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Very unsettled breastfed 17 week old - have been advised to mix feed or wean?

(37 Posts)
QueLinda Sat 29-Sep-12 07:47:57

From birth DD has been very unsettled and unhappy, crying 90% of her waking hours, very frantic i.e. always kicking her legs and over sensitive to everything.

She is exclusively breastfed, over 17lbs on the 91st percentile and feeds well but it takes along time to get her relaxed enough to feed. Health visitor advised weaning her as this should settle her. My friends and mother all say give her 2 bottles of formula a day and this will settle her.

I am now getting no sympathy because I am not following their advice, is there any truth that mix feeding would help her. DD and me are both unhappy and have had miserable 17 weeks so far.

CMOTDibbler Sat 29-Sep-12 07:50:57

I don't think weaning/adding formula would help at all. Have you tried carrying her in a sling (not a baby bjorn type, something she is swaddled to you in), as maybe the constant contact would help calm her ?

foolingwithmisskitty Sat 29-Sep-12 07:55:39

I really feel for you as it must be hard with people all giving you their "helpful" advice. I think the standard advice is that babies should not be weaned until 6 months now. Formula does not have anything in it that your baby needs. People tried to tell me to formula feed so my son would sleep longer but I just knew I wouldn't feel right doing it. In a couple more months DD will be ready for solids but in the meantime La Leche League should be able to give you some practical advice, is it possible that DD has colic as friends of mine swear by the tiger in the tree hold to settle them? More info and support can be found here: Hope it all sorts itself soon.

QueLinda Sat 29-Sep-12 08:01:46

Thanks CMOT , I didnt think it sounded right either, but am hearing lots of stories about how unsettled babies improved on formula as it is heavier in their stomachs so makes them sleepier. She is my first and I am losing confidence in my decision to ebf for 6 months as DD is so happy.

I have tried wrap slings which worked ok for the first weeks but now she screams if I try to put her in one.

QueLinda Sat 29-Sep-12 08:03:50

* so unhappy

aufaniae Sat 29-Sep-12 08:05:10

Another good website is It's worth a read as it'll give you some facts to back up your instincts, useful for dealing with misinformed people giving you crap advice! (on my phone so hard to find and link to specific pages right now),

The science agrees with you, btw! You have great instincts smile

HVs are not BFing experts sadly. IMO a lot of their advice comes from "experience" on their rounds rather than scientifically backed up evidence. This leads to all kinds of myths being kept alive, especially when it comes to BFing as they're lacking proper training IMO.

QueLinda Sat 29-Sep-12 08:07:13

thanks foolingmisskiutty I will try laleche, do you think they will be able to help as DD is feeding well and in away I have no problems breasfeeding she just cries so much. It does seem like colic as it is for seemingly no reason but colic has usually gone by 12 weeks!! thank you for the advice.

jo1958 Sat 29-Sep-12 08:10:38

She might be going through a growth spurt if she is worse than usual at present. Have you tried anything like baby massage or cranial osteopathy to calm her down? Sometime this is suggested for very new babies so I don't know how well it would work at four months but I agree that as your baby is clearly well fed she doesn't need any formula.

QueLinda Sat 29-Sep-12 08:17:26

I think what i'm stuggling with is my friends who formula feed have happy babies and are off to baby classes etc and I can barely get round Sainsbury's once a week with my screaming baby.

I've tried 2 cranial osteopaths which unfortunately didn't work - I had really high hopes for them. I massage her myself at times though she doesn't like it, I admit thought I don't know what I'm doing and follow a youtube video.

I think your all right though - how can formula cure the crying? It must be two separate issues, just getting harder and harder to tell people I don't think it would work.

AnitaBlake Sat 29-Sep-12 08:20:18

IME switching to formula in any way shape or firm would have been the worst thing I could have possibly done to DD. She has a cow milk protein allergy and using a purer form of cows milk would have made it much worse. We didn't find out about her allergy until we began weaning around six months.

I'm not saying your baby has an allergy, but there does sound like there may be an underlying cause. You need to go to a gp armed with a full account of your baby. How are her poos? How many, what colour etc. How often is she sick? What does it look like? When does it happen? When she cries, what does it sound like? What else does she do, arch her back, touch or hold any part of her body? Does she have any unusual or persistent rashes? What about nappy rash, does she get it much, is it hard to sort out?

The problem is you go about one part of a big picture, whereas if you can present all your observations at once, you at least have a chance of getting to the root cause. Its easy to blame breastfeeding, but what always concerned me was, if i lost that and formula didn't cure her, what would i do next? I would even say to try and book a double app so that you have plenty of time to go through everything thoroughly.

aufaniae Sat 29-Sep-12 08:22:38

We had a great HV in our old town, but the one here was a waste of time. She came to see us when DS was just under 2. She asked if there were any problems. The only thing I could think of was that DS still woke up in the night. She immediately told me that it was because I was feeding him to sleep still. I asked why this would make a difference and she said because he's going to sleep with a full stomach (I always thought that breast milk was very easy to digest, and that BFing is great for getting babies to sleep buy hey ho hmm ) and said wouldn't I be uncomfortable sleeping if i ate a meal just before bed? (um, no actually!).

Now I would have been more receptive to her ideas of she'd asked anything else about DS's sleep. Perhaps, where he sleeps (in bed with us, then! Bet she wouldn't have liked that!), whether the curtains block out the light, what his bed time routine is like, what time he goes to bed, how warm his room is etc, etc. But she did no investigation into possible causes of his wakefulness, she just focused immediately on the thing she thought was odd!

Total bollocks if you ask me. And actually harmful given the multitude of benefits to both mother and baby from BFing. FWIW DS now sleeps in his own room, and is still BF, but usually only in the mornings these days. And he's still wakeful some nights!

Please, be sure in your convictions that it's not the BFing, and instead continue to trust your instincts and investigate other avenues, as you are now. There must be something bothering her. Might it be worth seeing the GP and asking about colic / other possible causes of her discomfort?

Seenenoughtoknow Sat 29-Sep-12 08:39:38

Baby kicking legs can be a sign of is their way of working it out of their system. It could be that what you are eating is creating problems for your dd. For instance broccoli causes tummy upsets, as do baked beans or strawberries. You can eat most things in moderation, but if your baby is sensitive to these foods (through your diet) she will struggle with wind. My DS suffered a lot, so I had a read up on the subject and changed my diet. I didn't wean him until 6 months though, and I still bf.

DS was a very unsettled baby generally, and cried more than most, but it turns out (after my diet was changed to help his wind) he also just hated being left alone, so I would put a radio on (to no channel) and the (not too loud) white noise would calm him long enough for me to shower etc. He would have to be able to see me though, so a bouncy chair facing the shower was important! I also resigned myself to the fact that I would get very little done in the house for a few months! In other countries, mothers are not apart from their babies for a second of the day, so I viewed this as my new normality! My DS is now a bouncing one year old and is a happy, really affectionate little boy. These difficult times will seem a distant memory soon, just keep remembering 'this too shall pass' (that one kept me sane!!).

aimingtobeaperfectionist Sat 29-Sep-12 08:56:00

I've no medical knowledge and not having web around you or your DC I obviously can't say for sure but I just get the feeling the answer is not switching to ff or to wean. Sorry I can't be of more help but you will alway have support on MN if nowhere else. I can't see how formula will give your baby more than your bm can and by the sounds of things, DC is not ready to wean yet. I hope you find something that works for you.

aimingtobeaperfectionist Sat 29-Sep-12 08:56:33

Web?! Bloody phone. BEEN. sorry.

QueLinda Sat 29-Sep-12 09:04:29

That is exactly how I feel about mix feeding Anita , that if it in anyway effects the breastfeeding I will have absolutly nothing to comfort her with.

I have been once to the doctor and was given zantac in case it was reflux but I should try again. She is very healthy looking with no other symptoms like rashes, sickness, bad poos. It is just crying in a hysterical way and a sort of frantic, hyper-activeness. So i've found it quite hard to be taken seriously.

Thanks aufaniae , I am having a major wobble that it is the breastfeeding and she's hungry or too alert or something but you're right it can't be this. The hv I can ignore but my mother is harder too, she is now convinced formula will settle her wants me to try it for a week. I am so far resisting!

Seenenough , I haven't yet tried white noise and will give it a whirl - she is with me every minute of the day as I can't put her down and doesn't like slings but will try the diet too. I have cut out dairy and caffeine but I know there is more to try.

Thanks again everyone

Resisting well-meaning family can be really hard,. Sounds like they are trying to support you but unfortunately not with BF which is what you want.
Any of the BF helplines would happily take a call from you, and if you have any local groups (LLL for eg have a social element to rather than a problem solving clinic) it mould be worth going - the group local to me is valued by some mums just because they can come along, complain about tiredness etc and just be 'heard' by an empathetic group of women rather than told what they 'need' to do to solve their problems.
(If you're on facebook you could check there, many LLL groups now also have FB closed groups and the wall is treated like a virtual meeting. You can get suggestions and support almost immediately)

tiktok Sat 29-Sep-12 09:15:01

QueLinda, the problem with the advice you have been given is that it does not make any sense.....with a baby thriving and gaining weight, we can assume any unsettledness has nothing to do with insufficient food, so why add formula or solids???

But a baby who is crying for so much of the time is telling us something...and the fact she has always been like this from birth is also an indication that it is not a question of calories.

You say she is sensitive and hard to relax, and frantic. Some babies are like this when young, and they do grow out of it, but I wonder if it would be worth while investigating outside of the area of feeding (the feeding is going well - not sure a breastfeeding counsellor would be able to help). You have already tried this with your visits to the CO. How about seeing if there are other sources of help in your area? If all physical reasons for your baby's behaviour have been ruled out, would you consider if there is some way you could be supported to respond in different ways to her sensitivity and distress? There may be an infant mental health service in your area - ask your HV or do your own searching. IMH specialists work with mothers and babies together.

Seriouslysleepdeprived Sat 29-Sep-12 09:55:53

Have you tried cutting soya out of your diet too? The proteins on soya & dairy are similar & cause problems in lots of babies. Might be worth a go. It helped DS. It can take four weeks for it to leave both your systems.

here is a lovely article that will make you feel good about EBFing smile

How is her sleep? Does she nap ok?

mawbroon Sat 29-Sep-12 10:01:46

You should also investigate the possibility of tongue tie

list of symptoms in this article

aufaniae Sat 29-Sep-12 11:27:28

I expect your mum doesn't know much about the benefits of BFing as the science has moved on a lot since she had babies.

Might it help gently explain that a lot is being discovered about how good BFing is, and print out these pages (or similar) for her to look at?

7 ways breastfed babies become healthier adults.

7 ways breastfeeding benefits mothers

Breastfeeding benefits top to bottom

How breastfeeding builds brighter brains

And here's one just for you ... list of comebacks for when people ask you if you're still breastfeeding. Not sure how useful they'll be in RL, but hopefully some of them might make you smile smile

SarryB Sat 29-Sep-12 12:17:08

You poor thing!

Baby massage is a really good idea, and you can can do some simple moves throughout the day to help wind pain (if that's one of the problems). Every time you change her nappy (every time!!), push her knees into her chest for around 20 seconds, and then put your flat hand on her chest and push gently while sliding it down to her belly, use two hands to get a repetitive motion, again for about 20 seconds. This should help her to 'bear down' like she's trying to poo, which should help move along any wind trapped. I would repeat these two moves 3 times each nappy change. You may not get farts straight away, but it will help.

She may also be over-stimulated at times. My LO (5.5 months) gets over-stimulated really easily. When he was younger I would stand or sit in our cupboard under the stairs - the darkest place in the house! - and hold him close to my chest (sometimes wearing just a bra), on his side, while swaying, patting him bum quite hard and shhsing in his ear. I might have to do it for about 20 minutes, and sometimes thought I would go crazy with the shh's, but it would work. And now if he's having a cry just taking him into a dark quiet room helps.

Also, have a lullaby that you sing when she is calm, so she associates that lullaby with being calm. I sing Ally Bally Bee while LO is dropping off to sleep, and now can use it during the day when he's a bit mad to calm him down. In fact, he likes any song, but that one really works.

It will get better.

Softlysoftly Sat 29-Sep-12 12:49:48

My DD2 is 17 weeks and exactly the same, though she will now sit for periods of time in a bouncer, I think that's because as I have DD1 she has had to sit and cry every now and then (eg whrn DD1 needs food/toilet) as much as I hate it!

I have tried formula once a day, she is more settled but it just buys me time, the screaming and inability to sleep isn't helped sorry!

I have also been advised to start adding solids by my HV as she is showing signs (alert, chewing hands etc).

A caveat here before I get jumped on! I followed guidelines for DD1 she was 6 months, but I for once have a massive amount of respect for this HV, she has looked at the research backing the WHO and most is in developing countries where babies over 6 months survival rate from cholera etc is better so avoiding anything but breast until then is best. 65% of Europe and the US do not support waiting until 6 months. Current thinking apparently according to the research/seminars she's been doing is that between 17-22 weeks there is a weaning window where it can be introduced baby led. And in fact waiting until past 6 months is leading to an increase in feeding difficulties.

She seems to make sense, we feed baby on-demand, co-sleeping will result in a better sleep (though I daren't do it, a point we have argued over as she's a firm believer I won't squish her!), so why not give the baby solids when it feels natural? A little taste of appropriate food, if they want it they will eat, of not they won't. True baby led weaning not spoon feeding at an exact time!

She then mentioned in humans natural state we gave per-chewed food when mum felt baby was ready which helped digestion and immune system but I draw the line there!

Anyway long post it's totally up to you but I just wanted to pass on the information I have about guidelines and that I intend to offer my DD some baby rice and a spoon and we could end up

A- content non hungry baby

B - a baby who is weaned and still unsettled (look at Hugh needs baby, that's what I was directed to)

C - an unholy mess with no consumed food telling me she isn't ready smile

Softlysoftly Sat 29-Sep-12 12:52:45

High needs baby, no idea what a baby needing Hugh is!

MigGril Sat 29-Sep-12 15:26:55

softly, those are not signs for weaning. The signs for weaning are,

Baby can sit unaided
baby can grab food and put it to there month.
baby tonge thrust has has gone back far enough that baby can swallow food.

The sitting up unaided is important as this seems to coincided with the gut being fully sealed, which reduces the risk of the developing allergies.

It true a lot of babies do seem to be ready before the six mark, but I imagine there are just as many that aren't. You need to watch the baby really.

GurlwiththeFrothyCurl Sat 29-Sep-12 15:35:35

DS1 was very similar, OP. He drove me mad with constant crying and I was so worried. I could never put him down or get on with anything. One thing did work, though, and that was holding him upright, very close, with his head next to mine. Then I would gently rock him and hum songs. Eventually he would calm down. This was suggested by my old doctor who used to do this with her babies. Some babies just need to be held close and they do get through this phase. He was also very jumpy with sudden noises, strong lights and smells. Let her smell your natural smell without perfume, that might help too.

Just as an aside. The other week, he came into my bedroom and lay with his head on my chest. I absent mindedly started humming the old song and he smiled and soon fell fast asleep.

Um, he is now 22! Still works smile

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