bottle and gave it to her so that she would:
a) continue to eat, and
b) so we could determine just how much food she was taking in.
You see, Meredith had a great latch, she just had no desire to work for her meal by sucking from the breast which is more difficult than a bottle as it turns out.

I uploaded some photos on Facebook that showed my husband feeding her. I actually got comments from some people I hadn’t seen in years who didn’t know our situation – actually comment/send notes and suggest I should be breastfeeding instead.

Things haven’t gotten any easier on the feeding front, in fact Meredith was diagnosed with severe acid reflux and a slow digestive system. Whether I fed her directly from the breast or pumped milk from bottles, she not only spit up, she vomited, often projectile over the last four months, we’ve tried several medications, had many tests, got switched to a hypo-allergenic formula, which didn’t help and in fact made her worse, tried a second more expensive formula and are still waiting to see a paediatric gastroenterologist.

However, we think we may have figured out the cause. It seems that she is milk and soy protein intolerant (not allergic but intolerant). She also is not able to handle berries or tomatoes either for that matter. An allergy generally shows n outward reaction, like a rash. An intolerance is more internal, gas, fussiness, colic type behavior, vomiting, crying and in general difficult feeding and changing times.

I have learned more about GERD (acid reflux), food ingredients, giving babies medication as well as what works to calm down my crying child than I ever thought possible. The good news is that she seems to be doing a little better, although it’s been a long difficult road to get there. Since there are not any formulas out there that don’t contain any milk or soy proteins at all, I have no choice but to breastfeed ensuring I cut out all items from my diet that seem to affect her.

The problem? Many products are dairy/milk protein free, not as many are soy free. Many of those that are, (organic mostly) happen to have one ingredient that I am allergic to – tapioca. While at first very difficult and expensive, it’s become fun to explore grocery stores and find new and exciting products and ingredients to try.

Throughout this whole process we have had some very “helpful” people suggest to us what we’re doing right, wrong, what the problem was and/or how to correct it. The last straw which spawned this post, was this weekend when a complete stranger walked up to me and suggested that my daughter was too young to be forward facing in her carrier because she was so “small.”

Yes my baby is small, in fact she’s only in the 5th percentile for her weight (average for everything else), since she hasn’t been able to really keep food down. However, one thing GERD has done for her is give her some very strong neck muscles, so she now prefers to be forward facing. If I didn’t think she wasn’t ready, I wouldn’t have done it. Now if she’d been wobbling around like a bobble head perhaps I could have seen this woman saying something, but she wasn’t.

This experience has taught me a ton of things including the following:
Breast pump rentals are expensive, consider buying if yiou’re going to be using long term
The electric double pump, has been my friend
Evymama has been a great source of help for pumping accessories (think hands free!) and milk production herbal remedies
Pumping allows dad and other family members to be involved in the feeding process
Tahini is a great product to cook with and can kind of filling for a cheesy substitute if needed
Going dairy and soy free is not as hard as it looks when you cook from scratch, eating out is the challenge
Reflux is not fun for any infant or parent
• An intolerance is not the same thing as an allergy
• People are always going to give you advice even if you don’t ask for it
• My husband and I have been with her for the last four months, we’ve tried all the different options, we’ve gone to the doctors appointments and 4 a.m. projectile vomits and crying spells, so we should trust ourselves and our instincts because we do know what is best for our baby based on our situation and her needs.

It’s the best piece of advice I can give anyone.. Trust yourself and tell everyone else to go take a hike and do what feels right to you.

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  1. Very well said. I had similar experiences with my children. Parents make the best decisions for their children, and their family. Period. Advice is wonderful...if it is asked for, and delivered without judgement. Keep smiling. :)

  2. Thanks Laura. I appreciate the support. It's nice to know there are indeed other parents out there who feel the same as we do.

  3. Rebecca, this is great advice. We had very similar issues with Fiona -- jaundice, great latch but too weak to feed, losing weight, the whole drama (minus the GERD) -- and I too found an electric pump to be a godsend, allowing me to provide breastmilk through bottlefeeding until Fi was strong enough to breastfeed. I also got a lot of not-very-helpful comments from folks who didn't know the whole story, encouraging me to breastfeed when in fact I couldn't do so but desperately wanted to... You're right on with trusting your instincts and having faith in yourself.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  4. Thanks Jenny. It's funny how many people think that you're automatically using formula if they see a bottle.
    The way our paediatrician put it made the most sense.. Isn't the most important thing for her to be eating.. does it really matter how and/or where she's getting it (whether it's pumped in a bottle, breast directly or formula if required, just as long as she's getting and keeping it down?"

  5. Anonymous9:54 am

    Feeding your baby... everyone thinks they could do it better and feels free to tell you how. Grr. My son was 12 weeks premature and had GERD and a cleft lip and palate, so we experienced many of the same feeding troubles. I pumped and bottle fed a VERY slow eater for as long as I could take it, but once I got to spending eight hours a day on things food related, I gave it up for formula. Yes, I know breast milk is best, but the important thing is that my son got the nutrients he needed. We can't all do things the way other people did them.

    My son ended up needing a permanent feeding tube, which he finally had removed earlier this year at the age of 5. The good news, Rebecca, is that you start to forget the early struggles -- and the frustating unsolicited advice.

    Best of luck to you and your daughter!

  6. Anonymous4:11 pm

    I agree that at the end of the day -- you as a parent spending somuch time with your daughter will know what is best (re: forward facing stroller) -- my daughter is 7 months and probably have other three month olds larger and bigger. My son on the other hand was born premature, just slightly and spent the first week in NICU, not what you envision for your first baby. He would latch and it was not until he was three months and dropped half a pound in a day that we switched to formula immediately and began the pumping and herbs etc. Unfortunately I think things were too far gone. I was crushed when you consider I was pumping over 80 mL when he was in NICU, so I was producing when we started breastfeeding.

    Keep it up. And just remember that it is all worth it, I'm sure your daughter is a joy -- even at 4 a.m.


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