Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Our feeding journey

E is now just over 7 months old. In general she is a very smiley, happy, shouty baby who sits beautifully and is interested in everything (particularly the things she isn't allowed!). She has started to fill out, to get chubby legs and a little buddha belly. But it's taken a while to get here.

I talked about our early breastfeeding journey here, and I'm pleased to say we're still breastfeeding to this day. But it hasn't been an easy journey in terms of giving E the nutrition she needs to keep her gaining weight as laid out in the WHO charts. E stuck roughly to the 50th centile line from birth until around 8 weeks, but started to slip down centile lines, finally dropping as low as the 9th centile at 17 weeks. I think part of our problem was the huge amounts of conflicting advice given to us by the healthcare professionals. Every time I saw a health visitor they told me I should be feeding E differently: "you should offer both breasts at each feed", "she's getting lazy and waiting to be offered the other breast and not taking the hind milk, so you should only offer one breast for three hours, then switch", "you MUST offer both breasts" etc etc until I was completely confused. I felt like I was constantly being criticised.

At 18 weeks, the doctor and health visitor decided the lack of solid weight gain, the crying, the eczema, and the wind were due to a milk protein allergy. I was told to cut out all dairy and soya to see what happened. I can tell you now, your diet is extremely restricted when you have to avoid both- they are present in so much food. Had I been at home it may have been a bit easier, but unfortunately the week after cutting the dairy out, my Grandmother suddenly declined in health. We spent a week away from home, sitting with her in her final few days. A privilege to be with her at the end, but a hard time. E spent the week sleeping in a drawer. I reached the end of my resources of strength: full time childcare, cooking for various family members, and many hours in a small room, all the while with a seriously restricted diet took their toll- I lost 2kg in a week. If my Dad had not been there, taking E on tours around the gardens of the home, I think I may have fallen apart. On the day she died, my Grandfather on the other side suddenly also passed away. The weeks that followed involved a lot of travelling around for funerals, not easy for a 4 month old, especially as my milk supply took a hit.

Despite initially thinking the dairy-removal had helped, I soon had reservations. Sleep problems returned with a vengeance- probably due to disrupted routines- and we went back to a lot of the old problems. As she turned five months old, we hit an all time emotional low, and we knew things had to change. The next day, we risked giving E some formula. With 100,000 times as much milk protein than breastmilk, we weren't sure what to expect. Absolutely nothing happened. We gave it to her a midday to allow time to see any reactions. It felt very strange feeding it to her, but she didn't seem bothered, and as soon as I had, I felt a weight lift. I had been putting so much pressure on myself to breastfeed, and E was struggling and pretty unhappy. Now she had drunk her first formula, and nothing untoward had happened. Looking back, that first formula feed was a turning point. I slowly reintroduced dairy to my diet.

At about 5 and a half months we introduced solids, much to E's delight. She certainly made it clear she was ready for food. One occasion that sticks in the mind is her practically leaping out of arms to get across the table to grab a banana muffin, promptly digging out a huge handful and shoving it in her mouth. She delighted in each new puree, although the first mouthful was always given a comedic mouth-puckered face, before she eagerly opened her mouth for more. As she started to eat more food, the pressure on my milk supply reduced and she always seemed satisfied with the milk she got. We could feel (and see) the weight starting to go on, and E became happier and happier (other than during a bout of tonsillitis). When she was 30 weeks old, I took her back to get weighed, just to officially see the more healthy weight. She has gone up to the 30th centile, while her length is on the 70th centile, a great improvement. While I am glad to have had her weighted, I won't be going back for a while, as yet again I felt criticised for going to the health visitor, and I think we're better off on our own path, away from conflicting and critical advice.

This week E threw up a few times and now has a cold. Mealtimes have turned into a disaster zone of crying and food refusal. It took half an hour to coax a single bite of cereal out of her this morning, and she is screaming at the offer of pretty much everything other than petit filous! I'm hoping this is simply an illness-related temporary setback, as I can't bear for food to become a battleground once again.