Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gas, Food, Sleeping

Cedar and I have been laying low this last week, trying to get over a cold that we picked up somewhere—or that I developed myself since I’ve been running on empty lately. It’s been a busy and social couple weeks, culminating with a wedding for my dear friend Shelley (former co-author of this blog) on Whidbey Island—three full days of driving, ferries, delicious meals, ceremonies, getting dressed up, walking on the beach, socializing, nursing, bouncing, and trying to get Cedar to nap in between. On Sunday after the wedding, I was hit with a sore throat and stuffy nose, so this week I have been drinking lots of water, hanging around the house, and trying to go to bed early. 

Sleep has been an issue for us the last month or so, with Cedar waking at night as often as every hour or two, usually from gas. This broken sleep has no doubt contributed to my run-downness, and it’s kind of amazing that I don’t feel more sleep-deprived most days. I guess I’ve been able to get enough to survive, even if it is in these small chunks. Thankfully, I don’t have to leave the house and go to work in the morning so I can try to make up for bad nights with late mornings, in which I keep nursing Cedar back to sleep for as long as possible. And I guess my body—which used to demand nine hours of unbroken sleep a night—has adapted and will now humbly take what it can get. But, my god, it’d be amazing to experience an unbroken night’s sleep again! To sleep for eight hours in a row?! I never realized how downright luxurious that would seem. 

Cedar just had his four-month birthday, and some say that around three or four months is when babies start to develop more of a routine and sleep better through the night. Great. It pains me to think that we might be establishing a new “waking throughout the night routine” at this critical point in brain development when he is becoming more alert and aware of everything around him. I’m hoping that this is just a phase, and that it will pass sooner than later.  

When Cedar was about three months old, I decided to track his sleep patterns for a couple weeks to see if he had more of a schedule than I realized. Lo and behold, I found that on most days he was napping around 10:30 a.m., then again around 1:00, and again around 4:00 and 6:00, with some variation depending on how long each nap lasted. I was consistently putting him down for the night around 8:00, then he’d wake once at 3:00, and again at 7:00. At 7:00, he’d usually be pretty awake, so I’d change his diaper, feed, and play with him in bed for about an hour before he’d get tired again and go back to sleep for another hour, whereupon we’d both get up around 9:00. And repeat. It was so satisfying to have some sense of a routine and regularity, to know what to expect so as to better plan and flow with each day. 

And then, about a week and a half later, the night waking started—and the whole “schedule” went to hell. A week or so after that, I stopped keeping track—it wasn’t as satisfying to know all his sleep details when things weren’t going so well. I’d first attributed the night waking to early teething since he was showing all the signs (gnawing on his hand, batting at his ears, squirming from a discomfort that didn’t seem to be gas), but recently, he’s still been waking a lot, and most of the time now, it’s from gas (I know because I usually wake before he’s fully waken, and I hear him whimpering, kicking his legs around, and sometimes farting too).

Gas has been a constant struggle for Cedar from the beginning, but it didn’t seem to bother him—or us—as much before. I don’t know if it’s truly gotten worse now, or if he’s just more aware of his suffering. The gas seemed to reach a new peak of discomfort for him around two months, and ever since then, I’ve started paying extra close attention to my diet to see how much of it is food related. I’ve since deduced that cabbage is a definite no-no, the worst, really bad for my poor little guy. Other gassy vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and peppers are also off limits, although they are not as bad. Beans are pretty awful for him too, as are garlic, onions, and spicy foods. I’ve also completely eliminated all dairy from my diet, because it makes him break out in a crusty rash on his face, and I know it can make some babies gassy, too. I tried eliminating coffee for a week or so, but I don’t think it made much difference. Wheat and soy could be culprits too, but I have yet to test them. The problem is I have yet to do a true elimination diet, so unless there is a super clear correlation that I can trace (i.e. the cabbage), sometimes I’m not positive what caused the gas, but I can make a pretty confident guess (i.e. the hummus—but was it the beans or the garlic?). And since I’m not positive, sometimes I’ll eat those foods again just to be sure, and then feel terrible when I indeed make Cedar suffer again. 

Last weekend on Whidbey we went out to eat, and I ate a couple mussels before I realized they were swimming in a broth of butter. Cedar’s face promptly turned red the next day, and on top of this, despite our best efforts to keep his face covered with a hat, he got some sun as we rehearsed for the wedding ceremony in the afternoon heat. By the next morning, his poor face was the reddest it’s ever been. I felt awful. We’d burned our baby. Or maybe it was mostly from the butter.  

I know I shouldn’t blame myself; I’m doing the best I can, and lord knows I’ve already invested a lot of energy into trying to figure this food allergy puzzle out. But it’s hard not to feel bad when you know that you control what goes into your baby’s system. Besides constantly tweaking my diet, I’ve also tried giving him homeopathics like gripe water and Hylands colic tablets—the latter of which seems to help when it’s really bad. 

I had another low moment last week when Cedar was being super fussy during our PEPS meeting, likely from gas, and I finally left early because I wasn’t able to be present with the discussion-- and shed some tears on my way out. His bad spells are manageable at home when I have the bouncy ball, the Moby, the swaddle blanket, and silence-- all my tools for calming him and putting him to sleep. But when in the midst of company, no matter how friendly and sympathetic they are, I realized how sensitive I felt about my baby’s fussiness.  He’s actually a really mellow baby most of the time, I felt like proclaiming.  

I decided that day that I’d had it with the guesswork and needed to call a naturopath, do an elimination diet if that’s what it’d take. I promptly returned home and called Group Health to check what my insurance plan would cover, then did some research on which naturopath to invest my hope in. But in the end I decided to wait until Cedar had his four-month check-up this last Monday and see what our family doctor thought first. 

When I told our doctor that Cedar’s bad gassy spells might result in maybe a half an hour or so of crying a couple times a week, but that he was never fully inconsolable, she didn’t think this sounded that bad. She said that most babies cry on average of three hours a day, and we agreed that Cedar’s discomforts did not land him in the “colicky” territory. But, really-- three hours? I find this hard to believe based on the experience of other moms I know, but it did make me feel better. Cedar has gas most every day, but the really bad spells only happen now and then. What we’re going through, in the larger scope of baby issues, is not that big a problem.  

I think that his bad gas spells are from the foods I eat, whereas his constant baseline gassiness might come from ingesting air bubbles while he feeds. Or, it could come from other common allergens I have yet to test and eliminate, like wheat or soy. Or, who knows, maybe he just has a super delicate digestive system. I’ve been trying to burp him more than I used to, but at night I nurse him to sleep in our bed, and later when he wakes up gassy, nursing him again is what I’ve found most easily helps the gas pass through and helps him go back to sleep. If I try to burp him when he’s half-asleep, it doesn’t seem like I’m going to get anything out of him. Plus, being able to just roll over and not get out of bed when he wakes is one of the huge benefits of co-sleeping. If I had to wake and burp him after each night feeding, or get up and bounce on the ball for who knows how long each time he woke with gas, I’d be getting up all night long—and for an uncertain outcome. And when you’re as sleep-deprived as I’ve been lately, you don’t have much energy to invest in your own half-baked theories. You just want your baby to go back to sleep as quickly as possible. 

Raising a baby is a constant guessing game and experiment in progress It takes time to research and talk to experts, time I mostly don’t have. And then the experts (not to mention all the self-taught experts out there, a.k.a. other moms) often say different things. And in the end, sometimes I think no one really knows that much more than I do, since my 24-hours a day experience with this particular baby, and my own intuition armed with research, is probably more accurate than most people’s bits of passed-on wisdom.  Plus, by the time you think you’ve figured something out, your baby’s probably changed his game on you already anyway.  

I did feel a little better about Cedar’s gas and sleeping issues after talking to my doctor; it’s reassuring to feel like it’s not really that big a deal, and that night waking is still more the norm with this age than “sleeping through the night”. But after a couple more bad days and nights this week, my search for a naturopath’s second opinion has returned. Maybe we won’t ever get to the bottom of this, and Cedar’s gas is just something we’ll have to help him through and live with, but I can’t stand not knowing if there’s something else I’m ignoring that could help us all feel better. The hardest part is not knowing, a friend said. Indeed. 

On our way home from the wedding last weekend we stopped at Prima Bistro in Langley with the hope of having a nice lunch before getting in line to wait for the ferry. I took Cedar to change him in the bathroom, and just as I wiped his penis (which Matthew had noticed that morning looked kind of red on the underside) he started howling. Oh no. Could his penis be infected? He continued to cry the whole time we were at the restaurant so I got my salad to go, and he cried most of the time we were in line, on the ferry, and on the drive home. The breast wasn’t helping, and nor were the colic tablets, or the baby Tylenol I finally gave him. I felt demoralized, anxious, and sad—not to mention physically drained from my new cold. It didn’t help that he’d barely napped that day either, and that his face looked horrible from the butter and sun rash.  

By the time we got home, he’d calmed down. I had Matthew change his diaper, because I couldn’t deal with inflicting more pain on him, and Matthew reported that his penis actually looked fine, and he didn’t cry when it was wiped. What a huge relief! What this meant was that his crying that day was actually probably from gas. Probably from the white bean salad I’d indulged in and “tested” at the wedding, even though I knew I was taking a risk. Momentarily, things were again put in perspective for me. There are so many other more worrisome things that could be wrong with him. All Cedar had was a mild cold, an unsightly rash, and some persistent reoccurring gas. I could deal with this, even if it still strains my heart each day with worry. We’re going through a rough patch here, but all in all, I am still so very grateful that we are, for the most part, healthy and happy.

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