Breastfeeding, Baby Feeding & Learning to Heed Instincts

Thanks to Plum Organics for sponsoring my post about tips for baby feeding magic. What if you let baby choose what's for dinner? Check out their "Quest for Yum!" video and see what happens. 

Nothing feels quite so bad as having a sick child and being powerless to help her.

When Dylan was eight months old, she developed horrible food hypersensitivities. Like clockwork, two hours after eating solid foods she would begin vomiting, sometimes for hours. During the worst incidents, she became lethargic and pale, spit bile, and had to be hospitalized for dehydration.

The doctors and specialists had no idea what was wrong.

It's just a virus, they'd say. But that was extremely unlikely: after each incident, I'd exclusively breastfeed her for a few days, and she'd be fine. But whenever we fed her solids again, within two hours, she began vomiting again violently.

This happened for months. I made lists of trigger foods. Rice cereal was a common denominator, so we cut it, even though our pediatrician swore it wasn't the culprit. We saw improvements. Doctors claimed it couldn't be allergies. It's probably just a virus.

Why won't doctors admit when they don't know?

A G.I. specialist sent us home with a prescription for reflux and advice that didn't make sense in our context: supplement with formula.

Formula has the same amount of calories as breast milk without any of its immunity protections. I was a young first-time mom but knew enough to trust my instincts: my milk was exactly what my sick baby needed and the only surefire thing my baby was demonstrably able to digest. Supplementing could reduce demand, threaten my milk supply, and leave us even more desperate than we already were.

We didn't refill the prescription, kept breastfeeding, and stopped serving baby foods.

Breastfed babies under age one get all of their nutritional needs met in their mother's milk. Baby food is fun and introduces a world of learning, but it's not necessary. Many young babies are not ready for solid foods, and there's no need to rush it.

By the end of ten months, with time and prayer, Dylan's digestive system finally sorted itself out. She continued to get most of her calories through breastfeeding, and we offered table food as she showed interest. She ate asparagus and salmon and whatever else we were eating. Mealtimes became a pleasure again, and our little one began gaining weight.

Looking back and having done more reading, I now believe that Dylan suffered from FPIES, Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome, a condition that presents the symptoms she exhibited and is delay-triggered by foods including milk, soy, cereal grains (especially rice!), green beans, sweet potatoes, squash, poultry, and more. FPIES affects infants and young children and generally goes away with age. I wish I'd known about it during that difficult time.

We live and learn. With our second baby, James, we didn't rush things. We never offered baby cereals. (Babies can't even digest them.) I breastfed and offered whole foods. Easy foods I could mash with a fork were ideal, like avocados, bananas, and sweet potatoes. Foods he could feed himself worked well, too, like blueberries or pastured egg yokes.

The book Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby's First Foods helped me to realize that traditional infant feeding is baby-led, uncomplicated, and not something to push or stress over. Knowing that babies can get all the nutrients they need from breastfeeding takes much of the drama out of mealtimes and frees them up to be playful, pressure-free, and fun.

Edited to add: FED IS BEST, however that plays out. There's no one best feeding blueprint for every kid, parent, or family. This is merely my reflection on feeding my own sick babe that first year of motherhood.

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective
To learn more about Plum Organics, visit their Facebook page: Plum Organics.

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