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Why won't my baby eat??!! or Overcoming Breastfeeding Challenges

The first few weeks of having a newborn have got to be the hardest. No one tells you that! Now at 11 months old, things are seeming a little more manageable. Do I have it all figured out like I assumed I already did the day before she was born? Hardly. I'm sure I have more and more questions and uncertainties with each day rather than more answers. Welcome to parenthood!

One of the biggest challenges so far has been breastfeeding. People told me it could be difficult, that it was painful and don't feel bad if you can't do it. I had a several things on my side that have helped me to succeed. At the top of that list is my mom. She breastfed all four of us kids and seemingly effortlessly. I saw how much she enjoyed it too and how healthy each of us has been. Also I loved to be healthy and natural and I knew this was the way God intended for babies to be fed. So it would be the very best option for my baby! Outside of these things the single thing that kept me going, even through the challenging parts was sheer determination. Nothing worth doing comes easily.

Disclaimer: I am very grateful that there is such a thing as formula for babies who do not breastfeed. After going down the journey myself, I understand why some moms choose to switch. It can be extremely hard!! And depending on your personality, it may make you resent your baby or contribute to PPD or any number of things. You have to do what works for YOU and your baby. But if you've found your way here for encouragement, you CAN do it. It all depends on what you are willing to do or endure. It doesn't make you a bad or good mom if you do or don't. Nobody is handing out awards. But I want to share my story, in case it helps ease the journey of even one more mom.

My main purpose here is to tell you about what we began to struggle with at 2 months. This began, literally the day after she received her two month shots. So at first, I attributed her finicky-ness to some sort of "post-shot funk". Previously, she had been in a regular eating habit of one breast, for 10 minutes every two hours. I followed her lead and that's what she settled into. My mom (seasoned breastfeeder) balked at the one boob at a time, but it seemed enough to satisfy her so I went with it! I thought, well, I just make a lot of milk! Wish I had thought more about how true that was later...

This "funk" consisted of considerably shorter nursing sessions. Before she had been on and then off in 10 minutes like clock work. Now it was, 5 minutes, 4 minutes, 7 minutes, 2 minutes!! This wasn't her finishing, satisfied after these briefer sessions. There was screaming, crying, back arching, spit up, nasty diapers, etc. I scoured the internet looking for an answer. Was it a food sensitivity?? I tried elimination diets and my supply would dip dramatically. Plus, I would be starving! I've never been so ravenous as I have been while breastfeeding. I can outeat my husband! I could probably outeat a football team! So I had to eat. I remembered a little girl I had babysat before had "acid reflux" and while I was skeptical that this could be our issue, I knew back arching was a characteristic symptom. So I did what any self respecting mom would do. I googled it.

My search turned up a quiz to take to determine if your baby had acid reflux. I took it and it came up positive. I was still unconvinced but decided this warranted a call to our pediatrician. I called and explained her symptoms to the nurse and she ensured she would call me back after speaking with the doctor. A couple of hours later, she called me back with a prescription for Zantac. I was slightly concerned that they were going to give my baby medicine without actually seeing her. But I took this as confirmation that it must be a valid diagnosis. I HATED putting my baby on medicine.  But I wanted this to get better. Feeding times had become a nightmare, my breasts were uncomfortable, she would scream and cry and arch, and I just knew she must be in pain.

We had one good week on the Zantac. (I now know this week was probably during her growth spurt when she was ravenous to eat more). After that it was back to the way it had been before. Had I eaten something? What was wrong? We upped her prescription dosage. No change. Twice she went on a mini nursing strike where she went 6-14 hrs without eating. The second time it happened was the 14 hrs and this was our turning point. She had been on Zantac for about a month. She didn't seem to be getting any better and I knew the next step would be a medicine like Prevacid: a proton pump inhibitor. I had read about both medicines and I knew I didn't want her on either one, but especially not a PPI drug.

You see, our bodies are complex organisms, created to do quite a bit on their own. The Zantac was neutralizing her stomach acid. But I knew her body might start to produce MORE acid to compensate. The PPI meds would inhibit her stomach from producing acid altogether. But our stomachs actually need acid to digest our food. When we start messing with our bodies natural processes we can cause all kinds of harm. Especially with her being so young, I really didn't want to mess with the function of her body.

The morning everything changed started out rough. She had eaten at 11 pm the night before. The only time I could get her to eat at all now was while she was sleeping. Although I didn't understand why (now I do. There were too many unanswered questions. Babies do things for a reason!! Pay attention to the clues they give you). She didn't eat when she woke up for the day at 7 and she wouldn't eat a couple of hours later either. She did however have 4 VERY poopy diapers. I googled this of course and found that she could get dehydrated very easily. I confess, I panicked a little and called the doctor to make an appointment.

*One nurse actually suggested that I get my baby some pedialyte to feed to her from a bottle rather than breastfeeding for a while. I'm sorry, what?? I know that my breastmilk is the absolute best and healthiest thing for my baby. Why would I give her some man made liquid?? I really wish that all doctors and nurses were better educated on breastfeeding. That among many other things is why I decided to take my child's health into my own hands, and out of a pediatrician's. That is not to say that we won't go to the doctor when we need to, but so far, nearly a year into her life, we haven't really needed to.*

The doctor found her to be completely healthy, great weight gain (remember this for later) and of course, Paisley was all smiles for the doctor. I explained the issues we were still having with her eating and the doctor could only say that babies appetites just fluctuate. And we could up her Zantac dose again and then try the PPI medicine.

I was not at all satisfied with the doctor's response. While I was grateful that my child was totally healthy, I was frustrated that there was no explanation for the h-e-double hockey sticks that we had been going through at every feeding.

After I brought P home from the doctor, she was past due for a nap and screamed and cried from being overtired. I was crying with her and really wanted her to eat. It was now close to 1 pm and she had not eaten since 11 pm the night before. All I could do was pray. And I had been praying before, but also acting on whatever I could think of to do. I had been acting in fear. As P finally settled into sleep, I was able to get her to nurse. All of a sudden I felt my milk let down and immediately, P pulled off and started to cry. *LIGHTBULB* I don't know why I had never noticed until this moment, except that I was completely at a loss and could finally stop trying and pay attention to the OBVIOUS that God had been trying to show me. That, plus the reassurance that my child was healthy, caused me to look at our situation from a different perspective. Since she seemed to be having trouble right as my milk let down, I looked up oversupply and overactive letdown, this time with fresh eyes. Because I had looked them up before, but somehow amidst my being convinced of acid reflux, had never noticed how her symptoms completely lined up.

Symptoms of oversupply and overactive letdown:
Choking or sputtering at the breast
Clicking sound (I was afraid this was due to a lip or tongue tie)
Crying or fussiness at the breast
Pulling of and on the breast frequently while nursing
Periodically refuse to nurse
Spit up very often and/or very gassy
Clamp down on nipple to slow the flow of milk (P did this to me ALL the time. It's probably why things were so painful at times.)
Only willing to nurse when drowsy or sleeping
Rapid weight gain (the one symptom that didn't match up with an acid reflux diagnosis)

P fit every. single. one. A huge sense of relief came over me. saved my life and my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter.

A SOLUTION: *Check with your lactation consultant or a doctor knowledgeable about breastfeeding if you are unsure on whether to try this. I didn't. But I don't like to ask permission for things. That's just me. I knew it would work for us and it did.*
At this point P was nearly 5 months old and my supply was well established. So we were able to begin "blockfeeding" and within days our problem was fixed.
Blockfeeding meant, feeding her from the same breast for a 4 hour block of time before switching to the other side. This accomplishes two things:
1. The breast is fully emptied.
2. The other breast remains full for longer periods of time, signaling the body to slow down its production of milk and eventually correcting the oversupply issue.
For me, I would just make sure she fed off of each side twice in a row before switching to the other side.

Now at 11 months old, we have had zero breastfeeding issues since. She still nurses from only one side at a feeding, but we were able to stop block feeding around 6 months old. Her feedings have gone from every 3 hours to more like every 4-5 hours. I know the weaning process is slowly beginning. I'm not sure exactly how that will go. I definitely plan to breastfeed her to a year, but I do not plan to abruptly cut her off. I will be sure to update you here on our weaning experience.

Please leave a comment about your breastfeeding experience! If you have experienced something similar or if this post helped you in any way, please let me know! You can do it, mommas! You know your baby best.


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