At Annabelle’s two month wellness check-up in July, our pediatrician asked me how everything was going. I told him about how she would sleep for a solid six hours before waking up to nurse at night, then go back down for another three or four. I bragged about how her bowel movements were normal and happened every other day. I was all smiles since Belle was such an easy, happy baby. After that appointment, everything changed.
I’ve heard from other mothers too that they noticed a change in their babies around the six to eight week mark. We all observed an increase in fussiness, the onset of discomfort, changes in sleep habits…like we had a different baby. These changes indicated that for all of us, something in our diet was upsetting our breastfeeding baby. For me, the culprit was dairy.
Annabelle started having bowel movements multiple times a day and the consistency and color were no longer normal. She became uncomfortable laying on her back and screamed in her car-seat. She started waking up every 45 minutes, every single night! My poor baby would cry and cry unless she was asleep, which was never for very long. I started my search with Dr. Google and came up with many resources for breastfeeding mothers whose babies don’t seem to tolerate them eating certain foods.
With Emma, my eldest, I remember her having a horrible fit the day I polished off about five clementines in one sitting. So I avoided citrus for a while. Other than that, I never examined what I ate and how it impacted her; I just assumed she was a fussy baby (which she was, like you wouldn’t believe). With Annabelle, I couldn’t pinpoint anything specific, she just seemed to be in a terrible mood all the time, which was in stark contrast to the way she had been for her first two months of life! I learned the most common culprits are dairy, caffeine, and chocolate. I had a gut feeling it was the dairy—and I was right.
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I eliminated dairy from my diet cold-turkey on a Friday. No more milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, or processed foods containing whey, casein, or any one of a huge number of pseudonyms for milk products. That day, Belle was her usual crabby self and she was up all night long. The next day, she woke up happy. I’ll never forget the twinkle in my husband’s eye when he said, “It’s like you gave us a whole new baby!”
The change was fast and dramatic. Annabelle is her happy self again, no longer spitting up tablespoons of breast milk after nursing, no longer crying at being set down on her play-mat for three minutes so I can brush my teeth, and sleeping for a couple of three-hour stretches during the night!
How hard has it been? Well, it’s only been just over a week so I’m still “detoxing” from what I understand. It can take up to three weeks for all of the milk proteins residing in the body to flush out and, in the meantime, a host of symptoms can appear. Some days I’ve felt fine, others I’ve been congested, crabby, achy, and stuck in the bathroom more than I’d like to admit. I thought I’d crave cheese but so far I haven’t missed it. I’ve replaced ice cream with sorbet and am meal planning more diligently since tossing a frozen pizza in the oven is no longer an option.
Avoiding dairy is such a small sacrifice (some would say it’s actually better for me anyway!) to make to breastfeed my baby and have her be happy, I can’t imagine going back! I encourage mothers to do their own research and not be afraid to give a change a chance, even just for a week or two (remember, Belle made a huge turn-around in just 24 hours!), just to see if your baby feels and acts a bit better!