As I was reading one of my favorite breastfeeding books , I realized that it didn't have a special needs guide for parents . I was highly disappointed but I think it was a way of the universe telling me that I should speak on the issue, so here I am. First I would like to start off my saying I have been in this situation and it was difficult as hell. I had a 3 month old baby who was having cardiac issues and suffering from failure to thrive . So you could imagine how stressful this situation was, at one point the Physicians told me to STOP yes you heard me STOP breastfeeding because it was contributing to my daughters illness. Let me tell you something physicians, this is the worst thing you could say to a mom and you are terribly misinformed. Let's start by reviewing what is in your breast milk, Breast milk contains water, fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals, amino acids, and enzymes. Now let's talk about the health benefits, breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Breast milk also Isn't that amazing!? So why wouldn't you want to give your baby Breast milk? Now let's discuss the GI issues which is very common with special needs babies, I will start by telling you when you have a baby who is having GI issues your GI will mostly like ask you to STOP breastfeeding and put them on a specialty formula such as Elecare,Neocate, or Almentum. They will probably tell you that your baby has a milk protein allergy (which not always the case ) Let me explain what a milk protein allergy is, It's when the immune system mistakenly sees the milk protein as something the body should be fighting off. It will start an allergic reaction which could cause your infant to have loose stool (which could possibly contain blood), vomiting, gagging, or eczema. Once a GI sees any of these symptoms it's protocol to place the baby on a specialty formula that is a little more gentle on the tummy because the milk proteins are broken down. I suggest if your doctor or GI thinks that your baby has a milk protein allergy ask them to do a stool test. If in fact your infant has a milk protein allergy, or GERD (acid reflux) then I encourage you to start making some changes to your diet. The first step is eliminate dairy and see if you notice a positive difference in your baby's stool and their feeds. I must remind you that a lot of our everyday foods contain dairy and they use many different names for dairy so be very careful ( I included a link to kelly mom that includes the list of other names for dairy) . If the non dairy diet doesn't work then switch to Soy free, again watch the food labels. If you all else fails Go dairy free,Soy free, gluten free, and caffeine free. Try your absolutely best not to give up . Remember breast is best , now there is an exception to the rule, if you believe that it's absolutely medically necessary to be on specialty formula then by all means please place them on the formula, No judgement here because I have been there but it doesn't hurt to make the baby's bottle with half dairy free Breast milk and the other half with specialty formula. Some Breast milk is better than no Breast milk right!? now let's talk about your supply , it is no secret that you may have a problem keeping up with your milk supply if you are dealing with a baby that is extremely fussy,irritable, ill or feeding through an NG tube/g tube. So I will give you a couple tips on how to keep your supply up during a special needs situation. First and foremost if you are in the hospital take a moment to ask to see the lactation consultant , I can't stress this enough . These women are highly educated and will support you through your journey. Guess how many consultants I had ...... ready? 4..... yup 4 lactation consultants and I thank God for them till this very day. They know exactly what to do and what to say. If you run into some other issues at home you can receive help from La Leche League or you can receive an in home breastfeeding consultation (which I offer in case you are wondering ) now here are some ways to increase your supply, I can't stress this enough skin to skin is so important I could be here all day telling you about all the beautiful benefits of skin to skin but we will save that for another blog. So this how skin to skin works , it helps to increase milk supply when mama and baby are having a skin to skin experience by letting the hormones that regulate lactation balance out and it helps to you produce more Breast milk . Pretty amazing huh ? Another thing you should do is keep the baby on the breast as much as possible (if possible) . Next tip is to Pump,Pump,and Pump. You can increase your supply by pumping every 2 to 3 hrs , if the baby is not breastfeeding for some reason you can pump and store. If you are in the hospital with your baby you could ask a nurse or lactation consultant to provide you with a hospital grade breast pump and storage containers. When you are done pumping you ask them to store the Breast milk for you until you and the baby are discharged(if you are starting a dairy free diet make sure to label the milk that still contains dairy. You can save them and give them to eats on feets (they provide Breast milk for moms and babies in need) . Next step is to make sure your are eating a healthy balanced diet and drink lots of water , staying hydrated is very important and will help you increase your supply. Last but not least try YOUR best not to become stressed (insert eye roll ) I know this is so much easier said then done . I have been where you are and it so hard to process everything and you feel so overwhelmed. The best advice I could give to my moms when it comes to stress is to find someone who you trust and is supportive of your breastfeeding journey and ask them to just listen and support you. If you don't have emotional or physical support you can join breast feeding and special needs support groups on Facebook, I can personally tell you that these groups were incredibly helpful . I promise you that you can make it through your special needs breastfeeding journey , it just takes determination and confidence.
Written By: Nikki Cheri
Owner of Serenity Childbirth FL
La Leche League
Dairy Queens Facebook support group
Dairy Free Breastfeeding support
Breastfeeding babies with allergies support