On the first night of my second son's life, I padded down the hospital hallway in my non-skid socks and sweatpants, lifted a phone receiver on the wall to identify myself, and entered the bright and beeping NICU to visit my tiny 31-weeker and deliver a small vile of breast milk.
His nurse was a familiar and comforting face who was sporting a new haircut since our last NICU baby arrived a mere 15 months earlier. She gently scolded me about heeding the advice she'd given me earlier on skipping a pump in favor of some much needed sleep. Then she smiled at my dozing infant and called him 'a real firecracker.'
Over the next few weeks, adjectives like 'feisty' and 'spunky' and 'vocal' were cheerfully applied to the newest member of our family. We watched our little guy squirm around his incubator and tug on his nasal cannula, leads, and IVs. We listened to him shriek and squeal with his tiny chipmunk voice...sometimes from clear across the NICU.
Having a baby arrive at 31 weeks was not new to us. Having a baby who howled with all the vigor, enthusiasm, and pitch of a mini soprano opera singer over getting his diaper changed...well now, that was a novelty.
Our oldest son was generally cool as a cucumber...he still is, for the most part. In the NICU, he didn't even bat an eye when we bathed him, soaping down his tiny wrinkled body with warm washcloths. In fact, I think it's entirely possible that I cried more than he did during the five weeks he spent in the hospital preparing to come home with us. When he did join us at home, his cries were generally milk-related. He cried when he was hungry and again when I made him stop eating (sometimes after hours of treating my breasts as an all-you-can-eat buffet). He still tends to react this way to food. I'm thinking it probably won't be long before Mrs. Obama makes a house call to personally intervene in the parenting of the world's most obese toddler.
So obviously, my husband and I were lulled into a false sense of parenting security. We figured all babies (at least all of ours) were easy-peasy. Hence, our laissez-faire attitude towards the regulation of our mommy and daddy parts, which predictably resulted in the swift second pregnancy.
Now, we have a feisty, spunky, vocal little firecracker who runs our lives like a tiny overlord with zero regard for our household's previously quiet and restful existence.
And, as with most parenting conundrums, everyone seems to have an opinion on how to 'fix' his boisterous temperament.
The go-to theory seems to center around his poor, immature little bowels and his obvious discomfort when the time comes to pass gas through them.
I mean, I suppose we can assume his seemingly crabby nature doesn't have much to do with his distaste for the wall color or our political affiliations. But we will never really know, will we?
These theories also typically place blame on yours truly. Specifically, his gas and by extension, fussy behavior must be derived directly from my diet. I don't know who originally started this insensitive amd baseless blame-game directed towards us poor, sleep-deprived, raw-nippled nursing moms, but I'd like to introduce that someone to the backside of my un-showered hand. Seriously, do we blame gassiness of formula-fed babies on the diets of the cows producing the milk foundation for their formula?? Lay off the fiber, Bessie!
A nursing-mom friend of mine was once nearly deprived a piece of birthday cake by her in-laws because the frosting contained chocolate. Oh the humanity!
Facebook comments fill the profiles of desperate new moms instructing them to avoid broccoli and garlic with absolutely zero scientific basis (in fact, garlic has been found to *increase* an infant's time at breast, if not regularly exposed...and has no known association with gas.)
Sure, your girlfriend's breastfeeding niece may have tinkered around with her diet for six weeks until deciding that she couldn't eat bananas after 10am. But guess who's digestive system was then six weeks more mature when this conclusion was finally reached?
Just sayin'. Mama probably could have saved herself a headache or ten by trusting that Junior's gas problems were most likely the result immature gut and/or swallowing too much air while crying or eating (more likely to occur with a bottle vs breast), and they would resolve in time no matter what crazy diet changes were made.
With kiddo #1, a little light research (of scientific articles, not 'joeblowknowsboobs.com') plus a brief consultation with our home-health nurse convinced me that my diet would have no real impact on the behavior of my kiddo. It does seem to be true that an unbalanced diet may result in food sensitivities or allergies later in life, and therefore eliminating certain foods altogether might be a poor choice.
The nurse even gave me the big A-ok to drink a much deserved beer every now and then and just allow the alcohol to metabolize naturally before nursing or pumping again rather than feeling the need to 'pump and dump' as they say. She was excellent.
Here's a site that has more specifics on drinking and nursing.
With #2, after hours of digging (because what else am I supposed to do in the dead of night while everyone else sleeps?), I was able to find one scholarly, peer-reviewed article suggesting that eliminating cow's milk from a breastfeeding mother's diet may in fact, reduce colic...which is incidentally, not the same thing as gas, and which does not (thank God) seem to apply to my baby.
Just to prove I'm a good sport, I will happily bid fairwell to my occasional half bowl of ice cream and say hello to soy milk in my even less frequent coffee.
FYI: I only quit drinking coffee on a regular basis because we ran out of k-cups shortly before I got pregnant and I am too lazy to dig up the old fashioned drip machine and too cheap to buy more k-cups. I now drink an average of about 2 cups a week, generally in social settings. Boy, do I miss it. We were such great pals.
So we'll see if cutting the already minimal dairy from my diet has any effect on my (technically not colicky*) baby. I will keep you posted.
At this point, I suppose I should point out that one of my greatest personality flaws is that I tend to take even the best-intended comments a bit too personally. Especially if the comments could be even remotely construed as criticism. I have an even stronger response towards remarks with no scientific foundation (in case you skipped over the entire first half of this post).
I have been known to react with internal rage over statements regarding my post-baby body ('Gee, you don't look like you just had a baby' -- 'That's probably cuz I only carried him for 7 months'), and our possible plans for future children ('I would never try for another if I went through what you guys did.' -- 'Great, cuz your opinion is critical in our family planning process.') And don't even get me started on the 'competency' of my cervix.
And before you decide that you should probably just quit talking to me altogether in an effort to avoid accidentally offending me, know that I fully realize this flaw and therefore try to keep those snide responses to myself. I understand that when it comes to my kids and my mommy-bits, I really need to thicken up my skin and let certain remarks roll right off it. People generally have the best of intentions when it comes to dolling out parenting tips, so I will do my best to accept those tips with a smile and a nod.
I might even consider taking that advice, assuming it can be backed up by something other than a third-hand theory passed over a water-cooler.
*Colicky babies must fit the flowing criteria: when an otherwise healthy baby cries harder than expected (inconsolible) more than three hours a day, more than three days a week, for at least three consecutive weeks.
Barf, that sounds terrible. My kiddo may be fussy, but isn't nearly that bad. Big sympathies to parents with babies fitting that description, you guys are real heroes.