Did you know candy corn and wine are soy, wheat, egg, AND dairy free? I do now…
This guest post is by Katie McNally blogging over at Knock, Knock, Knocking on Forty’s Door about her experience breastfeeding on an elimination diet. Take it away Katie!
**Disclaimer- This article is solely my experience with a breastfed infant experiencing food intolerance/allergies. It is not meant to take the place of care and advice from a medical professional.
In the last several years, food allergies have become a much bigger part of our consciousness. This trend of increased awareness needs to continue to ensure the safety of children with allergies and hopefully give a modicum of peace of mind to those who care for them.
However, the fact that an exclusively breastfed (EBF) infant could experience food allergies was news to me until I started producing my own tiny humans.
My first tiny human and I had a pretty straightforward nursing relationship once you account for the general first-time mom freaked-outedness and the whole “nursing while plus-sized” thing (that is a discussion for another day).
So, when my second tiny human arrived on the scene, I was pretty confident. I knew what I was doing which was a huge improvement over the first time where the tiny human and I were equally clueless!
I had her latched on in recovery, my milk came in without a problem, I could even nurse her while walking around. I was feeling not a little bit smug and definitely had moments where I felt like a total earth goddess and might have contemplated a photo shoot with a flower crown.
The only issue we had was that this tiny human was morally opposed to a bottle and acted like we were torturing her any time we tried.
I was staying at home, so while this was a bit inconvenient and at times a tad stressful, it wasn’t catastrophic. We rattled on, and I felt like we were getting things under control.
Then we hit a few bumps along the way.
Tiny human the second was hospitalized at 19 days with a fever.
After a nerve wracking 48 hours and a heavy dose of precautionary antibiotics, we were able to head back home a little frazzled but relieved in the assumption it was most likely the result of a slight virus brought home by a big brother attending the den of disease also known as preschool.
Then it happened again at nine weeks, this time, in addition to antibiotics she needed an NG tube to make sure she was getting enough breastmilk because she wasn’t nursing well.
The doctor diagnosed persistent thrush, we got that treated and once again the conclusion was that she had been exposed to a virus and sometimes these things just happen. No cause for concern.
We continued to go about our daily lives.
Tiny human the second had diaper blowouts that were epic. I didn’t remember anything like this from our first go-around, but kept telling myself every child was different.
That mantra started to waver as she continued to have blowouts a day, and in the middle of one memorable night managed to have one between me taking off one diaper and getting the new one on.
The force of this unimpeded blowout hit the wall opposite of the changing table. The poop traveled about three feet and left a pattern that matched the (now covered with the results of the blowout) slats of the changing table, kind of like a horrifying shadow.
We got it cleaned up, had our nursing session, and went back to business as usual, but there was a voice back of my mind saying, and starting to insist, that this was a bit unusual.
We started trying solid food and the sh*t really hit the fan, so to speak, the blowout game entered new and interesting levels. I was ready to buy stock in detergent.
I tried cloth diapers at the suggestion of a friend, and that made a huge improvement in the blowout department- I was already doing a ton of laundry anyway.
Then, a few weeks later, I found some blood in her diaper. It was definitely time to call the doctor again.
The pediatrician asked me to bring her in the next day with at least three poopy diapers to test, if I thought we could manage to collect that many in that short a time frame. I laughed hollowly and just saved three of the six we accumulated to bring in.
They tested for blood in the diapers and decided it was time for me to eliminate dairy from my diet to see if that made a difference and, in the meantime, we’d get an appointment with a pediatric gastroenterologist (GI) as soon as we could.
I eliminated dairy with just a little bit of grumbling, did some googling and felt relieved that there were so many resources to provide me with information and alternatives.
Then I found out Ben & Jerry’s had started making dairy-free options and seriously debated changing the baby’s middle name to BEN&JERRY to honor their great, great innovation (fortunately I got a grip on myself).
I should take a quick second here to note that I had a tough pregnancy with tiny human the second that involved a lot of vomiting.
By a lot I mean vomiting to the point my four-year-old was critiquing my form and aim on a daily basis.
Once tiny human 2.0 came out, I was more than ready to eat again. Between nine months of missing food, and the constant hunger from nursing I was basically a one-woman performance of, “Food, Glorious Food” from Oliver!
The day finally came for the GI appointment came, much to my relief as things had not improved.
Tiny human 2.0 was happy, round, and cheerful, but she was also exploding like a volcano and eating on a schedule that was closer to a newborn’s- probably in part due to the fact we had to hold off on any more solids until we had this appointment.
I went in hoping that there would be a quick resolution but prepared for some changes needing to be made. In came the GI wearing an, “I pooped today” t-shirt and a personality reminiscent of Dr. House.
I was apprehensive, but answered his questions- and started to relax as I realized I was being heard. I was pleasantly surprised when he asked me what my breastfeeding goals were; when I responded that I was hoping to make it to at least 12 months, he was entirely supportive but said it was okay to switch to formula if I felt like I needed to.
As there were no plans for a tiny human 3.0, I didn’t want/wasn’t ready to wean early unless it was deemed medically necessary.
Then he said I needed to remove soy from my diet and be super aware of hidden dairy as well- he’d see us in six weeks to give time for all of the proteins to leave my system.
I bid a silent, but emotional, goodbye to my dairy-free BFFs Ben & Jerry and leaned into the new diet. Fortunately, these were common enough allergies, and with www.allergyeats.com, the companion app, and various other websites/blogs for elimination diets I was able to make it work.
There were points where it was really frustrating and I was convinced that my memoir would be entitled, “THERE IS SOY IN F(*&ING EVERYTHING!”
Six weeks passed and things were still a bit dicey on the diaper front.
We returned to the GI, he was pleased that tiny human 2.0 was staying on her growth curve, but was not pleased with her, um… output.
He had sent her to the allergist for testing and thankfully she had not registered as severely allergic to anything. It was time for me to remove egg and wheat from my diet to see what would happen.
At this point it took great self-control not to wail, “BUT IT’S PUMPKIN SPICE SEASON!!!!!!!!!!” (yes, I am unashamedly basic when it comes to PSLs).
I picked myself up, dusted myself off, (figuratively, not literally, I am proud to say I didn’t throw myself on the doctor’s floor even though I really wanted to) returned to the blogs I had been using, asked on Facebook for tried and true recipes that didn’t include dairy, soy, egg, or wheat and unfriended anyone who suggested ice.
Once again, for the most part I felt very fortunate that I had access to a lot of grocery stores and information. I was able to settle in to our new normal and start working towards new goals, a slow reintroduction of solids with purees and hopes for reintroducing dairy at twelve months.
I discovered important survival items, like chocolate chips that met all the requirements, corn Chex for when I needed something crunchy, marshmallows that could be mixed with the first two items to make a trail mix, kind of.
It is definitely a way to lose weight, I’ll give it that.
I checked in frequently with our pediatrician and the GI and they both reassured me that there was a strong possibility that tiny human 2.0 might outgrow all of these intolerances by eighteen months. I didn’t hold my breath, and started to think about the changes I would need to make if this was going to be a permanent part of our lives…
Then, before I knew it, we were at twelve months, and weathered a successful reintroduction of wheat, then a month later-egg.
Tiny human 2.0 was starting to eat more and more solids and finger foods, and I was starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
At fifteen months, soy came back into the picture (and with it, sushi!!!) and last, but not least, by 16 months it was time to introduce dairy, first through breastmilk then it was on to the wonderful world of yogurt and cheese.
At seventeen months, she was eating a completely varied diet, as if none of this had ever happened. Then, Tiny human weaned at seventeen and a half months, it was time and we were both ready. I was amazed and grateful we made it that far.
I wanted to write this post to give encouragement to anyone who is at the start of this experience.
I know we were so lucky that it turned out to be a temporary thing for our household and I was so lucky to have the resources to breastfeed through it.
If you are currently going through this, hang in there. It will get easier and more manageable. There are wonderful doctors with great options and ideas who will help you, want your baby to feel better, and will make sure you are able to come to a solution that works best for everyone, including you.
If you don’t feel like you are already working with that kind of doctor, don’t be afraid to switch, it will make all the difference in the world.
I will tell you the same thing I wish someone had told me in the moment- It will all work out and it will be okay, you are doing a great job.
Raising tiny humans is hard, breastfeeding is hard, and you have had the challenge level kicked up a few notches. You can get through this, it’s challenging but do-able.
If all else fails, grab some wine and some candy corn.
Are you on an elimination diet while breastfeeding? Leave me a comment below.
Until next time!
Katie is a wife, Mother of Gingers (kind of like Mother of Dragons, but scarier at times), and has occasionally entertained the idea of interviewing for a sister wife. She is on the countdown to her fortieth birthday and is blogging about it at Knock, Knock, Knocking on Forty’s Door. She can also be found on Facebook.