As a mother of a newborn baby, I guard my baby like a mama bear guards a baby bear. My hope is to nourish my baby with milk that I produce. And so, you can imagine my absolute horror when I find out that I was actually potentially poisoning my own baby.
It happened the third night we were home after coming back from the hospital. We had asked our night nurse to come the first two nights. The first night was because it would be our very first night with the baby home (duh), and Chris thought it would be a good idea for her to also come on the second night because he had heard that babies can be a bit fussy on the second night. Well, the baby was not fussy on the first or the second night. On the first night, she was super sleepy. On the second night, she was similar. On the third night, during the early evening, she started crying like crazy and neither of us could figure out what was wrong. She did not seem that hungry, and her diaper was not dirty. She was not running a fever, nor did she seem too hot or too cold. We just didn’t understand what was going on. And so, we proceeded to take turns holding her and cradling her to calm her down. And while she was eating from my breast, she just did not seem happy, and I was super confused. The next day, we told our Night Nurse about how upset she was, as it continued and happened on the fourth night, as well, when the night nurse returned. We also noticed that she got really upset after having some breast milk that I had expressed earlier in the day. So the night nurse suggested that it may have been something that I had eaten that had upset the baby through the breast milk. We talked through all the things that I had eaten that were new on Sunday and Monday that I had not eaten on Friday or Saturday: we concluded that it was actually the spicy dal that I had made.
The Night Nurse said that at this early age, the baby could be fussy at multiple types of food, including but not limited to: dairy, leafy greens like cabbage or chard, and beans. This made me pretty upset because I really love dal and enjoy making it. It is probably one of the most enjoyable ways on earth to eat beans, which as an added bonus is just super healthy. And the funny thing is, beans are supposed to be a galactagogue and ultimately help produce more breastmilk. So this was not really great news if this was truly the case. We decided that to be safe, Chris would finish the rest of the dal I had made and I would eat the other food we had.
For the next day or so, we had to give the baby more formula and even toss out the breastmilk I had expressed in fear that the beans in the breastmilk were upsetting her. Our night nurse tried to bring the baby to me once or twice during the middle of the night on the fourth night, but each time, the baby would immediately reject me after latching, screaming and crying, perhaps immediately smelling and sensing the dal residue in my milk. I was so devastated at her rejection, as I was not prepared for it, that the second time it happened, I just burst into tears. I never thought that I would get so upset at my baby rejecting me. But it really hurt. It was likely all of the postpartum hormones running through my body in addition to my complete lack of understanding of how babies can react to different foods that a mother eats while breast-feeding. In addition to that, even though I was able to sleep more that night because the night Nurse was not bringing the baby to my breast throughout the night, it made me feel sad and empty because even though it had only been a few nights, I had gotten used to having her at my breast multiple times throughout the night. I missed her. You would think I would’ve been happy to sleep more, but it actually made me upset and feel like I messed up. I was poisoning my baby without realizing it.
Now, I had spoken with my doulas, two different lactation consultants, and a couple of doctor friends about this afterwards. All of them do not believe that this had anything to do with the dal I had eaten. In fact, they also said that around day 3 to 4 Of a baby’s life, most parents report that fussiness randomly appears out of nowhere if the baby was not already fussy. So, I felt a little bit better about that because I was really upset with myself for making my baby’s stomach upset if that is actually what happened. Granted, I was an inexperienced parent and so I had no idea what I was doing. But Chris insists to this day that it was the dal because he said that it was far spicier than I had probably made it before, and that even for him, it was quite potent. So, to be safe, I have laid off on the spicy dal since that incident and will try to make dal again eventually, but perhaps less spicy, at maybe about the two month mark. The Night Nurse said to introduce foods like that more gradually and when the baby is a tad bit older since her stomach is still developing. So, it’s not that I’m going to be avoiding beans or spicy dal for the entire time that I am breast-feeding, but rather that I will slowly introduce foods like these that could upset a tiny tummy too young. So, that’s good news for me.
“The first breast-feeding tears,“ Chris said, while patting me on my back while I cried. He was trying to console me, but I still felt terrible. At least we potentially knew it was wrong so this would not happen again. This is the life of two new parents navigating the world of raising a child. And this is the guilt of a new mother.