Monthly Archives: April 2012


Last night, friends of ours had their first baby.  A beautiful bouncing boy.  They happened to deliver at the same hospital we had used.  I am so happy for them and the adventure that they’re embarking on, and can’t help envisioning future playdates, family field trips, etc.  It also got me remembering our own birthing experience almost 5 months ago.

At the time I was nervous, scared, in pain, and exhausted.  Now, of course, I look back with nostalgia – And am only now able to really appreciate the beauty and miracle of the whole event.

Sunday, 2:30am:  I awake from my half-slumber (real sleep is damn near impossible those last few weeks of pregnancy) with some abdominal pains.  Nothing new… I’ve been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for weeks now.  Glad I’m now off work though so that I can hopefully sleep in after another anticipated sleepless night.

Sunday, 3:30am:  Ugh, these pains are getting really annoying.  I know they’re not real since they don’t radiate in my lower back, as I’m told real ones will.  Only in my lower abdoment.  So just go away already!

Sunday, 4:30am:  Okay, this is really starting to hurt.  I’m gonna start tracking them so I can call my doctor tomorrow.  Where’s that Contraction Counter app?  Okay, here we go.  Start, stop…  Start, stop.  About 10-15 minutes apart.  Still only in my abdomen though.

Sunday, 5:00am:  Owwww – That one HURT!  Made me tense my whole body up.  Okay it’s going down…  Breathe… Relax.  Glance over at hubby for support.  He is sound asleep.  Gently shake his arm.  He grunts and pulls away.

Sunday, 6:00am:  Confused.  These Braxton-Hicks are getting pretty strong.  How strong can they get?  I know they’re not real since I still have yet to feel any lower back pain.  App says they’re still about 12 minutes apart, but some even longer than that.  Surprised hubby is still sleeping through all of this.

Sunday, 7:30am:  Hubby yawns, rolls over.
Honey, are you awake?
I keep having more Braxton-Hicks.
Do we need to go to the hospital?
No I don’t think so.  I only feel it in my lower stomach.  Not in my back.
What does that mean?
I think they’re only real contractions if I feel them in my back.
Are you sure?
Yeah.  You can help me time them though.

Sunday, 8:30am:  Hubby is upstairs making breakfast.  I call my sister.  She doesn’t pick up.  So I text: Braxton-Hicks not going away.  She calls immediately.
OMG are you in labor??
No I don’t think so.  Only feel in my stomach, not back.
Yeah, usually you feel in the back if it’s real labor.
It hurts though.
How far apart??
I dunno, like 10-12 minutes…
You’re in labor!!
No I’m not.  They’re not that bad.  Once they go down I feel fine.
Intensity is not unbearable.
Because it starts out slow and then it WILL GET WORSE.  Where is your hubby?
Making breakfast.
Making breakfast!?!  Have him call the hospital!  I’m getting dressed.

Sunday, 9:00am:  Just in case this turns into something, I send hubby to pick up a smoothie and some oatmeal.  I am not hungry whatsoever, but my sister and mom friends have all told me to eat before I go to the hospital (as they won’t let me at that point).  My sister also told me to shower before I go to the hospital.  So I do.  And the pain is getting worse.

Sunday, 9:45am:  By this point, each contraction has me bending over the counter or table to clutch onto something.  These are getting really strong.  But STILL… Only in the abdomen.  Hubby calls hospital.  Nurse asks to speak with me.
How far apart are the contractions?
About 10 minutes or so.
What is the intensity?
I dunno, getting a bit worse, maybe like a 7-8?  Then I’m fine.
Where is the pain?
Only in my lower abdomen.
Are you feeling any lower back pain?
Okay.  So it sounds like you’re experiencing strong Braxton-Hicks contractions.  Your body is preparing for labor, but it doesn’t sound like actual labor.  Of course we would have to check you to make sure.  It’s up to you if you want to come in.  We can check the baby for any signs of fetal distress if you want.
Okay thanks.

Sunday 10:15am:  We decide to go in and have them check on the baby.  We pick up the hospital bag just in case.  On the ride over – Contractions becoming much more intense.  Who knew Braxton-Hicks could get this bad??

Sunday, 10:45am:  Checked into hospital.  They are taking vitals and monitoring contractions to see if I should be admitted and will let us know.  Pain now becoming really intense.  First tears during a contraction.  This is the first point I realize – these are no Braxton-Hicks!  Hubby holds my hand (or rather, I dig my nails into HIS hand) and reads me the monitor levels: Okay hang on, another one is coming, it’s going up, up, up… Okay it’s leveling out… Hang on, it’s leveling out… You’re done now, it’s going down, down, down.

Sunday, 11:00am:  Become inexplicably angry about a conversation between a patient and doctor that is happening in the bed next to us.
I think maybe my water broke?  I was wet all over so that’s why we came in.
Yes, it definitely broke.
Oh no.  Can we go home and come back tomorrow?  We have a birthday party to go to.
Uh… No.  If your water breaks, you are going into labor.  You will need to stay here for observation.
Oh shoot.  Really?  Can’t I just call my doctor and have her release me?

Sunday, 11:30am:  Doctors confirm I am in labor.  Now they want me to walk around the hospital floor to speed things up.  Really??  So hubby and I waddle around the floor.  Each contraction has me bending over a windowsill, a counter, or a table.  People walking by and looking.  Embarrassing.

Sunday 12:30pm:  My doctor calls.  She is not on duty, but I told the hospital to call her anyway.  They would not.  So I called a friend who could contact her.  Doctor is wonderful.  Reassures me right away that she will be here.  Also reassures me that she told the hospital to give me the epidural ASAP (my birth plan = epidural as soon as possible, and my doctor knew that.  Hospital would not give it).

Sunday 1:15pm:  EPIDURAL AT LAST!!!!!!!  Ahhhhhhhhhhh….

Sunday 2:30pm:  Sister arrives.  I’m in much better spirits since the epidural.  Somewhat relaxed.  Just waiting.  Even napping a few minutes here and there.

Sunday 7:30pm:  Besides having to continually fight for more pain medication (to this day, I will never understand why the epidural administrator was so reluctant to give me more, even when I expressed my pain levels AND showed full function in my legs and lower body to address her concerns of numbness), things have been going smoothly.  Nurses keep checking dilation levels, which are proceeding as expected.  We are watching some music awards show on television.  Hubby and sister eat burgers.  Hospital allows me to drink cranberry juice and eat popsicles.

Sunday 7:45pm:  My wonderful doctor is back to break my water.  Who knew they use basically a plastic crochet needle?  No pain.  But then WOW a flood of water.  Keeps coming out and out.  Warm.  Sticky.  A LOT.  I suppose this is why L&D patients are carefully laid on beds covered with doggie pee pads.  More water.  I ask the nurse how much is going to come out.  She said it will keep coming out until the baby is born.  Oh and there’s something else, she says, no big deal but we did see some meconium in the water (this means that the baby’s first bowel movement has occurred in utero; not a good thing).  I immediately freak out.  What!!  Oh no!  What are we going to do??  It’s fine, she says, we will have people ready to immediately clear out the lungs once he’s delivered.  We will closely monitor but it should be fine.

Sunday, 9:00pm:  Nurse says we are getting close to the point of pushing.  Get ready to have a baby tonight!  We’re calling your doctor back in.  Sister is thrilled.  I’m still worried about the meconium.  Nurse gives me an oxygen mask and tells me I need to use it for the baby.  So I do.

Sunday, 11:00pm:  Showtime.  They remind me to keep using the oxygen.  It’s time to push.  Finally.  For a 10-count each time.  Takes a few times to get how to push in the right way.  Okay, got it now.  Out of breath.  Wow, not so easy.

Monday, 12:30am:  Still pushing.  Hard.  With literally all my strength.  HARDER, HARDER!  The nurse and doctor are annoying me.  I AM ALREADY PUSHING AS HARD AS I CAN.  HARDER, says hubby.  I snap at him.  And then I tell doctor that he has not moved a bit.  It’s been an hour and a half, but I can feel he is not moving down.  She nods.  I become more irritated.  So now what?  How long do we keep this up?  Nurse calms me.  She tells me that typically if there is no progress after 2 hours, they will proceed to c-section.  Okay, I figure, at least there is a backup plan.

Monday, 1:00am:  Still no progress at all.  I’m becoming exhausted.  The 10-counts are becoming more drawn out.  From time to time, the doctor has me push for a 15-count.  And the baby has still not inched a bit.  Frustrated.  We’re now at 2 hours.  Doctor knows what I’m thinking.  Let’s try just another 15-20 minutes, she says.  I am angry, not sure why she keeps willing something to happen that clearly won’t.  But I say nothing.

Monday, 1:30am:  Still not a bit of progress.  I am convinced that the baby simply won’t fit through the pelvic bone.  I keep telling them all – He won’t fit.  He’s not moving down.  They don’t really respond, but I can tell they are getting discouraged too.  Hubby has stopped counting.  I look over at sister and she’s half falling asleep.  Everyone looks tired and disappointed.  I keep pushing.

Monday, 1:45am:  The doctor and nurse have now left the bed, although they are still in the room.  I hear the doctor tell the nurse to begin preparing for a c-section.  I hear the nurse on the phone with somebody.  Hubby and sister are sitting, discouraged.  I suddenly have a burst of energy.  I will be damned if I worked this hard to end up with a c-section!  I am angry.  KEEP COUNTING, I scream at my husband and sister like a maniac.  (As an aside, I never understood how important the counting was until I experienced it – It is the only thing keeping you sane during each push – Knowing that you only have 6 counts left, then  5, then 4, etc).  My sister perks up.  She stands up, I know she’s exhausted.  But she’s forcing a smile for me.  Okay, you can do this, keep it up, you are doing great!  I will count for you!  You’re doing so good!   I feel the contractions and I know when to start pushing.  I push and she counts.  ONE… TWO… THREE….  You’re doing so good!  Don’t give up – push push!  You’re doing amazing!  I am just concentrating everything on her, her voice, her counts.  And pushing, pushing, pushing.

Monday, 2:00am:  I vaguely hear the doctor and nurse discussing c-section logistics.  I don’t care.  I am still concentrating 100% on my sister.  She is counting, loud, encouraging.  I keep pushing with every contraction.  And then suddenly – I felt it.  A nudge.  An absolute movement inside.  HE MOVED!  OMG, I shouted, he moved!!  I felt him move!!  I start shaking, adrenaline.  Hubby stands up.  Sister squeals.  Doctor and nurse come rushing over to check it out.  Doctor feels.  I push through another contraction, this time with them all there.  He moved again!!  I am deliriously relieved.  I see doctor nod at the nurse.  I just keep pushing.  Eyes clenched, pushing.  I open my eyes and now the doctor is in some sort of bomb suit, complete with full face shield.  The nurse is manipulating the table.  I look over at my sister.  She is literally jumping up and down, clasping her hands, thrilled.  Hubby is wide-eyed, shocked.  It hits me that it’s happening.

Monday, 2:31am:  The next 30 minutes are a blur.  I don’t remember them.  My recollection is 1 or 2 more pushes and the baby was delivered.  But clearly it was another 20-30 minutes.  I feel him being delivered.  I hear the doctor say, sunny-side up!  THIS is why it was so difficult!  (That means he was a posterior delivery, face up instead of face down).   He is laid on my tummy.  I am in shock.  See hubby cut cord.  And then they immediately take him away.  The room suddenly fills with people, activity.  Teams of people are running in. I am dazed.

Monday, 2:33am:  Suddenly I notice he isn’t crying.  No sound.  The nurse tells me that the people running into the room are NICU doctors.  I panic.  He is on a heating pad on the other side of the room.  There are too many people around.  I can’t see him.  They are hovering over him.  I shout to my husband, WHAT’S WRONG??  Why isn’t he crying??  What’s wrong!!!  He is confused, doesn’t know.  I shout to the nurses, the doctors, WHAT IS WRONG!  WHY ISN’T HE CRYING!  Nobody responds.  I catch a glimpse of one arm on the table, completely limp and blue.  I’m panicking.  Nobody is paying any attention to me.  Heart pounding.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY BABY.

Monday, 2:34:  The sweetest sound in the world.  Baby cries.  Screams.  I exhale.  The NICU doctors are leaving.  Now people are starting to pay attention to me again.  Nurse finally stops avoiding eye contact with me.  And I know it’s going to be okay.  I’m not able to have the Golden Hour with him, as they’re still working on him.  But it’s going to be okay.

Ongoing:  After that, it’s all a blur.  I eventually am taken to Recovery, where the parade of doctors, nurses, test specialists, etc. begins.  So much for rest until we get home!  Visitors come.  I am exhausted and everything is surreal.  I have to stay an extra day than planned in the hospital for my own recovery.  The difficult birth was tough on my body.  I am at some point reassured that the meconium never reached the baby’s lungs.  And he is alert.  Everyone comments on how alert he is, and we notice it too.  So that’s good.  More doctors, nurses in.  Questions.  Instructions.  Checks.  Pokes.  Blood.  Half-listening.  I’m hot, sweating.  Nurse constantly coming in and imploring us to turn off the air-conditioning.  Just ready to go home.  Ready to start.  Ready to be a family.

And then we were.  That beautiful November day when we took our baby home for the first time.  So scared to drive.  So scared to carry him up the stairs.  And then just sitting on the couch with hubby, starting at what we created.  In awe.  And ready for the adventure to begin.

(And for the record, I never did experience the lower back pain during labor).


10 Things I Wish I Had Known About Postpartum Months

So now that I’m a few months postpartum, I suppose I fancy myself some sort of postpartum expert.  Well really, when compared with what I knew before (read: NOTHING), I truly am an expert.

I don’t know what it is about the whole pregnancy and new baby process, but there are so many details that nobody shared with me (or maybe I’m just in the wrong circles??  The conundrum of an older mom with childless friends??)  Outside of the actual baby making process, which gets far too much attention, the rest has basically been a big mystery to me.  Kind of a Google-as-I-go type experience.

So I thought I would do my part and try to share some of the biggest surprises or “not-what-I-was-expectings” I encountered after giving birth:

  1. Mothers don’t always immediately bond with their babies.  Okay, so at first I thought there was something wrong with me.  Up until the moment I delivered, I was fully expecting a heartfelt and tearful first meeting with my child.  Heck, I cry when the kids on 16 and Pregnant give birth!  So why was it different with my own son?  I was sort of… hmmm… indifferent?  Relieved that I did my job and delivered, immediately interested in his health and well-being, but not overly emotional in the slightest.  In fact, it took a good few weeks before that moment, that tidal wave of emotion, finally overtook me.  So why?  I’m not really sure, but my best guess is that up until that point, “my baby” was an abstract concept.  The focus was on preparing for The Baby, putting together a nursery for The Baby, keeping The Baby healthy, and then ultimately safely delivering The Baby.  It’s really like a job in a way, and I think I approached it with a detachment similar to that – preparing and getting ready, but not one iota of an emotional investment.  I realize now that this is VERY normal; and that it can take days, weeks, or sometimes even months for a mother to fully and completely bond with her child.  I wish I had known this upfront; as instead I wondered if what I was feeling was normal, if I was a good mother, if this was IT as far as the feelings I would feel for my baby??
  2. Your physical recovery will be tougher than expected.  At least in my case.  I knew delivery was gonna be tough, but I had no clue as to what to expect after that.  Nobody talks about it!  I figured that I was healthy, I worked out, and after a few days I should be in pretty good shape.  NOPE!  It took me weeks before I could sit down normally, and weeks more before I could even consider working out again.  Stairs were ridiculously difficult.  When a friend asked me what I felt like physically after giving birth, I don’t think I was too far off when I replied that I felt like a bomb had gone off down there.  I even called my doctor at one point asking her is this normal???  She assured me that it was.  So instead of expecting to immediately become SuperMom, take care of yourself.  Rest in bed.  Let hubby take on more chores.  HEAL.  It ain’t an easy process.
  3. You will bleed like you’ve never bled before.  And I was supposedly prepared for this!  I stocked up on the super-ultra-extra-long-nighttime-double-wing maxi pads thinking I was armed and ready.  HA!  For those who don’t know, the sanitary napkins they give you in the hospital are the size of dishtowels.  NO JOKE.  I actually laughed when the nurse gave me my first one.  But boy, I stopped laughing when I was changing those suckers every hour on the hour.  At the risk of sounding dramatic, you will think you’re hemorrhaging.  There is THAT MUCH BLOOD.  And it doesn’t stop for weeks on end.  I guess the good news is that I will never complain about a heavy period again.
  4. Baby’s meconium will ruin everything it comes in contact with.  Black, tarry, and incredibly sticky, it does not come out.  It’s difficult to even wash it off your hands… think black leg wax getting on your fingers and clothes.  Do everything in your power to keep it in the diaper and in the diaper alone.
  5. You will still look pregnant.  So sad, but so true.  Despite believing that I had lost every one of the 36 pounds I had gained with the breaking of my water and delivery of the baby and placenta, I was wrong.  I still had my bump.  I was convinced that the nurse forcefully massaging my bump twice daily was doing me a favor in helping to get my tummy back to normal; turns out she was simply trying to massage my uterus back into place.  It probably took a good 2 weeks for the bump to go all the way down…. well, go down to the base layer of baby fat that I now had to lose.
  6. You will bloat like Violet the blueberry girl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Postpartum hospital pictures are NOT YOUR FRIENDS.  As bloated as I was at the end of my third trimester of pregnancy, it was nothing compared to the beach ball I ballooned into immediately after giving birth.  I’m told that this is largely the fault of Pitocin.  Whatever the case, expect to look precisely your worst at precisely the moment when hundreds of new baby pictures are immortalizing you forever.  Quick Tip: At least wear a cleavage-flattering shirt (as the saying goes, there’s no great loss without some small gain).
  7. You will lose a lot of hair.  Remember that “thick and luxurious” hair that is so heavily touted during pregnancy?  Get ready to lose it.  I thought I was somehow exempt as my hair remained intact for the first couple of months postpartum.  Then suddenly, at exactly 12 weeks, the shedding began.  Handfuls of hair falling out all over the place – blocking shower drains, coating the couch, littering my pillow, and even getting all over the baby when I held him (which is ironic, because that’s right about the time he started losing his hair too).  You become scared to run a brush through your hair for the clumps you will find in it afterwards.  Last week my hairdresser pointed out the tiny little hairs growing in above my forehead.  So I guess it does come back… Eventually.
  8. The Flu will find you.  I am never sick.  Truly.  Maybe once every several years I will catch a cold.  Yet in the four months since I’ve given birth, I’ve had the flu no fewer than 4 times.  I’m doing everything right – trying to sleep, taking my vitamins, taking extra vitamin C supplements, trying to eat right, and barely even leaving the house…  but it still gets me.  I’m told this is because my immunity is at an all-time low right now after my body has gone through the ginormous effort of building and delivering a baby.  I’m told that it sucks every nutrient out of you and depletes your “stores.”  Whatever the case, seems like it’s true.  So stock up on tissues and remedies.
  9. You will become a weepy basket case.  At least I did.  I thought pregnancy hormones were bad, but postpartum hormones take the cake.  I cry over everything.  My baby.  My husband with the baby.  When the baby is unhappy.  When the baby is joyful.  TV shows.  Commercials.  Other peoples’ babies.  It appears that this situation has improved as time has gone on, but I do feel like the birth of my son has permanently tapped into some previously-untouched crying receptor in the brain.  I suppose the best I can hope for at this point is to try to control the impulse during inopportune moments.
  10. ANXIETY takes on a whole new meaning.  I’ve never been an especially calm person.  I am a worrywart by nature and am often afflicted by Analysis Paralysis.  But my anxiety has skyrocketed 10-fold since the birth of my son.  I doubt I will ever have a fully restful night of sleep again.  Every random scenario that could possibly happen – I’ve accounted and planned for.  I worry about falling down the stairs while holding my baby, I worry about his bowel movements, I worry about him hitting milestones, I worry about letting him out of my sight, I worry about the risk of illness, I even worry about things like what if my husband was driving us in the car and suddenly passed out or had a heart attack – yes, I worry about all of it.  And, sad to say, I don’t think that anxiety is subsiding anytime soon.

So there you have it.  Not all of it is bad, but they are things I wish I had been told prior to experiencing.  And these are just the ones that come immediately to mind – I’m sure there are many others I’m missing.  Of course the beautiful part of postpartum months is the time spent getting to know and bonding with your baby.  So all of these inconveniences are minor drops in the bucket compared to that.

Still… I would have liked to have known.  🙂

Infant Formula Roulette

Once it became clear that I wouldn’t be breastfeeding (see previous post), I set out to find the absolute best formula that I could for my son.  Not an easy feat, I soon learned.  Between researching the best ingredients, latest studies, and what simply suited my son, we went through quite a while of formula roulette – hoping that one would finally stick.

In the hospital, he was given Enfamil Premium Newborn.  This is a milk-based formula with extra Vitamin D.  Since I had nothing to compare it to, it seemed adequate.  After a few feedings, he began spitting up a little bit.  A nurse immediately “diagnosed” him as lactose intolerant or milk-sensitive and switched his formula.

Enter Enfamil Prosobee.  This is a soy-based formula (therefore milk and lactose-free) with included DHA/ARA.  This formula actually worked well for some time.  My son tolerated it and his bowel movements were regular.  He thrived.

But then I started doing some research on soy infant formula.  I had seen an article about potential concerns with soy in formula, so began to dig a bit deeper.  And what I saw scared me.

First of all, it’s recommended that preemies not be given soy formula.  Hmm…  That raised a bit of a red flag for me.  Then I started reading about phytoestrogens (chemicals structured similarly to estrogen) that are find in high levels in soy.  Apparently with the concentrated level of phytoestrogens included in formula, it may be the equivalent of an infant ingesting 3-5 birth control pills a day!  I read about increased risks of thyroid disorders, food allergies, early puberty, reproductive issues, and even cancer as potential effects of high levels of soy in the infant diet.  Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to select milk-based formula as the primary option for feeding.

I’m not here to confirm or deny  the validity of these claims, but even the fact that these concerns were raised was enough for me.  It was time to make another switch.

By this time I was becoming a bit more educated about what my child was eating, so had a few new requirements.  The formula had to be iron-fortified so as to prevent a deficiency.  It also had to include DHA/ARA to help with brain and eye development (most, if not all, do).  Furthermore, I was now determined to find a MILK-based formula that would work.  Even though the nurse had said that my son was lactose intolerant, I didn’t trust her 2-second diagnosis and figured we would try it again.

Now we tried him on the Target brand up & up DHA Milk Based Formula.

A quick aside on generic vs. brand name formulas – they are the same!  After reviewing the ingredient lists on each, researching, and confirming with my pediatrician, there is no difference between brand name and generic besides price.  In fact, many generic formulas are made by the very same manufacturer that makes the brand name formula.

Anyways back to Target’s up & up DHA Milk Based Formula.  For us, it wasn’t a fit.  Our baby soon became excessively fussy during feedings, had much higher incidences of spit-up and vomit, and began experiencing very runny diarrhea.

So now I switched him back to what he had started out with, Enfamil Premium Newborn.  Sure enough, he continued to experience all the symptoms that the Target brand milk-based formula caused.  Hmm…. Maybe the nurse was onto something about him being lactose intolerant or milk-sensitive after all?

Another note about switching – The switches have to be tried, at least in my experience, for at least two weeks in order to make a determination.  Otherwise the baby has not adjusted yet and it’s just too soon to tell.

Also a note about my pediatrician’s advice throughout this journey – basically, there was none other than to try this/try that as we were already doing (interestingly, though, he mentioned and provided samples of only Enfamil formulations – I imagine that’s where the kickbacks were coming from – but that’s another topic).

So now I started looking at milk-based alternatives (that’s really all that was left after soy was out the window).  It appeared that I could either go the partially or fully hydrolyzed routes.  Formulas that are hydrolyzed have proteins that are broken down into smaller pieces for easier digestion.  The parent can choose formulations that have either some or all of these proteins broken down.  The more proteins that are broken down, the more expensive the formula.  In the case of fully hydrolyzed formulas, such as Enfamil Nutramigen or Similac Alimentum, you’re going to be paying significantly more for smaller cans.  And, to top it off, the smell and taste definitely leave something to be desired – I personally hated it but I guess you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

So clearly, fully hydrolyzed was our last resort.  For now, we went with Enfamil Gentlease, which is partially hydrolyzed.  Not only is it partially hydrolyzed, it also contains only about 20% of the lactose inherent in regular milk-based formula.  I was really gunning for this one to work – It seemed like a nice compromise and I thought that the lower lactose content would help out as well.  My baby had other feelings, however, and it didn’t work out… spit-up, vomiting, and diarrhea continued – along with a new skin rash.

Now I was at a loss.  I still wasn’t ready to concede to fully hydrolyzed formulas, yet I now began to wonder if my son was indeed truly lactose intolerant or had a milk allergy.  So I took him in for a milk allergy test.

It was a pretty simple test – A small toothpick-looking thing pricks the baby’s hand.  Doesn’t even break the skin.  My son didn’t even notice, and the results were back within a few minutes.  He did not have a milk allergy.  The doctor thought he may just have a lactose sensitivity.

Phew…  so maybe it’s just a brand thing?  I had heard stories of other babies who simply preferred one brand to another.  So now I decided to try him on Similac Sensitive.  Turns out this brand’s formulation is unique in that it contains NO lactose.  Sure enough, we had a winner.  Finally!  My baby’s fussiness dissipated, spit-ups and vomits slowed down, the rash disappeared, and bowel movements again became regular.  I concluded that my son was temporarily sensitive to lactose, as suggested by the doctor, and all was right with the world.

Until I read the Cornucopia report on DHA/ARA in infant formula.  A friend had sent me information on this before I had even given birth but, with everything else going on, I promptly filed and forgot about it.  Now that I had learned so much about infant formula, I remembered it and searched back through my email until I could find and read it.

And what I read worried me.  (Ugh – is nothing easy when it comes to formula??)  Turns out that the DHA/ARA included in most commercially available infant formulas today is derived from strains of algae.  Worse, the oil is then removed using a hexane extraction process.  Hexane, as I soon found out, is a toxin made from crude oil.  The effects of hexane poisoning can result in nausea, vomiting, dizziness, breathing difficulty, and more seriously, peripheral nervous system failure and muscular atrophy.  Although it is asserted that the hexane is completely eliminated through the extraction process, it was too big of a risk to take for me.

As much as I hated to change my son’s formula again, I had to find something that did not include this hexane-processed DHA/ARA.  The friend who had initially sent me the Cornucopia report was happily using Nature’s One Baby’s Only Organic Dairy Formula. 

I wasn’t quite ready to put my baby back onto a 100% milk-based formula quite yet being as the lactose-free formulation was working so well for him, so I looked into the company, hoping they had some alternatives.  Fortunately, they offer Nature’s One Baby’s Only Organic Lactose-Free Formula.

The more I read, the more I liked.  This formula is USDA certified organic and does not include hexane-processed DHA/ARA nor corn syrup, and uses 100% BPA-free packaging.  Instead of corn syrup, organic brown rice syrup is used.  And since I did want the benefits of DHA/ARA (without the hexane), I was pleased to find that they do offer a DHA/ARA supplement that is derived from egg yolk.

So as much as I hated to once again switch my son’s formula, I felt it was the right thing to do.  And fortunately for everyone, it worked out great.  And I felt GOOD about giving him an organic formula.  He has now been on it for months with no issues.  Growing and thriving.

But as I mentioned before, NOTHING is simple when it comes to infant formula.  Just when I felt relieved that we had found something that worked for our son, and that I felt good feeding him, the other shoe dropped.

Now it was all over the media that infant formulas using brown rice syrup as an ingredient (Baby’s Only Organic is the only brand I know of) contained high levels of arsenic.  Arsenic!?  In baby formula??  Panic.

Turns out that a study performed by Dartmouth researchers identified elevated arsenic levels in foods using brown rice syrup as a sweetener – everything from energy bars to cereal bars to infant formula.  Now, it’s important to realize that arsenic is everywhere throughout our environment, the food that we eat, and the water that we drink.  But the FDA has only set a maximum threshold for drinking water, at 10 ppb (parts ber billion) and, more recently, fruit juices (remember the apple juice scandal a few years back?)  The Dartmouth study apparently was pursued to help convince the FDA to better regulate levels of arsenic in all foods and drinks we ingest.

Scary stuff.  So I began lurking on the Nature’s One website and Facebook pages to review the conversations and company responses.  Of course the camps were divided: those who supported the company and were continuing to use the product until further testing was done, those who were outraged and immediately taking their children in for arsenic testing, and those who were temporarily switching to an alternative brand until further test results were in.

Long story short – I ultimately remained with Nature’s One.  My son was doing well with it.  Parents who had their children tested for arsenic exposure were consistently posting results of non-detection.  The brown rice used in the sweetener was grown on organic farms in California which, logically speaking, would naturally have less arsenic than non-organic farms or farms located in other areas of the country where higher levels of arsenic have been identified.  And, most importantly, I remained based on subsequent independent testing that placed the levels of arsenic within the company’s formulas well below world standards (as the U.S. has no such standards at the moment).  If you’re so inclined, the details can be read here.

Also, when weighing all the other options out there, I still feel that a USDA certified organic product free of hexane-derived DHA and other artificial preservatives and chemicals is a better option for my son than the alternatives.   So here we are, continuing with the formula, and my son continues to thrive.

But unfortunately, there is no right answer.  There is simply no “best” formula.  It really boils down to what each parent is comfortable with.  NOTHING REPLACES BREAST MILK.  But, when you have to find an alternative, all you can do is pick what is best for your child… and, as I learned, just because one formula is good for some children doesn’t mean it will work for your own.  And just because one formula has ingredients you’re pleased with doesn’t mean that it also won’t have ingredients you’re not.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have done all this research BEFORE I had my baby.  But I naively thought I would just run down to the local store, stock up on several cans of whatever formula was the most popular, and be done with it.  Now I know.

So what are you formula-feeding moms feeding your babies?  I know there are many more brands out there that I never even tried.  Anyone else have to go through the roulette that I did?