Breastfeeding a baby with allergies

Breastfeeding can be tough. Just as you think you have cracked it, another curve ball is thrown your way. When Ava was four weeks old things should have been getting easier. I had got past the initial pain and we had been referred and had a posterior tongue tie cut. She had always been sicky, but it got worse, a lot worse. To the point where she would scream in pain, projectile whole feeds and even choke on her sick.  It took seeing the doctor numerous times, trying various things such as Colief and Gaviscon and it getting to the point where she was being sick after every feed, to be urgently referred to the pediatric team.

After seeing the pediatrician, having gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) confirmed and medication prescribed, I started to cut all dairy from my diet. This was done as we have a family history of allergies, specifically cows milk protein allergy (CMPA) and it was felt that a lot of my daughter’s symptoms could be aggravated by the dairy produce in my diet. Cutting all dairy was easier said than done, especially on the run up to and over Christmas!

However we saw an improvement in her, the sick lessened, the congestion and grunting at night was better, she wasn’t crying in pain with wind and even her eczema patches started to clear up. We thought we had sorted it when she started being more sick again, the other symptoms came back and alarmingly she started to have blood in her poo. On consultation with the dietician, I was advised to cut out soya, as this is the next most common allergen. Within two to three weeks, the blood had cleared up, her skin had cleared up and she was a lot more settled again.

It can feel totally overwhelming to discover that not only does your baby have allergies, but that what you eat is affecting them. Guilt, stress, panic and fear are some of the many emotions that I felt during this time. In the last five months I have discovered some things that make it a little easier and I hope they can help you too:

1.    Join a support forum

It’s such a relief to be able to talk to other mums that are going through the same thing, that understand your craving for cheese and the excitement at finding a new food you can eat. There are lots on Facebook. The CMPA support for breastfeeding has mums on there dealing with CMPA only, through to multiple allergies, so the chances are there is someone on there feeling exactly the same as you.

2.    Ask to be referred to a dietician and an allergy pediatrician

The dietician can prescribe hypoallergenic formulas that can be used alongside breastfeeding, as an alternative or in cooking. They can help you with your diet and provide support for weaning. An allergy pediatrician can do testing if needed and will be knowledgeable in the area that you need them to be. Both can provide support and should help with re-introduction if and when that is advised.

3.    Become label savvy

Milk doesn’t just appear as milk on labels, it also has many other names. Products should have allergens identified on them in bold. You can find out more information on the Food Standards Agency site.

4.    Familiarise yourself with menus before going out

The law has recently changed, meaning that it should be easier for people to identify allergens in food they are buying. Some places will have allergy menus or their normal menu available online (places are catching up with the new laws). Knowing what you can eat before going somewhere eases the stress. I know exactly what I can and can’t have in places that we usually go to.

5.    Find substitutes

You will be able to find or make substitutes for most things. The more allergens you have to cut out the harder this becomes and this is when the forums come in really handy. I have discovered so many things I thought I couldn’t have through other mums. If you don’t like one substitute don’t give up, try another.

6.    Think about the gift you are giving your baby

It can be tough. There will be days that you feel like you can’t do it. If you are reading this and you have just found out it does get easier I promise.

My friend said well done to me the other day and I almost burst into tears. I didn’t realise how much I needed to hear it. So well done, Mummy!

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