toddler sensitive gut

Back to the beginning

Last week I shared a blog post from a Mum who has very generously offered to share the story of her young daughter’s early life journey and how their family has navigated the world of child health and digestives issues.

This week we go back to the beginning, to hear about Ellie’s birth, infancy and toddlerhood, where Ellie’s sensitive gut and sensory issues started to present. For parents reading this who have children with either a sensitive gut, sensory issues or both, don’t be at all surprised if the parallels in your own child’s story are uncanny.  Over to you Julie …

“Ellie was born by emergency caesarean section for an unidentified breech position.  She was a happy and alert baby, but some aspects of the early months were extremely challenging. Ellie resisted sleep both day and night, and took forever to finish breastfeeding – 45 minutes was a quick feed for us!   

For the first four months I struggled with blocked ducts in both breasts, and after seeking advice from health professionals, tracking down information on-line and two rounds of ultrasound the worst of my blockage problems were over. It was also the first time that the odd white coating on Ellie’s tongue was pointed out and treated with two different antifungals without effect – more about that later.

Around four months, feeds were still very lengthy, but Ellie was sleeping longer at night and was developing well.  Where I lived, very few babies are exclusively breastfed at four months, so there wasn’t much support available.  In hindsight I wish we found a lactation consultant, and I still wonder whether there are structural issues that impact on her food preferences today.  (That’s my next quest!)

We started Baby Led Weaning around six months.  Ellie started teething at the same time, and seemed to come down with a tummy bug which lasted about a week.  At night she woke screaming every 30-45 minutes.  Only breastfeeding settled her.  Poos were explosive, liquidy and clearly painful.  We cut out solids temporarily. When I sought advice I was told that lots of babies get upset tummies with their first teeth and this was unlikely to be related to my own diet or a food allergy or intolerance.  Ellie’s sleep remained unsettled, and her poos stayed very large, soft and mushy.  She had a tough time with all her teeth, which only breastfeeding, frozen blueberries and Nurofen soothed”.

As the Dietitian hearing this story of Ellie’s early life, there were several indicators of food and digestive health related issues.

  1. Bacterial exposure during birth

Birth by caesarean section (while obviously necessary in some circumstances) is now known to decrease very early life exposure to the “good” bacteria in the vaginal canal, to the point where it is increasingly common practice for a swap to be taken and smeared over the baby born by C-section to simulate a vaginal birth (read more here).

  1. Persisting with breastfeeding is challenging but worthwhile

Ellie is a very fortunate little girl as her Mum Julie persisted with breastfeeding despite incredibly challenging circumstances. This persistence is likely to have reduced the extent of Ellie’s risk of food allergy, as continuing breastfeeding throughout the introduction of solids is protective against allergy (but not food intolerance). The duration of breastfeeding is also likely to have helped to improve the balance of helpful versus harmful bacteria in Ellie’s digestive system.

  1. Possible secondary lactose intolerance

Julie described Ellie as having a tummy bug followed by explosive, watery bowel motions. These symptoms could be indicative that the gut bug wiped out lactase from the gut lining, making it temporarily impossible for lactose to be digested. Such gastro bugs can also result in changes to the balance of gut bacteria, in the opposite way to breastfeeding and increasing the number of harmful versus helpful bacteria

  1. White tongue coating

The fact that this coating was not resolved with an anti-fungal treatment indicates that it might not be oral thrush, a common condition in children aged under one year old. The “white tongue” symptom noted by Ellie’s mum will feature again in the next instalment of Ellie’s story.

While this blog may have raised more questions than it has answered, the purpose has been to provide the context of Ellie’s early life, providing a picture that may be somewhat familiar to your own experience as a parent of a child with a sensitive gut. In the next instalment of Ellie’s story we will hear about how the sensitive gut issues became interwoven with her increasingly evident sensory issues. We won’t make you wait too long!

Blogged by Kerith Duncanson – April 2016

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