Before my son was born, I hadn’t researched breastfeeding that much. I was more concerned with getting through the labor and thought I would figure out breastfeeding later since it looked pretty easy. I also thought I would pump almost exclusively since that seemed time saving and help me to put him on a schedule so I could run and continue doing what I wanted to. All that went out the window pretty quickly.
Right when he was born, the nurse asked me, “Do you want to feed him?” Without even thinking, I said, “Yes” still in the whirlwind of just surviving a quick 3.5 hour natural birth. He nursed for 90 minutes straight, and it was the sweetest sight to see him gently suck while nuzzling me. We took him home 24 hours later, and I was nursing him every few hours. My doula and lactation consultant came over within the next few days, and we noted that turning his neck seemed uncomfortable for him so he would unlatch frequently. So, my LC suggested I take him to a chiropractor since some babies (or all babies) need to be realigned. So, I took him to the chiropractor I had been seeing throughout my pregnancy since they provide a free adjustment for newborns.
After the adjustment, he seemed temporarily more comfortable, but his doctor’s appointments were not going well from the beginning. When we left the hospital, he had gone from a birth weight of 8 lb 2 oz to 7 lb 9 oz, which is within the normal range expected after birth. However, he still weight 7 lb 9 oz at his first appointment a few days after birth. I was immediately interrogated about breastfeeding, told I needed to get him to gain weight, and handed formula. I dismissed the formula, contacted my LC, and continued to breastfeed on demand. I came back at 12 days after birth, and he still had low weight gain. I was devastated. I asked the doctor what I could do, and she said “Nothing. You just need to feed your baby.” I needed to come back within 48 hours and have him back to birth weight. I was scared. So I was breastfeeding, pumping, and giving him some formula. We went back, and he was at his birth weight. We set up our next appointment, and while I was happy he had gained, I wanted a new doctor. We came back for his one month, and he was gaining an average of 0.5 oz a day instead of the 1 oz that is desired. The new doctor again handed me formula or said I needed to pump and feed because “He is just so active he is burning a third of his calories.” Something wasn’t adding up, but I continued for the next several days by nursing, then pumping, and feeding the rest. But why couldn’t I just nurse him? So, I stopped the pumping since I had determined the milk was there if he wanted it. Wasn’t that the only potential issue?
At this point, I was on the search for a new doctor’s office and found one that was very pro-breastfeeding. I wanted a professional that was going to support my decision to breastfeed, while helping me find answers. Over the next several months, he continued to gain slowly, and at 4 months, he lost a few ounces. His growth had also slowed. Every weight check, I had done around this time consisted of my carrying Noah to the scale with a sick feeling in my stomach and my heart pounding. Then, his weight would come up, and I would leave feeling frustrated, confused, and a failure. I was searching everywhere for answers. I had gone to LLL and my LC, and until this point I had been told some babies are just small. Then, I went to LLL again, and one of the leaders suggested looking into a lip/tongue tie. One leader looked at his mouth and swore he had both. So, I scheduled an appointment to have him evaluated with a special dentist ASAP. We drove an hour and a half for that dentist to tell me he had neither. And what is even more frustrating on top of all of this is everyone up to this point including the dentist said he is a great nurser and has an awesome latch (though it is a little shallow). Finally, the dentist suggested I looked into craniosacral therapy, which had just been suggested to me by a doctor friend the day before. I left the office frustrated but knowing that I had looked into every other option so this had to be it. Around this time, I also did several weighed feeds, per the recommendation of the dentist, and realized that my 4 month old was only transferring 2-2.5 oz. My heart sank, and I was furious that no medical professional or LC had suggested this before.
I quickly googled craniosacral therapy, and it made sense. What I was reading indicated that babies who have hard, long, quick, or traumatic births deal with misalignments that prevent them from nursing effectively. Throughout my research over the past several months, it had popped up in my searches, but it seemed similar to chiropractic care so I dismissed it. I immediately called for a referral to the Michigan State University Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine office. I was put on the calendar with an appointment about 8 weeks out and determined until then I would exclusively pump. Thankfully, they called us within a week and said they had an open appointment for the following Monday. God was really watching over us through everything.
I quickly determined exclusively pumping was a form of martyrdom. I was pumping every 2-3 hours round the clock for 20-30 minutes and just barely producing enough for my son (I was feeding him 5 5oz bottles per day). I also went through a period where I would co-sleep and let him comfort feed throughout the night to use that as his practice nursing time so he could improve. Because of this, I heavily dipped into my freezer stash, but I wanted to keep our nursing relationship going. I worried that he would never become an effective nurser if I didn’t let him practice and keep him close. It meant that we used donor milk for a few weeks to a month, but I only needed to use a few ounces a day to make sure he was getting enough. I made sure each of his bottles had some of my milk in it and then would top off the bottles with the donor milk. I looked at the donor milk almost as a foreign substance in a way and that his main source of nutrients and immunity came from my milk.
We started craniosacral therapy when he was about 5 months old, and the doctor told me that it may take a few months for him to nurse completely effectively. I needed to continue pumping, practice nursing, doing weighed feeds, and weight checks. My life became breastfeeding. We initially went to appointments every two weeks for 3 sessions, and then, we had a final one after a month. I did a few weighed feeds after starting the craniosacral and became discouraged that it wasn’t working fast enough. It was also a hassle to go to doctors’ offices or LC offices, so we bought our own baby scale so I could weigh him or do feeds whenever I wanted.
His weight gain was improving by exclusively pumping, averaging 0.75 oz per day, but it still felt stressful and not enough. Our craniosacral doctor kept using the term “borderline failure to thrive”, and it broke my heart. I am a good mom. I was doing everything I could to take care of my son. How was it not enough? How was my kid getting categorized with kids whose parents dump them on the side of the road? Plus, developmentally he continued to be meeting or exceeding his markers.
Thankfully, at 6 months, he started solid baby food, and as a functional nutrition supporter, I had my plan ready to go for nutritious homemade baby food with natural, organic ingredients. Through concepts that I had researched from The Weston A Price Foundation, the paleo community, and Dave Asprey’s The Better Baby Book, I knew I needed to focus on nutrient dense foods like nourishing fats, easily digestible proteins, and vegetables. I planned on avoiding fruits and grains for the first year. I really latched on to a few concepts:
- The Weston A Price Foundation discusses the concept of “sacred foods” from ancient, ancestral cultures, which are packed with fat soluble vitamins and healthy fats for brain development. So, I focused on adding egg yolks, salmon/salmon eggs, avocados, MCT (Brain Octane Oil), grass-fed butter, coconut oil, and animal fats like duck/pork.
- All vegetables need to be combined with fats for better nutrient absorption and increased calories.
- Collagen is a great source of protein and critical for the growth of hair, skin, teeth and nails.
You can read my full description of my food plan for Noah here.
So, here is what typical options looks like for Noah’s meals. The below are purees and first foods. I have many other posts on finger foods and toddler meals that you can check out too.
Breakfast – Half avocado, egg yolk, sprinkle of Himalayan sea salt, sprinkle of seaweed flakes for iodine, cod liver oil
Check out some of my recipes for homemade baby food –
At 7 months, Noah was able to nurse effectively enough that I only had to pump when I was away from him or to store. We both seemed relieved to go back to nursing, and he thoroughly enjoys comfort nursing. I could see this kid going for years! We just had his 9 month appointment, and that was proof that our hard work had paid off. He had gained 4 lb in 2 months, now weighing 18 lb 2 oz and landing in the 20% for weight (which is honestly where Brendon and I are). He also measures 28.75 inches in length (60%) and an 18 inch head (67%). So thrilled! Plus, he has basically skipped crawling and is now trying to couch surf. He loves talking and is such a happy baby!!! For his first birthday, I even made him a nutritious smash cake. You can find the recipe here.
I’m so happy that we made it through this struggle and didn’t quit. I am a better person and mother because of this experience, and my son is a thriving baby. I now have a passion to help others on their journey through motherhood with nutrition, and with my deeper nutrition knowledge, my family will benefit because I even more see how nutrition can impact our lives through watching Noah’s supercharged development over the past few months.