Breastfeeding A Baby With Allergies Or Sensitivities
Our little girl flew into this world with a quick yet calm labor and delivery of roughly 45 minutes, she latched right away, slept better than any parent could hope for and lived up to her middle name Nanea, the Hawaiian word for peace and tranquility perfectly….that is until about 3 or 4 weeks into her precious little life.
From the get go she had always been a very “spitty” baby. After and sometimes even during a feed she would puke up what seemed like everything that went down. She was a slooooowwww nurser taking anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour for each feed and ate often, at least every 2 hours.. She pooped more than any baby i’ve ever known and she made a “weird” noise anytime she wasn’t being held up at a 90 degree angle. Our “easy” baby wasn’t having an easy time gaining weight and although she wasn’t losing weight, a 1/2 ounce gain in a week rather than the average 1/2 ounce a day raises a bit of an eyebrow.
Our pediatrician was patient and not overly concerned, telling me to wait it out and that many newborns were spitty, fussy when put down and slow to gain weight in the early days. I knew this to be true but I also had a feeling that there was something else going on.
We spent those early days nursing, cleaning up spit up or blow outs, nursing again and baby wearing. Sleeping was either on mommy’s chest while in an upright position or completely up right in a swing .
We managed along “waiting it out ” as our pediatrician recommended until the signs became a little more obvious and that “feeling” just got stronger.
Those dirty diapers turned into what I can best describe as boogers, long stringy lines of what was obviously not healthy breastfed baby poop. Going into detail, her poops almost formed a spiderweb like appearance from one side of the diaper to the next and were often green colored. I later learned this is from mucus in the stool, a clear indication that the gut is having trouble.
Our easy going little love became obviously uncomfortable, twisting and turning while nursing, pumping her legs and stretching her body back and forth, this way and that trying to find a comfortable position to nurse, sleep, exist. She began to cry out and wasn’t easily settled (especially when in the car) or anytime she was laid down. The spitting up continued and that “weird” noise I mentioned before became a regular occurrence (now we know it was something called silent reflux).
The final and unmistakable clue was the day I discovered streaks of blood in her diaper.
I was tired of waiting it out and had scoured the internet, every baby book and mommy blog out there coming to my own conclusion that I was nursing a baby with some sort of food sensitivity.
After nursing a tongue tied baby and the resulting torn (yes torn) nipples, engorgement, clogged ducts and the like with my first baby I joked that I had been through it all…I even pumped almost exclusively for a year and vowed I could and would do it all again as long as I didn’t ever EVER have to change my diet.
This time around If I wanted to continue nursing my daughter, changing my diet was the ONLY thing I could do. After consulting with our pediatrician I decided to start eliminating all dairy from my diet as this was the most likely culprit and also the most clear cut food to avoid. I cleaned out the house and eliminated any product containing milk including:
modified milk ingredients
Cutting these items out meant that I basically had to avoid anything in a package that I didn’t prepare myself. When you really start to read food labels for traces of a certain item you’re suddenly aware of how much milk/dairy products are included in just about everything! Although it seemed nearly impossible to eat like this, after about 3-5 days of being dairy free I immediately noticed an improvement in my little girl.
The spitting up had significantly decreased, the diapers were less frequent and less “boogery” and she didn’t seem to be as uncomfortable as she had been. I knew it could take several weeks before we could expect major improvements and thought we were on our way to a complete solution until once again I found blood streaks in her diaper.
After evaluating what I had been eating (and the list wasn’t long) I realized that in my efforts to cut out dairy I had been replacing most items with soy based products. After a bit more research I came to find that when a baby has a dairy sensitivity they almost always also have a soy sensitivity as well. Bad news for both of us! This meant that I was also now avoiding:
hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HPV)
*Undifferentiated vegetable oil, glycerin and protein almost always contain soy.
I’m not going to lie, in those early days of this diet I was frustrated, hungry, irritable and exhausted. I remember walking out of Whole Foods spending over $200.00 and having little more than crackers, cookies and some almond yogurt and milk to show for it. Shopping seemed impossible as I didn’t know what I could safely eat and I was left feeling overwhelmed, almost paralyzed and unsure of what I should or could do.
After meeting with our pediatrician once again she told me I had two choices at this point: continue cutting out any likely food sensitivity and keep on nursing or switch to a formula specifically made for “allergy” babies.
That’s a tough call to make and any mom who has been at this cross roads can tell you that your whole heart aches trying to decide which road is the best for both you and your baby. For me, I knew I wasn’t ready to toss in the towel and I told myself that as long as baby girl was making improvements I would continue to stick it out.
It wasn’t easy and in the end baby girl showed sensitivity to 5 (dairy, soy, gluten, nuts and corn) out of the top 8 allergens. With a lot of trial and error we persisted on. Week by week I trudged through and after about 6 weeks of clean eating our baby girl was almost completely symptom free.
Was it hard? YES! Did we have set backs? ABSOLUTELY! Was it worth it? For us, it was absolutely the right decision.
Throughout the entire 11 months that I adhered to this strict diet I became aware of my own slight food sensitivities that I had never really paid any attention to. My random tummy aches had completely disappeared, my skin had never been so clear and smooth and I was 15 lbs under my pre-pregnancy weight! Not only did I see positive changes in myself but I also had a baby who was thriving and who eventually overcame every single one of her food sensitivities, just as our doctor has predicted!
When the going got tough (which it did at one point almost every single day) I reminded myself that there are so many who have to eat with a strict diet every single day of their lives and not just for fear of a tummy ache but for serious life and death risks. In the grand scheme of things we were so lucky to be dealing with a manageable albeit tricky diet and nothing more. I also told myself that this would someday end (at least for me!) and when that day came I looked forward to a long list of over indulging.
If you find yourself nursing a food sensitive baby I recommend:
1. Pinterest for ideas and inspiration for allergy free foods
2. Finding foods and items that you can eat and sticking to this list…this makes shopping easier since you will only have to read the ingredients label once and you know exactly what you can have and which stores you need to shop at.
3. Prepare snacks for yourself in advance because there is nothing worse than being hungry and not being able to just grab a quick snack where you are.
4. Always! Always! pack more food than you think you will need because again, you don’t have the convenience of just stopping in at a store or drive thru.
5. Once you’ve committed to allergy free eating stick with it. I was tempted every single day to take just 1 bite of this, or 2 bites of that but once you let yourself slip it is so hard to get back on track and you never know how many bites is too many and you and baby will pay for it for days!
6. Talk with your store manager to make sure they will have enough of what you need stocked. I live on an island and the coconut yogurts, gluten free breads, etc.. go fast! I would pre-order a lot of items and know which days the store was getting their deliveries for the week. When I missed my window I was pretty much stuck with fruit, veggies and plain chicken for the week 🙁
7. Take supplements to balance out your own nutritional needs. I was terrible at this and as a result felt really weak for several months until I got the hang of eating wholesome, balanced and allergy free foods.
8. It’s ok to cry, to get frustrated, and kick the refrigerator out of frustration. Somedays I was so angry that I just couldn’t eat what I wanted and I would have a good cry and whine session and then feel re-energized to continue on. It’s not easy and having support to lean on is key.
9. Whenever I would get an overwhelming craving for something I would jot that item down in the notes section of my iPhone. It was some sort of twisted humor/torture to keep a list of everything I was drooling over and dream of the day I would sit down and feast on it all at once. I joked that I was going to become the 500lb woman overnight and once my husband caught me sitting on the couch crying over my list because I wanted it all so bad right then and there!
10. If at any point this diet doesn’t work for you or baby do not feel guilty over having to go a different route. You have to do what is best for both of you and sometimes that decision isn’t your first choice. In the end as long as everyone is healthy and happy you have succeeded!
- 4 TB flour (gluten, nut free for me)
- 5 TB sugar
- 2 TB cocoa powder
- Dash of salt
- 2 TB oil ( I used coconut..do NOT use olive ewwww!!)
- 2 TB water
- Add dry ingredient to a coffee mug and mix, add in oil and water and mix.
- Microwave on high approximately 1 minute and feel like all is right in the world once again. Sure, it isn't the best brownie you will ever have in your life but it can taste like it after a day of temptation at every corner!
Today’s post was written by Heather of www.mamasurfs.com where she writes about life as a surfer, mama of two and living on the island of Oahu.