Unfortunately, babies can’t talk. We’ve all tried, right? All we get back is crying or adorable baby babble, or, in the case of my daughter, the most serious baby stare you’ve ever seen. This can make things rather difficult when you see that your baby is unhappy, or worse, in pain.
Were you one of the very few lucky ones – who felt highly educated and prepared to take your baby home and care for it? Or were you just sent on your way with a “good luck!” and a peri bottle? New mother (well, new parent) education is pretty lacking.
It’s crazy, really; everyone is focused on mom for a whole 9 months, and then the baby is born, and that’s it. You see your doctor at the 6 weeks check-up to make sure you’re ready for sex (ha!) and….now it’s all about the baby.
Our instruction manual consists of Google, and maybe a supportive doctor, or even better (if you’re lucky), mom friends. Just know this – you aren’t expected to figure it all out all on your own.
Don’t Let Your Baby Suffer
When my daughter was born almost 3 years ago, our new family of three drove home late on a rainy October night, around 6 hours after she was born.
Some people may be shocked by this fact, but this is normal protocol at the birth center where I delivered. I loved being able to go home and sleep in my bed that night.
And our midwives and nurses did a great job of educating and preparing us for those first few days with a newborn (tracking vital signs, counting pees, and poops, etc.).
Other than being in that general newborn haze of little sleep, constant nursing, and diaper changes around the clock, I felt pretty good, and I knew what to expect. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the green, mucousy, and eventually bloody poops my daughter was having.
I was doing lots of Googling and re-reading of the information packet we got from the lactation consultant but couldn’t figure out what if anything was wrong.
She was otherwise a content baby, so it wasn’t until she was 4 months old that the amount of blood in her diaper was enough for me to decide to call the pediatrician.
I was advised to cut out all dairy, soy, and nuts and was sent home with a can of sensitive formula “just in case.” The formula was out of the question for me, so I was left to figure out this new elimination diet on my own.
I soon found out she was reacting to the dairy in my diet when I accidentally ate a croissant and the mucus and blood was back. I slowly reintroduced soy and nuts with no issues.
My daughter and I were dairy-free up until around her 1st birthday when we started to reintroduce certain foods. Now, she eats limited dairy (usually in the form of mac and cheese) but does have some symptoms if she’s been eating too much.
With my son, I recognized the signs much earlier, at about 8 weeks. I hate thinking that my daughter was suffering for months just because of what I didn’t know.
Food allergies are on the rise, and newborns are not excluded. So, while I don’t want you blaming yourself every time your baby seems uncomfortable or inconsolable, I do want you to have the right tools so you can figure out if it is something you can control.
Each Baby Is Different
Allergies and intolerances show up differently in everyone, and to a different degree. For example, my daughter was a happy baby; she just had weird poops.
We were able to reintroduce dairy at 1 year and now if she has too much she will get bumps on her arms (keratosis pilaris).
My son had his first “bad” poop at 8 weeks but before that was extremely fussy and uncomfortable for about an hour after each nursing session, and would often vomit (not just spit up). He also had a rash across his face and chest.
So, he had all of the symptoms; no wonder I was able to catch his allergy earlier! Now, he is 14 months, and if he or I eat any dairy, he is fine until night time when he wakes up frequently, crying from discomfort.
I share my stories to point out that not only do symptoms show up differently in each baby, but each baby may or may not be able to “grow out of” their allergy or tolerate different amounts of dairy with different reactions.
Symptoms and Plans of Action
Unless you are ready to stop eating all dairy from the get-go (which, honestly, isn’t such a bad idea for your health), below is a guide to help every exhausted (and hungry!) breastfeeding mama figure out if it is something you ate.
1.My Baby Is Extremely Fussy Or Colicky, Pulls Off The Breast, Or Fights Nursing Sessions.
The first order of business is to see a Lactation Consultant (check out llli or search for an IBCLC in your area). An IBCLC can rule out other issues such as tongue or lip tie.
Also, check-in with yourself; can you handle a dietary change or are you barely able to keep it together enough to keep yourself fed? If you don’t feel ready to make a change, that’s OK! Start with noticing any patterns with what you eat and seeing a Lactation Consultant.
2.My Baby Often Has A Bloated, Hard Belly And/Or Seems Uncomfortable (Crying, Arching Back, Pulling Up Legs) After Nursing.
This is another case where a Lactation Consultant may help. But, it is more likely that something in your diet is causing discomfort in the baby.
Start keeping a mental note of what you eat and how often, paying close attention to dairy and other top allergens: soy, eggs, nuts, gluten. If you find you are eating dairy at every meal, then make a conscious decision to try and cut back.
3.My Baby Has A Rash, “Baby Acne”, Eczema, Or A Diaper Rash That Won’t Go Away.
Often, pediatricians and moms brush off some skin conditions as baby acne, caused by hormones leaving your system after birth. Baby acne is a few whiteheads here and there on the baby’s face; it is not a full-blown breakout.
Depending on how widespread your baby’s skin issue is, and how much discomfort your baby is experiencing, you may want to see the pediatrician. Beware though, pediatricians will likely prescribe a cream, which is more of a Band-Aid than a cure.
More often than not, these sorts of issues can clear up through diet. Again, check-in with yourself, if you feel like you can handle change, then go for it! If not, try switching laundry detergent, bathing baby in only water (no soap), and using a gentle and natural moisturizer like coconut oil.
If these changes don’t help, it’s probably time to start looking at your diet more seriously.
4.My Baby Has Mucusy And/Or Bloody Stools.
Now is the time to make some changes. Make an appointment with your pediatrician so they can test your baby’s diaper to verify if there is blood (even if you don’t see any, it may be microscopic). Blood in your baby’s stool is the only surefire sign of a true allergy.
Mucus or blood means that the baby’s digestive system has been in distress and is damaged; it is time to eliminate dairy. You can choose to cut out additional allergens from the start if you are up for it. Again, check-in with yourself and see what you feel you can handle.
It takes 2-3 weeks for dairy to leave your system and another 2-3 weeks for dairy to leave baby’s system. Some moms see a change right away; others don’t see much improvement until closer to the 6-week mark.
During this time, start noticing what other allergens you may be eating, so you are prepared to cut something else if you don’t see complete improvement after cutting dairy.
Make sure you find a support system; husband, mom friends, or coach.
You got this, mama!
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