In 2010 I delivered my much awaited daughter. This was a complicated and traumatic birth, but I had nothing to compare it to and did not realise it at the time. I was so disappointed to need a Caesar and struggled to come to terms with this, particularly being a fit and active person. Hannah was stuck and I needed a modified vertical Maynard incision along with the Caesar incision. I also had Placenta Accreta which had to be manually removed. Together my beautiful daughter and I learned to breastfeed, which I loved, but we hit a few hick ups along the way. One being un diagnosed Mastitis that went to a large abscess which needed to be incised and drained, with the drain being kept in for 6 days. This led to septicaemia and a lengthy hospital stay for me and my little one. She was a keen feeder and fed through all of it. Right up to thirteen and a half months. So when I fell pregnant with my second baby last year I was excited, although apprehensive about feeding with what I had already been through and all the scar tissue.
My little man was born via a text book delivery, so I thought breastfeeding again would be a breeze. However after weeks of a projectile vomiting baby and no sleep due to his pain, we discovered not only did he have severe reflux, but he also suffered from a “true” lactose allergy. Apparently this is rare and has meant for 7 months I express and treat my milk with Lacteeze drops to convert the sugars to a more digestible form for him. I am also strictly on a dairy free diet.
After multiple tests and specialists, our paediatrician wanted me to try a low allergen formula with a view to going on it full time. However I struggled so much to give formula that we kept it to two bottles a day and the rest was treated breast milk. After three months there was improvement, but not what we had expected. It became apparent that Elijah was intolerant to the formula that was prescribed. We then went on to a hypoallergenic formula that was tolerated by Eli, he now has one formula bottle before bed and the rest is breast milk or now his solids.
In the early days I ended up finding a reputable, qualified Bowen therapist. This gave Elijah a few days of relief and he seemed a little more settled. Now we also use a really good chiropractor once a week and this also helps with his reflux. I got the point of just trying anything as it was so stressful and my poor boy was in so much pain. I read so many books and just got overwhelmed by information. I have narrowed my parenting books down to three and three only. Parenting by Heart really resonated with me and that is the way I want to parent! I have also found a few good books on food allergies, which is helping me make sense of it all. Lactose is even in some teething gels and vitamins, so I have learnt to read every single label I come across.
Now I am at the stage of being able to feed Eli “normally”with using the drops on his tongue. I love to know he has been still been getting the immunity from my Breast milk, and that I continued in spite of all the negative advice I was receiving. My poor breast pump worked so hard for 7 months! This year has been a challenge, and I am so careful what I feed him and me, but I see him a happy, thriving little boy who lights up when I enter the room. He rewards me with giggles and lots of cuddles. It is all worth it and even though difficult, I would do it all again.
Kath’s tips for coping with the high needs of an allergic baby, a toddler and a FIFO partner:
Managing feeds and expressing with a toddler
I found when I was pumping all the time, we had a picnic blanket that we all sat on and read books or played eye spy. It is a bit challenging with a not quite 3 year old and a new born. However we adapted the games to suit the age. We also had lots of play dough sessions and I would make the time to do something special as often as possible with my eldest. She loves craft and face painting, so I always went with what her interest was rather than what was easy for me!
My husband is a FIFO worker so that has its own unique challenges as well. I ensure I am ultra, military precision, organised the night before. Breakfast ready, lunches made for both me and my daughter and dinner prepped ready to go. I always have and still have lots of fruit, almonds, tins of tuna and camomile tea on hand. That way I can eat on the go as it was too easy to just forgo eating for the day and then by dinner I was low on milk and energy. I learnt the hard way, but I also think unrelenting fatigue played a huge part in that. I do huge cooks up once a month and freeze lots of healthy allergy free meals. I can get something out and have dinner ready in 5 minutes on the days when it is total chaos. When it all got too much I called on my close friends to help. Just so I could shower in peace and have a good old cry without distressing my daughter!
Calming my baby
I have found the cradle swing a God send. My boy is a 20 minute napper. It drives me crazy, but now I know what to expect. I have found the cradle swing may get me the extra 15 minutes I need just to get something done. I always have a pack of d cell batteries on hand just in case. Now he is a little older, I can put him in the pram and walk for over an hour so he sleeps and I get some exercise. My legs usually give out before he wakes though.
You aren’t alone!
I know those early days seemed so hard, confusing and upsetting. For over three months I ran on 2 to 3 hours of broken sleep every night. I just got used to it and now my body clock wakes at about 2am every night and I can’t get back to sleep. I am learning to accept it and not count hours or fight it. I’m functioning, maybe not at my best, but my kids are fed, cleaned and know they are very loved. Some days I forget to brush my teeth and I kick the full washing basket on the way past the laundry, because it makes me feel better, just for a second! I just keep telling myself it will get better and it is. I know how hard it is to walk the dark floors of your house, night after night with no relief, but you just have to believe that it will improve eventually. Don’t be too proud or scared to ask for help and I found PANDA was so helpful as was my community health nurses.
I hope this gives some hope to another mummy or daddy that is going through the same challenges that we are. They are not alone and your baby needs extra attention and cuddles. It may not take the pain away, but it may give that little bit of comfort and healing love. As a parent, don’t forget to ask for the cuddles as well. That can make all the difference to an otherwise stressful situation!
This story is by Kath Elms, a mum from Queensland, Australia
For families with allergies, here is a recorded interview with Maureen Minchin, Lactation Consultant and allergy researcher. Maureen is the author of “Food For Thought” and “Breastfeeding Matters”.
This interview is from the archives of Pinky McKay’s Parenting By Heart Mummy Member Program.