Jewish Mother's Milk

6.23.08 Baby's 6th Week


It's amazing. Leo is another being, yet he derives all his sustenance from me. We really are what I eat. The responsibility is staggering. Recently, I've been comparing notes with other breastfeeding moms—whose babies didn't have the sucking problem that Leo is still working against--and the worry and guilt seems pretty common. When you're holding a tiny new being who's screaming so hard his toes are clenched and his scalp is crimson, you tend to ask yourself what you did--or didn't do. When you're trying to breastfeed this screaming thing, and he's shrieking at the nipple you offer as though it has outraged him, it's impossible not to take it personally.

I've talked to a few moms who also wondered if their babies had reflux, a condition I've read about. I figured why else would Leo be eating happily one minute, then suddenly shrieking? But you know what? He's probably just tired, or full, or maybe a little dyspeptic. Babies do cry. And since nursing is still tough for Leo (we're using the supplementer only a few times a day now, so he's almost on his own), it figures that the kid is just frustrated by all the hard work. Yet it's tempting to imagine he has some fancy problem, something really bad, something treatable.

The best diagnosis for the baby meltdown? Colic, an unexplained phenomenon. If it's late afternoon, if the calming that works at other times fails after a few minutes, and if the baby is in distress without any other discernible cause, then it's called colic, it's considered normal, and it's usually gone by 3 months. If we didn't call it colic, I'd probably still be telling myself I'd poisoned the kid with my lousy breastmilk. Or I'd assume I didn't have enough, and he was starving (never mind that he's gaining weight well and when he gets upset while eating and opens his mouth to cry, milk streams out).

Then there's the spitting up. Just like crying, babies do this. But it's my milk he's spitting up. Rejection, plain and simple, splatting out of the babe's mouth. So I consider my diet. Could the spices, or the onions, or the broccoli, or the dairy, or the eggs, be the culprit? Should I begin radically eliminating foods? Many mothers do, and for some, it helps. But really, I have no good reason to believe my baby has an allergy to anything I'm eating, except that he does sometimes cry, burp, fart, and spit up. Just like most babies.

Plus, I've read that babies experience the flavors of their culture's cuisine through breastmilk, and exposure to a wide variety of foods may help them become more adventurous eaters. So I'm eating the same weird crazy stuff I always have (spicy tripe taco, anyone?), and hoping that, sigh, someday, Leo might become a good eater. Or perhaps, at the very least, I won't feel guilty if he winds up being one of those kids who subsists on plain pasta. That would be just my luck, wouldn't it?