In 2003 I became a mom. For the first two weeks it was great. He slept, I slept, we got into a groove. But in week three he started to cry a lot, and wasn’t sleeping well, and a new chapter in my life began.
My first son had silent reflux. They call it silent because there is no spit up. At all. At first this sounds great, until you realize it hurts twice as much – coming up and going back down. Plus there isn’t the obvious symptom in your face (or wherever else they aim their spit up), so it’s harder to figure out why your baby is so miserable.
He was easily overstimulated (he’d be wide-eyed when we went out and then scream his head off when we got home). He also took 30-minute naps regardless of what I tried (trust me, I tried it). I don’t know if the naps and reflux were connected, but they sure did make my life hell. There wasn’t time for “sleep when the baby sleeps” with his naps being so short. And then it got worse.
Refusing To Nurse
I think he was three months old when he first refused to nurse. I offered my breast at a time when he should have been hungry, and he screamed at me and turned away. After this happened a couple of times (obviously I had to pump) I started getting worried. He would nurse if I did it while he was asleep, so I did that a few times. I also fed him with a medicine dropper (he wouldn’t take a bottle). Yup. Those were some fun times.
We went to see the pediatrician and she watched me try and nurse him. As soon as she saw him refuse and scream she said it looked like reflux. This was a surprise to me. We discussed doing a barium swallow test (your child drinks something while they watch the digestive process via x-ray) but since he refused to take a bottle (they would have to put a tube up his nose) we opted to just try the prescription Zantac she offered and see what happened.
24 hours later we didn’t even recognize our son. He was happy! It felt like a miracle. One the fourth day he was screaming again. I read on reflux.org that many patients developed a tolerance to Zantac which made it useless. Great.
Instead of switching to another stronger medication we decided to try an alternative approach and took him to a Naturopath. We went to our appointment thinking he’s going to give us an alternative idea of what is wrong with our son, but he turned to me and started talking about food issues.
That was eye opening.
My Food Allergies
About seven years prior to becoming a mom I went to see a Naturopath. I was getting a lot of adult acne and was really frustrated. My mom suggested I see this woman, and offered to pay for it. I was game for anything. The Naturopath explained to me that there are only five ways for our bodies to eliminate waste: pooping, peeing, belching, passing gas and our skin. The first two are obviously normal (and ideal!) ways of eliminating waste. Too much in any other area indicates a problem – your body can’t deal with something in the regular way.
So I went on an elimination diet. This is when you eliminate all the foods people typically have issues with, then add them back in one at a time to test them. I didn’t eat any of these foods for two weeks (and I dropped 10 lbs), then I ate each food twice a day and made note of any belching, gas or acne (fun times I tell ya). Are you ready for the list? It’s not pretty.
- yeast (and fermented foods)
I think my original list had more on it than that, but these are the major ones. According to something I read this list should include food additives as well – like dyes and preservatives. Read this article from Dr. Mercola, an osteopathic physician: Why Are There So Many Food Allergies Now?
So you’re probably wondering what the heck I ate, right? Oatmeal with applesauce and cinnamon for breakfast (no sugar or dairy), rice with tahini (a sesame seed sauce) from the truck outside my grad school building was a typical lunch, dinner was often some type of meat (seasoned with spices, no BBQ sauce) and veggies or a salad (with lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil…no salad dressing or butter). I remember my mom handing me her credit card and telling me to buy whatever I wanted at the store. I had to eat so simply and pass up on so much I bought myself flowers. It was hard, but I was really motivated to fix the problem – not just manage the symptoms (acne).
Start reading packaged foods and you’re realize there is corn and soy in everything. Yeast is a common flavoring, and dairy is everywhere too. How this impacts people obviously varies as we’re all different.
So….what happened? Turns out I was having issues with sugar, and a bit with yeast as well. The Naturopath gave me some natural remedy (I don’t recall what) and I cut back on both foods and my acne cleared up. In fact, the month before my wedding (which included beer brewed by my parents) I didn’t drink a single beer as I wanted to make sure my face looked good on my wedding day! And it worked.
Nursing and Food Allergies
Back to my baby…so this Naturopath mentions food issues. He explains that if I eat a tomato my son isn’t getting tomato when he nurses, but if I have issues with tomatoes the reaction my body has (creating antibodies to fight the tomato) affects my breastmilk. So if you’re nursing and eating tomatoes seems to make your baby fussy, it’s not your baby that has a problem with tomatoes – it’s you. He suggested an elimination diet but I told him I knew the problem already.
I was stressed out (baby crying all the time, new sleep-deprived mom) and turning to crappy food for comfort. When I could not get my son to sleep I’d walk in the kitchen, pull out a spoon and the ice cream carton while he screamed and I tried to stay calm. I also wore out the #3 on our phone calling my husband so often, as his work number included three 3s.
The next day I went 100% off sugar and had the worst headache of my life. Day 2 he seemed better and my headache was gone. On day 3 he was nursing without a problem.
He still took 30-minute naps, but he was happily eating again and we didn’t have to keep trying different medications on this tiny human being.
Years later, once he could talk, he said: “My tummy hurts” and “the food is coming back up” so we did the barium swallow. It showed mild reflux, so we turned to chiropractic care and after three weeks of adjustments and vibration therapy he stopped complaining.
I am not a medical professional. I’m just a mom who did a lot of research, talked with lots of people, and went through some pain and suffering to find a solution that worked for my son and my family too. I hope this information helps some of you.
P.S. We all survived this experience and today he has no digestive issues and he’s a great kid.
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