and although I tried to breastfeed in the NICU our babies were simply so tiny that it really didn’t work for them. I remember trying to nurse them all a little when they came home from the NICU, but I wasn’t sure that they were actually getting any milk and I simply didn’t have the time or energy to focus on it. I was quite upset that I wasn’t able to feed our triplets breast milk, but after two months of pumping I called it quits and it was truly the best decision for our family. It meant more time for me to spend with our babies since I wasn’t spending hours a day pumping, and quitting was a major stress relief.
Because of my previous experience, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to nurse Graham, but I REALLY wanted to give it my best effort. While I was pregnant I talked to many very supportive friends who were confident it wouldn’t be a problem for me since my circumstances would be so different this time around. I was glad for their optimism, but I wasn’t so sure it would happen.
Graham was born on his due date and I had a successful VBAC. These were two things that I believed would help me be able to successfully breastfeed since our triplets were tiny preemies born via emergency C-section at 31 weeks. Mere minutes after he was born he was rooting and trying to nurse. Immediately, though, it was very painful.
I worked with several lactation consultants while we were in the hospital and after we were discharged, but nothing really helped. I was determined to continue breastfeeding, but it was unbelievably painful. Graham’s latch was so bad that I was bleeding and I could hardly nurse with anyone around because of the pain. For a few days I resorted to doing a little pumping and bottle feeding, and I even supplemented with a few ounces of formula just to give myself some relief. It was very stressful for me since I so badly wanted breastfeeding to work and it seemed that I had enough milk to nourish Graham, but there was another issue this time and I just didn’t know what it was.
I spent hours Googling solutions and trying to figure out what the issue was. I was suspicious of a tongue tie and a top lip tie, thanks to Dr. Google and a friend who had experienced this with one of her babies, so I took Graham to a dentist who was knowledgeable in this area when Graham was just a few weeks old. The dentist said that Graham had a minor top lip tie and it was up to us whether or not we got it revised.
Although I was fairly confident that Graham was getting enough milk, when he was two weeks old he started having severe reflux and vomiting massive amounts about 1-2 times a day. Our triplets spit up often, but there was something about the way that Graham spit up (force and volume) that told me it was different. Because of this, I took him to the pediatrician and I was told to cut dairy and soy out of my diet to see if it helped. When I posted about this on FB a friend added me to a couple of breastfeeding for allergies and intolerances group, and that is when I really started to learn about food issues that babies can have.
Although cutting dairy and soy seemed to help, it wasn't a complete fix. I learned that a lip tie could cause vomiting because he could be swallowing air, so we decided to go ahead and have the dentist fix Graham’s lip tie when he was 4 weeks old. I felt terrible about having it done since it was “optional,” but I was hopeful that this would fix his latch and his vomiting.
Thankfully, the procedure did seem to help his latch almost immediately. I could finally nurse in front of the other kids and hold a conversation while nursing, which is important when one is spending 6 hours a day nursing a newborn. I am glad we got the procedure done as it meant I could finally nurse without pain!
Unfortunately, though, the projectile vomiting persisted. My doula has recommended a kinesiologist who she had worked with when one of her babies had food intolerances, so I took Graham there. The kinesiologist did strength testing to determine that Graham also had a gluten intolerance. Although I was sad to hear that I would also have to cut gluten out of my diet in addition to dairy and soy, amazingly it did the trick! Within a few days Graham’s vomiting and other symptoms stopped completely.
Although I wasn’t sure that all of these things were related to food intolerances at the time, in hindsight Graham had other symptoms in addition to vomiting. He had mucous and dark specks of blood in his stool, reflux, and a weird cough. All of these things completely went away when I cut dairy, soy, and gluten out of my diet.
The good news was that I was 100% breastfeeding Graham. It was literally a dream come true. But I never expected to have to alter my diet so drastically in order to do so. Thankfully everyone around me was very supportive of my determination to nurse Graham and many friends found foods I could eat when they had us over at their house, which was not expected but definitely appreciated. One might ask why I didn’t just give up and feed him formula since I had to eliminate so many things from my diet, and believe me when I say I thought about that too, but with these kind of food issues it’s hard to find a formula that works and the hypoallergenic formulas are very expensive. Plus, although I had to alter my diet, breastfeeding was simply more convenient for me than formula and I needed convenience since I was very busy with four kids 4 and under. I also can’t deny the fact that breast milk gives babies antibodies to help fight sicknesses, and since the older kids we’re in preschool and bringing home germs, nursing gave me peace of mind as a self proclaimed germaphobe. (I know there are many other supposed benefits to breastfeeding, but I believe our other three kids are very intelligent and thriving despite having very little breastmilk as babies.)
When Graham was about 9 months old I decided that I was tired of solely breastfeeding as I longed to be able to get away for awhile in the evening to climb or go out with Micah. We decided to try formula in a bottle, but he wouldn’t drink more than a tiny sip! This was both frustrating and funny as our other kids only ever drank from bottles. I didn’t want to waste my time pumping since I wasn’t sure he would drink that from a bottle either, so I accepted his rejection of the bottle and decided to keep nursing him.
I knew that Micah might go to a conference in Spain in July, and we decided that if he went I would go along. This meant that I needed to wean Graham before our trip, which was a little stressful. It took a couple of months to slowly cut out the nursing sessions and replace them with almond milk / water and solids. It worked well, though, and June 6 was the last time I nursed Graham.
Weaning Graham was bittersweet as I would have continued to nurse him if we didn’t have an international trip planned. Graham is small (3rd percentile for height and weight) and it’s challenging to find foods that work for his diet that he will eat, so continuing to nurse him would have been an easy solution to help him with his caloric intake. But at the same time, I am relieved that after eliminating dairy and soy in May 2017 and gluten in June 2017, I am now eating everything again as of July 2018! This makes my life so much easier, but now I feel guilty that I am eating foods that Graham can’t eat and he’s at an age where he is asking to eat what we eat. I pray that he outgrows his good allergies in the near future.
I am so thankful that I was able to breastfeed Graham for 13.5 months. It was extremely challenging for the first few months due to the pain from his top lip tie and eliminating foods due to his allergies / intolerances, but the next 10 months after we figured it all out were honestly quite easy, especially once he was only eating 6 times in a 24 hour period. I would definitely do it all over again as I feel that breastfeeding is one of the most amazing things my body has done, and it created a special bond with Graham.