My Story of Breast Milk Jaundice and subsequently, Postpartum Weight Loss Woes

You would think an automatic extra calorie burn of about 500 calories to create breast milk would be very helpful to weight loss, right?  Well it would if you could eat what you want and not end up in a life of restriction and deprivation which has this 30-something person acting out like a rebellious child.

rebellious child

Totally what my inner child hunger would look like.

It’s decided, I do NOT do well with diet restrictions.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the course of my 2+ year weight loss journey, it’s that I work best with a life of moderation.  Apparently moderation is my key for weight loss and maintenance and without it, I keep eating other stuff because I can’t have what I actually really want.

When I first came home from the hospital after by baby girl arrived I was losing weight in rapid fashion – just about 1-2 lbs per day for the first couple weeks.  This was a lot of remaining swelling/water weight.  Then it tapered off and I started to maintain.  During that time I was adjusting to being a mom again and trying to figure my baby out.  Compared to my first, she was far more demanding and fussy.

We had gassiness and spit-ups within the first week and the problems seemed to grow.  Nights were the worst.  Upon online research I discovered they called it the “witching hours”.  For weeks she was a nightmare from about 11pm to anywhere between 2-4am.
I actually Googled the dreaded “C” word… colic… just to see if she met up with the symptoms and luckily, it wasn’t that bad.  She screamed a lot, but could be comforted… apparently not the case for true colic.

I truly had an easy baby with my first child (I knew and appreciated it then, but now I REALLY see how freaking easy he was – hardly burped, never spit-up, no reactions to things I ate so I had no food restrictions and he adapted a good sleep schedule almost immediately).  So because of my lack of experience with a more typical baby, it took us a few weeks to realize she might be having an issue with my breast milk because of the foods I was eating.

Through the elimination diet I have now restricted eating the following:
onions, cow milk (including cheese, butter (limited), ice cream, sour cream and even yogurt), spicy foods, chocolate (limited), green veggies (limited), foods with high acidity (like pineapple) and proteins (limited).
The last one is especially messing me up for weight loss purposes.  To most I think it would be strange that eating too much protein would have a harmful effect on my baby, but there is a story for this one.

Like a lot of newborns, my baby had jaundice.  We spent time in the sunlight, had the bili light on her back for days only to discover that her jaundice was caused by my breast milk.  Yup, I was one of the few (1-2 %) whose breast milk was actually causing/prolonging my baby’s jaundice.  It is less harmful than typical jaundice but takes a LONG time to go away.  I kept up breastfeeding but also supplemented with formula to help the issue. Her levels were finally normal by her 1 month checkup.
The pediatrician told me that a substance in my breast milk was blocking proteins in the liver responsible for breaking down bilirubin.  It is described as a “biochemical problem”.

Well I’m here to say I think the problem goes well beyond after baby’s jaundice disappears.
I think my breasts are not assimilating the proteins I eat correctly… or at least “normally”.

I have tested it quite a few times with my diet and have discovered the more protein I eat, the more gassy/fussy my baby and definitely the more spit-ups she has.

Focusing on trying to lose weight while breastfeeding (desperate after gaining back some of the weight I’d lost), I read that all you need to produce breast milk is water, protein & fat.  But apparently the fat needed your body can take from your fat cells in your butt and thighs… awesome!  Sign me up!  So I went on a grocery shopping trip for foods that were naturally lower in fat and protein-rich foods.

This was an utter fail almost immediately.  The only change I made (purposefully) was eating more protein and my poor girl went right back to major spit-ups and what was worse was that she’d cry right before and right after they’d happen… that was new.  It was like my breast milk was battery acid to her. 😦
I stopped the extra protein as well as avoid other trigger foods as usual and like magic, her gas and spit-up issues majorly decreased.

Because my restricted diet produces a much happier, less fussy/gassy baby, we’ve ruled out acid reflux.   We had also tried gripe water and even a very expensive bottle of Colic Calm, but nothing was as effective as me changing my diet.  So it really does come down to every little thing I put in my mouth.

So my usual approach to upping weight loss (eating lean protein with every meal & lots of veggies) is definitely not something I can do right now, or for the next 3-4 months as I want to breastfeed at least until baby is 6 months old.

If I spend a day eating what I would call “like crap” [cereal, pasta, crackers, chips, carbs, carbs, and more carbs with hardly any veggies or protein] my baby is never happier… hardly a spit up, less fussy, less crying and generally a much happier camper.

Great for my baby… bad for the size of my ass.

Her body may appreciate milk created from a diet of mostly simple carbs, but mine does NOT.  As soon as I eat more protein and dare to have some green veggies… oh no, watch out!  Poor baby.

And back to the inability to eat whatever I want in moderation… it’s killing me and my weight loss efforts.  I suck at dealing with “you can’t” and have all of my life.  All it does is make me act out and act stupid.  I can’t have ice cream?  Well I’m going to buy that platter of cookies and eat about 70 of the 81 cookies it comes with (yes, I did that… over a course of about a week).  I’ll eat my entire kitchen of foods I’m “allowed” to eat just because I can’t have what I really want.
A few years ago when my cholesterol was a tad high and my doctor told me to “lay off the cheese & Coffee-mate creamers”, guess what all I wanted to eat was for the week following?  Yup… foods/drinks with cheese & Coffee-mate.
That’s just how I am… it is ingrained in my personality.  I don’t like it, but that’s how it is and
even me realizing it doesn’t make the problem go away.  A long time ago I learned to just allow myself to indulge… have the ice cream, have the cereal, eat the chocolate… just don’t go nuts.  And I did and I was satisfied and I moved on and continued weight loss just fabulously.

Well now those foods are not an option, not because of a “diet”, but for my baby so there is no allowance at all.  I really miss onions, ice cream, salsa and especially cheese… oh cheese… how I miss my cheese.  That is probably the hardest to deal with.  I never realized how much I depended on cheese for my daily diet until I couldn’t have it anymore.
And proteins… I miss that as my go-to filler food that didn’t hinder my weight loss or spike my blood sugar.

This past Super Bowl was the very first I can recall that I couldn’t eat my queso & salsa dip with sour cream or shredded cheese melted on tortilla chips (we call that “sticky chips”) and a slice of our traditional Carvel ice cream cake in the shape of a football covered in chocolate crunchies.  After realizing 98% of everything I would normally eat was off the table I was like “what the hell am I going to eat?”  I ended up with baked chicken wings (no sauce), guacamole (sans onions – just basically a mashed avocado) on tortilla chips and a couple artichokes – dipping each leaf in butter.  Well apparently I overdid the butter because the next day when my baby girl spit up and extra-large curdy amount, it clearly smelled of butter.  Oh shit… sorry baby!  I’ve limited my butter since then.

So at first what I thought was an issue of finding a balance with the right amount of calorie intake to deal with the extra calorie burn and feeling starving all the time while breastfeeding, turned out to be a bit more complicated.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to find the right balance of foods/calories to promote weight loss while I continue to breastfeed.  I’ve already upped my exercise and that hasn’t helped.

It’s a bummer, but for this reason I’m putting my ‘losing 52 lbs in 52 weeks’ challenge on hold for now since a minimum of 26 weeks will be tainted.  This was really an unforeseen issue as I had no problems with breastfeeding my first child and he didn’t have jaundice, breast milk or otherwise.

I really need to have complete and absolute control over my body and no restrictions over my food choices for me to truly get anywhere, but the benefits for my baby to continue getting breast milk outweigh the temporary inability for me to lose weight.  My goal right now is just not to regain anymore weight.


About gwenacious

Always a person in progress. On a mission of self-improvement and exploring my artistic side.
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2 Responses to My Story of Breast Milk Jaundice and subsequently, Postpartum Weight Loss Woes

  1. Wow! What a pickle to be in. I couldn’t even imagine how hard this problem is to deal with! I hope that you find a balance sooner than later so you and baby can both be happy. Good luck with everything!

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