Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What A Difference Some Milk Makes

I want to blog about this time in Susannah's life mostly for memory's sake, but also to share some cute pictures :)

Susannah and her Uncle Luke

From the very beginning of Susannah's life, people have told us over and over, "she'll eat when she's hungry". But we have eventually figured out with each "stage" that for Susannah, that's not exactly true.

When she was just a few days old, she would cry and scream from hunger, but be too impatient to nurse. People told us "she'll eat when she's hungry"... but she WAS hungry, and wouldn't eat. With lots of patience, some help from a friend, and lots of practice on both mine and Susannah's part, she learned to nurse.

Fast forward to several months ago, and she started occasionally basically refusing to eat anything that wasn't pureed to smithereens. She had been eating chunkier foods, but wouldn't. Again, people told us "she'll eat when she's hungry". That time we figured out that she was teething... and pureed all of her foods which she would then eat heartily. Eventually once her teeth stopped bothering her (and you would never know she was teething), she started eating her usual non-pureed foods again.

To rewind a bit, from the time she was weaned on, about 95% of her liquid intake was whole cows milk. I grew up drinking milk all the time - I actually preferred milk over water - and I just think that milk is the best drink for growing kids. (I know some of you may have different ideas, thoughts or perspectives. I'm not on a "drink milk" campaign in this post.) I didn't think twice about our kids NOT drinking milk most of the time - at least for every meal - while growing up.

Back this summer Susannah started occasionally going through phases where she just would. not. eat. She would take two or three bites of each food and then say she was all done. Sometimes we could get more in her, but sometimes she would just fuss and refuse to eat. It just didn't seem right to me, but trusted people told us "she'll eat when she's hungry". She was drinking milk, so I wasn't extremely worried that she was going to dry up and blow away, but my mama-gut just felt that it wasn't right for her to only eat a couple tablespoons for a meal... or two, or three in a row. It was never consistent enough for me to think I should take her to the Dr., or that something was REALLY wrong... I was just puzzled.

Then she started what we thought was a "sensitive gagger" stage. Sometimes she would just throw up on the most random foods. And throw up EVERYTHING. And then not want to eat anymore (who would?). We started being very careful how much and what she/we put in her mouth. Cleaning up throw-up is not fun. Cleaning a high-chair with it's cracks and crannies full of throw-up is even less fun. I learned really quickly how to get the high-chair clean with little effort:

Run it through the "high-chair car wash"

Susannah's phases of not wanting to eat very much were becoming more frequent, as was her throwing up. Some days she would eat fine, but others - and for a couple days in a row - she would eat like a bird. She was still drinking milk, and drinking plenty of it (she would go through about 1 1/2 gal. a week). And she was still having plenty of wet diapers and a normal amount of dirty ones.

A couple weeks ago we went on a weekend vacation, and she threw up TWICE during that time. She would act hungry, but then only eat a little bit. Cheerios were about the only thing she would eat. A few days after we got home, she was not wanting to eat. It was day 3, I think, of her barely eating at each meal and I was really pushing her to eat more food (she was down to eating 1, maybe 2 Tbsp. of food at a meal) because I just knew that she needed the food. No one can convince me that she was eating enough. Getting enough milk, yes. Getting enough FOOD, no. She still wasn't looking sick or like she wasn't healthy, she just wouldn't eat. Anyway, back to the meal... I pushed her to eat one more bite, and as soon as it went in her mouth ALL of her supper and then some came back up.

Because my stomach wanted to flip-flop, too (pregnancy!), because I was frustrated with myself for having pushed her one-bite-too-far, and because I was frustrated that she wasn't eating (though not frustrated AT Susannah), I called for Daniel to come take over right away. I went outside and sat on the steps for some fresh air and eventually cried for a bit.

My mama-gut just knew something wasn't right. I just could not for the life of me figure out what. Was she going through a picky stage? But on good days she would eat just about anything. Does she have a sensitive gagger? But why so sensitive? WHAT was making it so she didn't want to eat?? WHAT was making her throw up?? I was frustrated and did not know what to do. Should I take her to the Dr? Do I call a friend and see if she has any suggestions? Do I just assume that "she'll eat when she's hungry" and not worry about her only eating maybe 1/4 cup of food a day?? (And she wasn't snacking, either... she would ask for a cracker but then not eat it, which was also strange to me.)

I finally realized I had not done the one thing I should've already done: I had not prayed about the situation. In desperation (why do I seem to always wait for the situation to get desperate?!) I silently cried out to God asking Him WHAT is the matter? WHAT am I doing wrong? WHY isn't she eating? WHY is she throwing up? I don't know what to do!! HELP!!! Show me!!!

Within 5 minutes, Daniel came out to gently ask if I was ok. I told him I didn't know... I was frustrated and didn't know what the problem was or what to do. Out of no-where he said "I wonder if it's the milk."

It was as if God answered my prayer right then and there. Is it the milk? But she drinks milk... and likes to drink milk. But she drinks a LOT of milk. And Daniel's family (and Daniel himself) have some sensitivities to milk (and yogurt and ice cream). I had never thought of milk before.

That evening Susannah did not have any more milk to drink. Of course she had emptied her stomach contents (which obviously included the milk she'd had after her nap and for supper), so she was starting with a "clean" stomach. We gave her water for the rest of the day.

The next morning when she woke up, the first thing she did was sign "eat". I cannot tell you what my heart and emotions did to see her asking to eat. I gave her some juice - instead of milk - while I fixed her breakfast and she chugged down the entire sippy cup full. And then ate more food at that breakfast than she had eaten in all 3 meals the day before. I continued to give her water instead of milk over the course of the morning, and by lunch-time she was persistently asking to "eat" again. I fixed lunch for her, a finger-food lunch, but it was the same amount as I usually fixed. But usually she would only eat 2 or 3 pieces of each food, and maybe 1 cracker before declaring "all done". This is what she ate for her first no-milk lunch:

When I saw her putting the food into her mouth... and she kept eating... and it stayed down... and she kept eating... I wanted to cry from happiness and in praise to the Lord.

Since then we have not given her milk to drink. That has been about 2 weeks ago, now, and she continues to amaze me with how MUCH and how WELL she will eat!! Her sensitive gagger issues seem to have gone away, too. It used to be that if her mouth was very full at all, she would gag and throw up. Now she stuffs her mouth TOO full sometimes (before we notice and intervene) and she'll just chew it up and swallow it down! It makes sense to me that if her stomach was feeling "off" she would gag & throw up much, much easier. She has not thrown up once since we took her off milk, either. There have been a few times that she's started to swallow something too soon, and has to "work it back up"... and I nervously wait for her to throw up but she doesn't.

My only regret is that I didn't weigh her when we first took her off milk. Again, there was no noticeable weight-loss (She's always been in the 50th - 90th percentile range for her size/age.), she was not thin or sick looking, and there hasn't been any noticeable weight-gain, but I'm sure she's put on a few pounds in that short time just because she is eating so much more than she ever did before!

I am starting to research other options for milk for Susannah. Goats milk and almond milk will probably be my first experiments. If milk, period, is an issue I am content with letting her get her calcium from non-dairy sources, but milk is my no. 1 choice. Milk products (yogurt and ice cream, two things that bother Daniel if he has too much) will only be trial and error, or taking it easy on those foods until she is able to communicate if they bother her stomach or not. Currently yogurt is one and only thing she refuses to eat. She will ask for a taste but then won't touch the first taste. I think that probably is a mind thing ;)

Again, her issue with milk is totally a home-diagnosis. It's not a "proven" fact, but her 180° turn-around is evidence enough for me. I will probably mention it to her Dr. at the next visit, just so he is "in the know", but I don't plan to have any testing done.

Now I just praise the Lord for answering my prayer so quickly, for giving Daniel the thought that "maybe it's milk", and that Susannah is EATING again!!

Susannah and her dolly early one morning.
She used to hate wearing a hat, but after we gave her a dolly
(who has a hat), she likes to wear her own hat :)

My two lessons from this are:
~Pray! Before the situation gets "desperate".
~Trust my mama-gut feelings.

*I want to add that Daniel and I did talk through his own sensitivities to milk to hopefully get a grasp of how milk might be affecting Susannah. Daniel said that he grew up eating cereal & milk every morning for breakfast... but it wasn't until he went away to college and then came back home (and started eating cereal and milk for breakfast again) that he realized his stomach hurt every time he had milk. And he said "I didn't want to eat, either, when my stomach hurt." Now Daniel can have a bowl of cereal or ice cream occasionally, but if he has them two days in a row it starts to bother his stomach. Milk or milk products in things don't seem to bother him, unless it's something like white sauce, a breakfast casserole with lots of milk in it, or something similar that is mostly milk. He gets cheese every day on both his breakfast and lunch sandwiches, and it doesn't bother him, so cheese is becoming more a part of Susannah's diet.


Kelly said... [Reply to comment]

Wow! What an ordeal! I'm so glad you figured out what was going on. My kids have drunk raw goats milk from the time they were newborns because I wasn't able to breastfeed. I hope she can handle that or almond!

I'm so often the same way, waiting until I've exhausted all my other resources before coming to Him. How I desire for my mind and heart to turn to Him first every time.

Elizabeth said... [Reply to comment]

You described my situation with Zaden earlier this year to a T. Drinking milk made him refuse to eat and made him throw up! Allergy tests said no allergy but still, we kept him off of milk for 4 months. He's back on it and perfectly fine. Can't explain it and don't want to. Coconut Dream is also a good option and full of nutrients ;)

Aunt Betsy said... [Reply to comment]

I am glad Susannah is enjoying eating now. Years ago, after many digestive issues, it was determined that I was lactose intolerant. Milk and ice cream in more than small amounts seem to be the worst culprits. The milk that I choose is the 100% lactose free milk (can get in store brand) with more calcium, vitamin D and less sugar than the milk that Bruce drinks.

There are no many choices on the milk shelf now that it is hard to know which is best for the one drinking it!

Alyssa said... [Reply to comment]

As I was reading this, I had another thought. Though it is quite likely that she has some sort of milk intolerance, the whole issue could have been that she just wasn't hungry because she was getting her fill of milk. There is a definite slow down of growth around certain points, so they don't need as much food. Maybe her belly was getting full of milk and couldn't handle the food.
I was allergic to milk (gave me asthma) growing up. Also couldn't have ice cream, but I could have cheese & other dairy products. Mom used goat's milk with me. We also used the lactose-free stuff. We also grew up NOT drinking it for ANY meal. :-) Don't you just love how everyone's family is so different? And yet we are all made in God's image.

Miriam said... [Reply to comment]

@Alyssa That thought has crossed my mind, because I know there are plenty of good calories in milk, and it makes sense that if you cut out that much calorie intake, you'll be more hungry. Since posting this, though, I've been reminded that a couple people on my side of the family have issues with milk, too... so right now my best guess is that her increased eating (which she now eats WAY more than that "first meal" that I took a picture of) is from a combination of both: Not feeling badly from the milk = feeling like eating, and from the lack of milk calories. I feel that the reason she WAS staying so healthy even though she was barely eating was from all the calories and good fat she was getting from the milk.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

I so enjoy reading about Susannah. Glad to know she is doing better. God answers prayers To Him Give The Credit. I really appreciate what you wrote. Sometimes we just try on our own before we seek the One that can really help. God Bless you and your family.

Alicia said... [Reply to comment]

Wow! How awesome that God so quickly answered your prayer and I am SO GLAD that she is eating well again! I will be curious to hear how she does with goat or almond milk.

(I've never had almond milk, but it just sounds yummy to me!)