Q&A: Switching from donated breastmilk because of fussiness

Jessica writes:

"My two-month-old daughter receives donated breastmilk; I was not able to nurse due to a breast reduction surgery I had 12 years ago. We did the same thing with our first son who is now almost 3 and it worked beautifully. The problem is that she seems to be excessively gassy; it bothers her a lot and seems to prevent her from sleeping any kind of a stretch, at least most nights. I was kind of hoping that as her digestive system matured this problem would resolve itself… But it seems to be getting worse not better. Obviously it could be as simple as something in the donor mom's diet thats bothering her but that would be impossible for me to isolate. Wondering if I should go ahead and make the transition to formula? We had hoped to get her to the three-month mark at least on the donated breastmilk but I am a little frantic about the lack of sleep given that I'm going back to work in a couple of weeks. Also I just hate to see her struggling with this and feeling uncomfortable. Got anything for me?"

Hmm. Two things are jumping out at me:

1. 6-8 weeks is the peak of gassiness and fussyness*. I'm wondering if this will resolve itself once she comes around the 8-week mark no matter what you do.

2. If she has problems with breastmilk, she might have problems with formula, too. So it might be going from the frying pan to the fire.

(And yes, I realize this is two questions in a row involving gas. Maybe as a reward for reading through this I'll ask my kids for some bona fide fart jokes and post them tomorrow for you. That'll be a real treat.)

I know it sucks, but I would try to wait a week and see what happens. My guess is that it's going to resolve itself because it's more about her normal stomach development and less about what she's taking in or how she specifically processes things. The other thing is that you could end up spending weeks trying to find a formula she can digest, so it's worth it to figure out if it is an actual digestion problem or just a developmental blip, to save yourself all that legwork.

(Let's just all say what we're thinking right now: I hope she doesn't have to go on Alimentum, because it would be cheaper to feed her liquified Laboutin shoes.)

The tough part of this, of course, is that you can't just change your own diet to see if that resolves it, which means there's an entire stage of variable-seeking that's completely opaque to you. That's frustrating.

But I'm betting there's someone out there who's been through this, even if it wasn't with donated milk. Who's got thoughts or ideas? If she does try formula, would you go straight to goat milk formula, or try cow milk formula and see how it flies? (I, personally, would not try soy if the problem is gassiness, but others might disagree.) What do we think are the chances that this will resolve on its own?



* My mom, you may recall, was a La Leche League leader in the '70s, so she has almost as big a store of new mother anecdotes as I do. When my older son was a couple of days old she told me about a mother she knew whose baby was having stomach problems, and it turned out there was something wrong with his intestines and his intestine wasn't hooked up to his colon and there was no way out for everything he was taking in! Of course she thought she was just telling me a random story, but when my older son hit 6 weeks and was constantly gassy it was all I could think about, and even though he'd been pooping just fine for weeks I still was convinced there was something wrong with his system. Why we romanticize this newborn stage is beyond me...