Breastfeeding with food sensitivities

WP_20150225_15_44_21_ProI always assumed I would breastfeed my kids, and I have. But I never anticipated the struggle I would have when one of them developed severe food sensitivities.

My son had been experiencing a variety of symptoms pretty much since birth, but I hadn’t put them together to realize they were all symptoms of a bigger problem. It wasn’t until we were still struggling to get his reflux under control and he stopped putting weight on did the pediatrician suggest we consider the possibility of food sensitivities.

Editor’s note: Breastfeeding research shows that infants do not typically develop food sensitivities until at least 3 weeks of age, and common types of food sensitivities depend on what geographic region you reside. Moreover, there are many possible causes with the same signs and symptoms as food sensitivities. If you are encountering a challenge with feeding your infant, contact your local IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), La Leche League Leader, WIC Breastfeeding Counselor or another accredited breastfeeding specialist.

I felt strongly that, if possible, breastmilk was the best option for our son and am fortunate to have a pediatrician that agrees with me. Even when our son was having issues putting weight on, she never wavered on her support of breastfeeding exclusively. Since it was not a supply issue on my end, supplementing with formula wouldn’t fix the problem, she said. My son has been exclusively breastfed, so it was determined that the culprit was something he was ingesting through my milk.

It took some trial and error, but we finally figured out that our son has a severe sensitivity to milk and soy protein. It’s called Milk-Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI). To manage it, I have removed any trace of milk and soy products from my diet. Once eliminated, it still takes up to 4 weeks for all traces to be out of my system. However, within a week, we saw such an incredible change in our son.

Almost all his symptoms have disappeared completely: no more congestion, the eczema on his face is gone, the reflux is under control, he gained weight, and he’s eating and sleeping better!

I don’t want to say it’s been difficult, but managing the food sensitivity has been a lot of work. I am constantly scanning labels to look for hidden dairy and soy and have started making almost everything we eat at home. Some days, I make multiple meals since my husband and daughter have no restrictions on their diet. Eating out has also become virtually impossible, and when we go somewhere, I always bring food for me and him to eat. You should have seen me sitting down to Easter dinner and taking out my own loaf of bread!

Regardless of the amount of planning, extra work or restrictions, it has absolutely been worth it. He is still experiencing the nutritional benefits and emotional connection that breastfeeding provides. Our son is thriving.

I’d be happy to share more information we have learned about this food sensitivity or share some allergy-friendly recipes we’ve discovered if you are having similar issues. Just write it in the Comments; I’d love to chat!

Feeding Solids With Love

Vegetable stand

Feeding with love is an incredibly challenging yet important part of our parenting adventure. My husband has a ridiculous number of food allergies, as a toddler I had tons of allergies and my daughter is at risk for allergies. Early in my pregnancy, I came to the decision I would delay solids for our daughter, Arbor, to give her a better chance at avoiding the allergy issue. To me, this was feeding with love. Arbor is exclusively breastfed, which is a great victory to me because she spent her first ten days of life in the NICU. We had some challenges getting started with our breastfeeding relationship so our success has meant the world to me. I had great support and managed to avoid formula, thanks to the great ICN staff and lactation team at Duke. This was also feeding with love.

Now I have a happy and healthy five-month-old who nurses like a champ. Our nursing relationship is one of the single most important parts of our family dynamic. However, we’re getting to the age where most babies start solids. I was really hoping to avoid this until she was a year old. Some people have told me that’s utterly ridiculous while other moms have shared their experience with delaying. Arbor is at the age and developmental phase where she is gaining an interest in food. She’s started grabbing at our plates, has attempted to snatch food from our bowls and follows our every motion as food is moved from fork to mouth. She can now sit independently, has lost the tongue-thrust reflex when her lips are touched and can grab her toys, bring them to her mouth and chew like there’s no tomorrow. Developmentally she’s exactly where she should be in order to begin experiencing solid foods. I’ve been sticking to my guns about waiting until a year though. If you want to learn more about bay food nutrition facts, check this out.

This weekend we had a total game-changer. While my husband was snacking on a bowl of oatmeal, Arbor began her usual visual analysis of this whole “eating” thing Daddy was doing. Then she started chewing her mouth along with him and imitated his motions. She began grunting and leaning in towards him, all but begging for a bite. She grew increasingly frustrated that Daddy was not sharing that marvelous goop with her and I felt like we were being mean for upsetting her. I asked him to go eat in another room so she wouldn’t be as mad, so he hid behind a giant pillow where she wouldn’t see hIs food. I offered her the breast in case she was just hungry… she had no interest. She wanted Daddy’s oatmeal. Fortunately, out of sight, out of mind works for little babies. This frustration didn’t last long but it did open up the weaning discussion for Izzy and me.

We weighed out the pros and cons of both options… but it’s definitely not an easy decision to make. I almost went to the store that instant to pick up some avocados for her to try but Izzy reminded me that it’s only another three weeks until she hits the six-month mark. She might really need those three weeks to let her gut finish closing. After that date, we will keep good wholesome foods on hand that can be her starter foods when she is expressing a deep interest in starting solid food. We believe in baby-led weaning, so it’s important to us to allow Arbor to initiate the process, within reason. This too is feeding with love.

It’s my job as her mother to protect her and I take this role very seriously. It’s equally important that I not get so hung up on my individual goals for her that I’m preventing her from a normal, healthy and even fun part of her growth and development. I’m incredibly excited to see how she reacts to her first taste of flavorful food and am allowing that excitement to be greater than my fear of allergies. So we are preparing to lovingly usher in the next era of our parenting journey. Time to stock up on drop cloths and fresh veggies!

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