“She’s so petite, what percentile is she in?” I’ve heard this a lot.

My daughter was born a “normal” weight of 7lb 5 oz, but never gained weight as fast as other babies. She was always in clothes smaller than her age, and she just kept dropping lower and lower on the percentile chart. She is now 3 years old and weighs just under 25 pounds.

Honestly, I didn’t worry too much about it. I know a lot of moms would, especially with the emphasis that doctors put on the percentile chart. I would have been worried if she had seemed lethargic and sluggish or wasn’t nursing/pooping/peeing enough, but my mother instincts told me she was thriving in her own way. She was the most aware and present infant that I had seen, she has always been full of fire and vitality.

I researched the percentile chart. It’s my understanding that the chart was originally based on majority formula fed babies from Ohio in the 1960’s. In the last ten years they’ve realized that this was not an accurate way to measure the growth of breastfed babies, so they shifted the whole chart a little bit, but as far as I know, there has been no new comprehensive study of the average growth of breastfed babes.

I rejected any idea of putting her on formula (my production was not the issue) and would not put her on pediasure either. I’m so glad that I listened to my instincts, because now knowing what I know, it would have made the problem worse.

So what was the deal? It took us little while to figure out what was going on, but it all stems back to the first 6 days of her life. I had an infection (104 degree fever) in labor and an infection showed up in her blood tests as well. After an emergency c-section, she was put on IV antibiotics and they tested her for a whole slough of issues, including spinal meningitis. They said her blood tests looked similar to someone who was septic, yet they said she looked extremely healthy and aware. Every hour they had to check the connection of the iv and it had to reinserted into her little veins 3–4 times. Later my doctor told me that she didn’t think Adelyn had anything wrong, but the pediatricians were being extra cautious just in case.

I want to start out by saying that I definitely believe that antibiotics are a valuable tool in our health system and I am grateful for their existence. However, I have since learned that one round of antibiotics will alter the microbiome of your digestive system for the rest of your life. They kill all bacteria, including the vast amount of good bacteria present in our gut. I have also since learned that babies born naturally get the vast majority of their beneficial gut bacteria from their mom’s vaginal canal, which she did not get either. I did not know these things when Adelyn was born, except that we needed to give her probiotics after the antibiotics, which we did.

Her gut needed more than just a small amount of probiotics. It needed to be nourished, healed and sealed. We needed to fight the overgrowth of bad bacteria that had inundated her intestines by starving out the harmful bacteria and introducing more and more beneficial bacteria.

I honestly didn’t really know what the issue was until I stopped breastfeeding after 2 years old. The main symptom of her gut imbalance was distended, bloated tummy and that got a lot worse once she didn’t have my breastmilk aiding in digestion. She pooped regularly and that wasn’t a huge red flag, but looking back there was a lot of undigested food in them, but with her being my first I didn’t really know what to expect.

We put her on a 3 month gut healing diet. We temporarily cut out all grains and refined sugar and added in a lot of bone broth soups, pureed baby food, raw goat milk/yogurt, healthy fats, fermented foods/probiotics and prebiotics . Then we slowly introduced some grains again, white rice cooked in bone broth, oatmeal, quinoa and corn. We still have to limit any gluten that she has, as that is a known inflammatory food. That was 9 months ago and I’m happy to say that her tummy rarely gets bloated anymore and she has grown in height quite a bit, although the weight gain has been slower. I’ve been told by a gut health specialist that she may never “catch up” on her size, but if being small is the only long term effect she has from antibiotics at birth, then I seriously consider ourselves lucky. Research is showing a whole slough of health issues linked to poor gut health, such as asthma, adhd, autism and autoimmune disorders.

Luckily, we haven’t had to put her on antibiotics since birth. If I had put her on formula or pediasure, the added sugar would have worsened the overgrowth of bad bacteria. She may or may not have gained more weight, but what I worry about more than weight is the gut health.

I also am so grateful that I am providing my daughter with nourishing traditional foods. I don’t stress about it excessively, and there are times that it’s not worth the battle of denying her cake at a friend’s birthday party, a couple pieces of halloween candy or the occasional pasta. But it makes me happy inside that my 3 year old knows the word bone broth and asks for sauerkraut. This journey has taught me so much about the importance of gut health and the food that we nourish our kids with.

Originally published at medium.com