In typical fashion, my firstborn did not prepare me for her two little brothers that followed. Both of my boys had food allergy intolerances through my breast milk, and their baby days were at the very least, difficult, but some days, it seemed like a complete nightmare.
When my second child was born, I just knew something was off with him. I had breastfed before, and he was nothing like she was. He was colicky and was burping constantly, passing gas all night long. His diapers just smelled foul. Not like your typical exclusively breastfed baby’s diaper. And, one day, I noticed a tiny streak of blood in his poop, and started doing my own research.
I was pretty sure from what I found online, that he was having a cow’s milk intolerance through my breast milk. After confirming it with my doctor, I cut out dairy from my diet. I wasn’t a huge milk drinker, but cheese. Oh how I love cheese. But, to my surprise and disappointment, the problem didn’t completely go away until I cut out soy, too.
Through my already sleep deprived state, I read labels, and learned what hidden dairy was, and went hard core on my elimination diet. After a few weeks, he finally seemed a little more content, and we all started sleeping a little bit better. But, I longed for my cheese, and yogurt, and to just add a little butter to things. But, despite desperately wanting a plate of nachos, I carried on and nursed for 14 months on a dairy- and soy-free diet.
It was a hard year of my life, but I felt like a superhero for sticking with it.
Then, baby number three came along.
I recognized the signs within the first week. Same as with his big brother, my youngest had all the telltale signs of a baby struggling with something in my diet. I immediately cut out dairy and soy. But, he was still waking up every hour at night for months. I gradually cut out more and more. I longed to keep breastfeeding and I had done an elimination diet before, so why not again?
I cut out the top eight allergens from my diet.
I cut out chocolate.
I cut out caffeine.
I read everything I could on the Internet, and was down to just a handful of foods I could eat. My baby was 5-months-old at this point, still colicky, had severe acid reflux, and I was barely staying sane. After all, I had two toddlers running around this time, and my baby was still up every hour at night.
One of my memories during this time was watching my husband walk circles with the crying baby for hours. I felt helpless and depressed. I loved breastfeeding and didn’t want to give it up, but I also didn’t know what else to do.
I finally considered formula. I felt defeated, and exhausted, but I didn’t know what other option I had.
Since dairy and soy formulas were off limits, we had to go the more expensive, hypoallergenic route. After some trial and error, we finally found a formula he would tolerate. He was 5-months-old, and for the first time in his life, he slept more than an hour at night. He slept six hours straight. It felt like a miracle.
But, the truth was, I didn’t mind making the sacrifice of elimination diets to be able to continue to breastfeed, and I was devastated.
I took my time weaning him to formula, and a few days after my milk had stopped, and we were all finally sleeping again, those crazy hormones had settled down, and I realized that feeding a kid on an elimination diet made me a superhero, but so did making the right choice for my baby and switching to formula, too.
I was able to be a better mom to my other two kids, and we were all much happier.
I share my experience going on an elimination diet because I want moms struggling with the same issue to know that it’s hard, and making that sacrifice for your kids is a beautiful thing. In my eyes, it really does make you a super hero.
But, I also know that sometimes, the best choice isn’t to make so many sacrifices that your family suffers. I learned that with the decision to stop breastfeeding my third. At the time, it killed me to do it, but after a few months, I realized that it was the best decision for our entire family. And, today he is a rambunctious, happy, thriving 5-year-old that doesn’t know the difference.
My boys both went on to continue to have food allergy issues as toddlers. The first two years of their lives were hard as we had to trial foods, read labels constantly, pack our own food for outings and gatherings, and figure out what they could and couldn’t tolerate while we introduced solids.
Food allergy moms are some of the toughest. Feeding our kids should be a relatively simple task, but instead it comes with many challenges, tears, and emotions that other people don’t understand. Being able to eat something without giving a second thought to how it might affect your baby seems like a luxury to food allergy moms.
But, we’re also not looking for sympathy either. So to my fellow mama on an elimination diet, know that I think you’re amazing.
You’re a superhero.
And be confident in yourself that you’re doing what’s best for you and your baby.