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Let me get real with you all right now. It’s something we love about our jobs here at Simply Real Moms…when we have an issue, we talk about it. We get it off of our chests in hopes that another mother won’t feel the way we did because she read this and was prepared for whatever it is we’re sharing about.
Today I want to talk about pride. Pride as a mother.
I gave birth to my second son after a long list of little problems. Nothing ever life threatening or bad but just annoying or painful problems. He was gorgeous, but from the first time I nursed him I knew something was different. I had nursed my first son with no issues (other than supply problems when I went on birth control) for 12 months. Seriously. No issues. So when my second latched on and I was in pain I figured that maybe I was due a little issue here and there since I had it so easy before!
The pain didn’t go away though. It got worse. We’re talking toe curling pain every feeding to bleeding nipples (YES! That’s a thing! A very freaky thing!). We found out that he was tongue tied and had that fixed with a simple clipping. After about a week we were back on track.
Like every other newborn, he was up all night. I looked forward to getting my sleep back, but in the present I was soaking up every second of my nights with him…for a few months. My days though? I couldn’t stay awake!
By the time this kid was 3-4 months I knew something was a little off. He was REALLY colicky, spit up several times after every meal, never seemed to be able to stop wriggling and writhing when we laid him down and was screaming all night from about 5pm on. I was getting absolutely no sleep. I could only get a free moment if he was in the carrier upright, so a lot in my life suffered. We had tried different methods of curing reflux as that is a common problem for babies who scream like that, but we had only a slight change for a week or so and then we were back to the chaos. Our pediatrician recommended a little yogurt to see if the probiotics might help his tummy relax a little, and he got very sick and projectile vomited.
It was then that we started to try diet changes. For me. Since I was breastfeeding and I was bound and determined to stay breastfeeding, I started eliminating different foods that are known to be problematic, either as allergens or a sensitivity. I started by cutting out what I could of dairy, since he had the issue with the yogurt and that seems to be one of the biggest issues for babies. Within a week we saw a difference, but nothing amazing. The spit up went almost completely away though, so I knew we were headed in the right direction. I went on with the mostly dairy free diet (I really wasn’t as careful as I should have been) but I just couldn’t cut it completely. I had seen only a little difference, and I just was having a mental conflict with committing to go completely dairy free when I knew it may not be the only answer.
And then I chatted with a few friends who have been through allergies and sensitivities with their infants. The laundry list of things they ended up finding out their little one couldn’t have was very intimidating. It seemed that it’s never JUST dairy. I also spoke with mom friends whose children had the same issues, they switched to formula and magically their baby slept, no longer spit up, and genuinely seemed better! “That’s great” I would say “but I am sticking to breastfeeding.”
I love my son so very much, but I was getting worried that I wasn’t doing everything I possibly could to make things ok. I was determined to keep breastfeeding. So I pushed on. I cut more little things out here and there. I STILL wasn’t getting sleep at night though!
By now, baby was 9 months old and I hadn’t slept much in over a year. At this point, we were up every 45 minutes or so (and that might be a generous ballpark) and I was crying. A lot. I tried to keep as busy as possible during the day so that I wouldn’t fall asleep on the toilet or washing dishes. We spent a lot of time at play dates, and I spent a lot of those play dates complaining. Seriously. I have a lot of apologizing to do to my wonderful friends who listened all the time!
It was on one of those play dates that a dear friend (and fellow breastfeeding mama) looked at me and asked point blank “If you know that your breast milk is hurting him and you, why are you breastfeeding?” That question took me back a little, but I answered “Because I want to.” And that’s when that simple question hit me like a ton of bricks…WHY?! WHY was I still breastfeeding my son who was obviously in pain from something I was giving him?? I knew I wasn’t fully committed to the diet changes I was making, and it seemed when I truly searched my soul that the bottom line was pride. In my mind I was a breastfeeding mom, not a formula feeding mom! I knew very well that formula is amazing and there’s nothing wrong with it, but for some reason I couldn’t let go of the pride I had from nursing my son. I had been through the wringer with this baby and I didn’t want to give up now, but I suddenly felt so selfish and knew that I needed to make my son feel better. Diet changes were not for me, and I needed to take the next step.
I researched the different types of formulas for babies who have dairy issues, and I had a hard time deciding which to use. And I saw the prices! YIKES! This was going to be a lifestyle change for us! We agreed to start simple and work our way into the more complex formulas available, so we began with Target’s brand of “gentle formula”. It makes the digestion of dairy proteins easier on baby’s stomach because they are already partially broken down, and since sometimes sensitivities in dairy are due to the proteins we thought that was the best start. We started to see a difference after about 2 weeks. Slowly he was crying less and sleeping just a little more. Not anything to throw a party about, but it was a great start.
Over the course of about a month, we watched our uncomfortable screaming baby turn into a happy boy who was sleeping for HOURS at a time! Unheard of! After another few weeks of a little sleep training (more on that VERY soon!!), I had a baby who not only slept through the night but he was sleeping 12 hours on average at night, as well as 2 three hour naps during the day.
I look back on the first 9 months of my son’s life with guilt. I let my pride take over and didn’t want to see the pain it was causing my son and my entire family. In the end, we made a choice that changed our lives for the better and was such a humbling moment for me. Yes- I still believe that breast is best, but I also believe that baby’s health should come first. My son was not getting what was best for HIM, and we chose to change that. I am so very proud of my decision to let go and turn to the bottle for help, I am at peace with the decision my husband and I made for our family, and best of all I am not a walking zombie mom anymore!
The gentle formula was all it took for my son, but there are so many other options if you are going through the same with your baby. Soy formulas are available, Goats milk formulas, and Alimentum, which is a formula with the proteins fully broken down (but it is VERY expensive. If you need this type, talk to your pediatrician about a prescription!)
If you are dealing with similar symptoms, speak with your pediatrician about what road will be best for your family. If you are interested in hearing about a mom who was able to change her diet successfully in order to help her baby with sensitivities, check out Heather’s story here!
*Simply Real Moms was not compensated for mentioning any of the brands listed in this article, and our advice should never be used as medical advice.