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Breastfeeding through allergies and beyond

Guest blog by Siân - @sianjadeahern

When you get pregnant a lot of people ask you how you will feed your child, or if you will breastfeed? I would often reply “yeah I think so” or “I’m gonna try” and that would often be met with replies of “don’t worry if you can’t”. There so much stigma around breastfeeding beyond a certain age but this post isn’t too much about that. It’s mainly about determination and following your motherly gut. There are too many times throughout this amazing experience of being a mother that people like to offer their opinion. I want to say the most important thing is follow your gut.

When my little boy arrived 4 weeks and 1 day early we had 20 mins or so of skin-to-skin and then he was whisked through to neonatal as he was grunting and having trouble breathing. You see his early arrival was brought on by mummy having a urine infection but the labour is another story for another time ha.

Once he arrived I did not get to see him properly for another 2 1/2 hours until he was ready. He was initially fed fluids through the drip, no milk, and the very next morning I attempted to breastfeed him. As he was so tiny he had a hard time feeding but I was determined to breastfeed him. I feel bad for saying it now but I hadn’t done any research on breastfeeding, maybe I would have had time if he didn’t want to meet mummy and daddy earlier ha. 

It was the motherly instinct in me that made me want to feed him myself. I was on a ward, separate from him, and told I needed to pump. It was all new to me and because I didn’t want him topped up with formula I had to work hard to get the milk to him. I was basically on a cycle of pumping and feeding him. He would take so long to nurse we would then top him up with my expressed milk through a tube initially, then by bottle to ensure he was getting enough. We had a spot of jaundice while in the hospital so this also meant it took longer to feed. Sometimes it would take 50 mins to an hour to nurse and top him up then I’d have to go through and pump, get a bit of rest and start the cycle again. Eventually he went under the lights and we started to see improvement. I probably don’t give myself enough credit but that was a long 8 days. 

Once out of the hospital you then have to get into the swing of it all on your own. Along with the craziness of learning to care for your first born we then experienced reflux and various medications. We had an extremely unsettled baby. In my gut I knew something wasn’t right. Babies cry they say 'oh it’s just colic'. I did a lot of research and looked into a dairy allergy I joined an amazing group on facebook. Breastfeeding through CMPA (cows milk protein allergy) and other allergies. With it I spoke to a lot of women in the same boat with years of experience. They pointed me to medical articles, blog posts, anything to help me. They offered advice, they were amazing. I spoke to my health visitor, she was very supportive and she agreed that eliminating dairy from my diet would be the next step.

It takes 3 weeks to get out of your system and a further 3 to get out of theirs, after that I saw vast improvements but something was still not right. He was still showing symptoms. Next I eliminated soya and wow once those 6 weeks had passed we had a different baby. With these allergies I experienced first hand how important that breastmilk was. Throughout those first months he would be constantly nursing to help through the discomfort and pain. He would only sleep on my chest in an upright position. Those first months were a crazy blur of emotions, cuddles and constant nursing. I often tried to research everything. Second guessing everything, but the one thing I knew I needed to continue was to breastfeed him. The benefits of continuing to feed him throughout all of this outweighed cutting 2 things out of my diet in my opinion. The funny thing is I used to suffer from IBS before I cut dairy and soya out of my diet. It could be a coincidence. Before there was just me to worry about but when I knew it could hurt him. It didn’t matter anymore, no bit of cheese or cake could make me want to do that to him.

When we came to introducing solids this brought a whole different spectrum of learnings. We did baby led weaning as my husband is a chef so food is a very important part of our life. He likes to cook everything from scratch when it’s his days at home with our little one. We both want him to have a varied diet and this has meant he will pretty much try and eat anything. We have to check every label and be careful in restaurants but it’s just our way of life now. Before becoming pregnant I was very much into learning about foods, reading labels and figuring out macros for my own diet so I do appreciate what makes up a lot of food. Saying that I do also believe in a balanced diet and don’t think there should be any ‘bad foods’. It’s apparent from slip ups that he is still very much allergic to soya. We will trial the dairy ladder soon to test if he still has an allergy there. It’s crazy to think now we are 16 months on from all that craziness and that’s not going into the half of it, but the one constant is my little boy is still breastfed. I returned to work when he turned 12 months and it was the weirdest feeling ever. I had not left his side for more than an hour or 2. He gets on amazingly with his dad on the days when I am at work. He still feeds through the night more so when he’s not feeling well or teething or when I’ve been at work all day to reconnect. I’m ok with all of that. Some days with me he will feed heaps out of boredom, for pain relief or just to spend some time with me. Oh that first feed from being away from each other all day. It is so special. I love the connection we have and the bond that we share. It’s the most wonderful experience.

My aim is to breastfeed him until he is at least 2 years old. As recommended by The World Health Organisation, UNICEF and NICE. I want to make more people aware that breastfeeding through allergies and beyond infancy is something that’s ok. Babies breastfeed for so much more than nutrition. They feed for comfort, closeness, boredom, pain relief and so much more. Why are we so desperate to let them grow up and be independent. This is just a small moment in time in our lives we need to cherish the cuddles, savour the closeness, lap up that little one who is curled up next to us. Why change what nature intended. After all Mummy’s milk is so magical and I am speaking from experience.


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