Michelle Duggar recently returned to her Tontitown, Arkansas home with her newborn Josie, who arrived three months early. Like any mom of a preemie, there's a lot of "don't touch the baby" going on in the Duggar household, what with 18 others germing up the joint.
But the reality TV star of 19 Kids and Counting has got it covered. The 43-year-old uber mom spoke to ParentDish by phone yesterday about life with a preemie, the surprising cause of her baby's upset tummy and her own plans for losing the (19th) baby weight.
PD: Tell me about Josie? Is she your first preemie?
MD: Our second set of twins, Jedidiah and Jeremiah, came at about five weeks before their due date, but they were 5 lbs. each. They were in the hospital for about nine days. Jeremiah's lung collapsed and he had antibiotics. They're 11 years old now and just fine.
PD: Now about Josie.
MD: We are so thankful. It could've been much more serious. We're grateful that it was a diet change that made the difference for her. We changed from breast milk to a predigested formula that has no lactose, and within 12 hours she was better. And, within a week, she was pooing on her own, without us having to give her an enema. She was a totally different baby a week later.
PD: Wow, breast milk was the culprit?
MD: Typically, they never want to take a preemie off breast milk, but in her case the lactose in my milk was causing a problem. Her body was not producing lactase, which breaks down the lactose.
PD: Whose idea was it to suggest a possible lactose intolerance?
MD: Dr. [Robert] Arrington, he is such an ace doctor. And he encourages moms to breast-feed, so for him to resort to this was a big deal. He wanted to try this, and he asked me if it was okay and I said, 'Yes, anything to help Josie.' He said that breast milk intolerance is a rare occurrence for babies, maybe one percent or less, but he said we're going to try it for a week and see.
PD: What did he see?
MD: Well, in the hospital the technicians were watching her digesting milk on a screen. They were like, 'Whoa did you see that?' Her stomach would flip up when she was digesting. She doesn't have the ligament to hold things down.They have this big, long name for it, like rotating axial stomach [organoaxial malrotation of the stomach, as per Michelle's publicist] and it kinds of flips up and down. They agreed that it's not life threatening, and they don't want to do the surgery to tack it down. It's still there and she'll live with it the rest of her life.
PD: Will there be any lasting effects of her stomach issues?
MD: I wonder if it would be uncomfortable for her to do cartwheel one day or go on roller coasters. They say preemies sometimes have reflux, and when she burps and coughs at the same time her whole body goes. As she gets bigger, we will see. She'll learn to live with this. The doctor said a lot of people walk around with it and they don't know they have it.
PD: So, what's she like, personality-wise?
MD: She's 11 lbs., 1 ounce, a happy baby. She's 7½ months, with the adjusted age of 4½ months, because she was premature. She hardly ever cries. And when she's hungry she smacks on her fingers. She doesn't really get suction, she kind of lays them in her mouth and smacks on them. It's the cutest thing. She wakes me up when I hear that. But she very rarely cries anymore. She probably got it all out at the beginning when her tummy hurt. She's smiling and she started this new thing where she's cooing and it startles her. She's realizing she can make loud noises.
PD: It must be hard with so many siblings to get face-time with the baby?
MD: Joseph said, 'You know, I've only held her three times.' I said, 'Yes, all your siblings are getting in front of you.' Joseph is not the type to barge in and ask. But when he talks to her, her eyes light up. Joseph is 15.
PD: And the sisters?
MD: The older girls are wanting every minute that she's awake. The big girls tend to monopolize the baby time. The little guys come up and ask. The two younger ones have a runny nose so they can't get near her.
PD: Right. How do you handle the germ thing at home?
MD: People have to get screened before they come into our bedroom. And we have the Germ-X stations around the house.
PD: Wait, really? Like they have in public bathrooms?
MD: Yes, with the pump. We also have them at our food-serving line. With Josie, they have to have clean hands, and not touch their nose, eyes or face while they're holding her. Runny noses, sore throats, we have so many little ones that are incubators for germs. They're always swapping spit and chewing on each others' toys.
PD: And how's grandparenting going?
MD: It's so much fun. Mackynzie is two months older than Josie, and she's the happiest baby, such a butterball. Anna [Michelle's daughter-in-law] has done such a good job. She's the cutest, chunky thing and she's about to pull up and stand on her own.
PD: Ah, baby exercise. And how's your postpartum wellness going?
MD: I'm still sticking to my Weight Watchers program. I'm not at my goal weight and I need to get to my meetings and do some exercise. I'll get there.Source