Tuesday, 1 October 2013
On some days E would cry for more hours than he slept. In the end I videoed him screaming inconsolably (he invariably shut up the second we went into the doctor's surgery) and kept a log of his behaviour. It still took a fifth opinion before a GP suggested it might be a lactose issue, which lead me to do my own research and start wondering if it might be a cow's milk protein intolerance.
I dropped dairy and soy from my diet. Within a few days there was improvement, by ten days my baby was noticeably more settled. By two weeks it was like somebody had swapped him for a different baby altogether. He jumped from the 25th to the 50th centile on his growth chart.
I think you get into a sort of blitz mentality when you have a newborn. You just do whatever you need to do to get through. Looking back I realise how I swallowed a lot of the guilt and emotion that came along with all this, and that it keeps popping up in odd places every now and again.
I recognise now that I still feel angry with myself for inadvertently hurting my tiny, helpless baby. Look, I know it wasn't my fault, and that I fixed it, but it's hardwired in me to protect him and for those first few vulnerable weeks, unknowingly, I did quite the opposite. I wondered if I'd been selfish to carry on breastfeeding - especially when the GP recommended giving him formula to ensure he had a food source that was allergen free. I've been strict with myself, but even now when he has a bad night, I wonder if it was something I've eaten unknowingly. The couple of times I've slipped up - although they have served to prove that soy and dairy are the issues - have been unbearable. And now the second I'm taken out of control of the food I'm eating, I get horribly paranoid. Is that sauce really dairy free? Do those vegetables really not have butter on them? They're kind of shiny.... I'll always go without rather than risk it. I know it's not forever, but for now, it is often challenging.
Luckily at home we're used to fussy diets. My husband is a vegan, so I'm already well-versed in products that sneak whey in where you're least expecting it. He gets his protein from soy though, so most nights I make two versions of the same meal so we don't drop apart from malnutrition. Not ideal when you have a newborn, but has made me the world's fastest cook. And I have so many recipes that you can put sausages in at the end. Also -Boot's chewable calcium supplements. They taste like vanilla sweets. Amazing.
So now we're coming up to 19 weeks, with a happy, healthy, energetic little boy. The diet thing can definitely be done, although I'm still taking each day as it comes. I wish there had been more information out there for me in those early weeks - as many as 2% of babies experience some form of dairy intolerance, and a lot of those go undiagnosed for months. I can't imagine how I would feel now if I'd listened to those doctors and gone home and put up with it. For weeks I felt on the verge of depression - convinced I was imagining everything and that motherhood was a joyless, murderous trudge that everyone else was able to just get on with. As it turned out, there actually was a happy baby underneath it all.