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Breastfeeding Saved My Child's Life

Taffy Blake
San Antonio TX USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 6, November-December 2006, pp. 255-256

My son, Timothy, was born in November 2004 weighing a very healthy seven pounds, 10 ounces. He was 21 inches long. Since I had breastfed his sister, Emilie, for over a year, I knew that I would breastfeed him, too. Little did I know that breastfeeding would end up saving his life.

During the first few months of our nursing experience together, Timothy gained weight and grew. I loved to nurse him while reading books to my daughter, who was three at the time. It was so adorable when she would sit on the couch with me and "feed" her baby doll while I nursed her brother.

Timothy has always had a well-developed sense of humor. By two months, while we were rocking in the chair together with Emilie, he would quietly reach up, grab her hair, pull, and giggle! He seemed to always be smiling. He filled our home with joy.

At around seven months old we introduced him to solid foods. He wasn't sure at first, but after he caught on he decided that this was a great way to eat. He was also still nursing about eight times per day. When he was eight months old, he weighed 23 pounds. I called him my "chunky monkey." His thighs were so fat! We belonged to both LLL and a weekly support group for nursing mothers. I loved the interaction between him and the other children. I also loved hearing other women's breastfeeding experiences.

By 14 months old, Tim had not gained an ounce over 23 pounds. He was still wearing the same size clothes as when he was eight months old, and he was nursing every two hours just like a newborn. He could not sleep through the night without waking up screaming in pain. We knew something was wrong.

We saw the pediatrician often during the next few weeks. I was terrified every time a test came back normal or negative. It seemed that they tested him for everything. Then he started vomiting every time he ate. He even vomited my milk. He stopped eating solid foods. He wanted to nurse constantly. Then the diarrhea started six to eight times per day. I took him back to the doctor and insisted that they find out what was wrong. He would projectile vomit after nursing and I would cry. I was tired from waking up every two hours and I was emotionally spent from dealing with this illness for over a month.

His doctor sent him to neurosurgery to have a CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan done. She thought maybe something was wrong in his brain that was causing the illness. Just as we walked into the hospital where the test was to be done, I heard our name called over the loud speaker. I started shaking when I answered the page. The doctor said that Tim's blood sugar was extremely low. He was also dehydrated and we had to go directly to the emergency room (ER). I remember hugging him so tight as we walked to the ER. I was fighting back tears, telling myself that I had to hold it together for his sake. In the ER he vomited again. They gave him two large vials of glucose, rehydrated him, and sent us home. As soon as we got home that night he projectile vomited twice.

The next day I took him back to the ER. I was actually hoping that they would admit him. I knew in my heart that that was the only way we would find out what was wrong. They gave him glucose and rehydrated him again. I thought to myself after he was all hooked up to an IV that I did not realize how sick he looked until his color started to return when he was on the fluids. They finally decided to admit him. I was relieved. I stayed with him in the hospital and my husband stayed with our daughter at night. I insisted on cosleeping with Tim so that I could nurse him whenever he wanted. They did not want him on any kind of solid foods, but I was able to convince them that human milk was not a solid and would help heal whatever was wrong in his gut. I even brought some LLL information with me to show the doctors. I made it clear that he would be breastfed even if they did not like it. They eventually agreed to allow him to continue to breastfeed.

We were in the hospital for four days. They did every test known to man and beast. They tested blood, urine, stool, and saliva. Everything came back normal or negative. The doctors were baffled. We were so scared. By this point, Timothy had lost two pounds. On the fourth day all of his specialists got together and decided that the only thing left to try was a biopsy of his colon and intestines. The problem was that he was too sick to go under anesthesia. Tim's dad and I decided not to do it. The doctors said that we could try a gluten free diet. They suggested that he may have a malabsorbtion disease called celiac or sprue. We immediately put him on a gluten free diet.

Timothy is now 21 months old. He has grown three inches and has gained one pound since he went gluten free. He still breastfeeds one or two times per day. When he was diagnosed with celiac disease I started researching celiac and human milk. It turns out that human milk actually helps the villi in the intestines regenerate so that the milk can be absorbed even when other foods can not be absorbed. Because Timothy was breastfed, he did not die of starvation, he maintained weight for a long period of time between eight and 15 months, and was able to meet developmental milestones. He no longer wakes up every one to two hours during the night screaming in pain. His skin rashes have cleared and his hair turned blond.

I thank God that I made the choice to breastfeed my child. I also thank LLL because I learned how important it was to breastfeed for my child's health, especially when my child was sick. LLL also helped me be an activist in continuing breastfeeding while he was so sick and doctors wanted him to wean. I am most thankful that my milk saved my child's life.

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