My second son was fussy right from the beginning. I had an incredibly difficult pregnancy with him – SO much nausea and heartburn! – I was relieved to get him out so I could finally have my body back to myself! Of course, the baby had other plans.
I’m an avid breastfeeding advocate so I went right to it, pumping and meeting with lactation specialists and continuing to avoid alcohol – all part of the tried-and-true recipe for breastfeeding success. No dice. My baby continued to spit up, arch and cry. He was gassy all the time and wouldn’t sleep. Several people told me about common baby allergens such as gluten and dairy that I could cut out of my diet to test if those were the issue. “No way,” I said. “We’re a family of eaters. Bread and cheese, sandwiches, pasta…nobody in my family has allergies.” And then the eczema appeared. Little red splotches around his face, neck and lower stomach. The pediatrician agreed that an allergen was likely the culprit, but there are no reliable tests for baby allergies. So I went about removing the most common ones from my diet to help my breastfeeding baby.
Dairy is top of the list of foods that breastfeeding infants have a sensitivity to, and it turns out that gluten and soy are “cross-reactive” for people who have problems with dairy (meaning that many people who can’t tolerate one have issues with the others as well). The most successful way to determine what foods cause a reaction for your baby is to eliminate these common allergens for a month. Other common allergens are eggs and nuts, which are usually next to be eliminated if dairy, soy and gluten elimination doesn’t do the trick. If the baby starts feeling better, then you know that one of the eliminated foods was likely causing the problem and you can slowly reintroduce one food at a time, waiting about two weeks between each different food.
My baby, it turns out, has a problem with all three of the main allergens: gluten, dairy and soy. A trifecta of food restriction. So what’s a carb-loving, cheese-addicted breastfeeding mom to do? Say hello to the Paleo diet. The Paleo diet is a hugely popular diet right now, where people attempt to eat the way cavemen did in the Paleolithic area: minimally processed foods including meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and absolutely no refined sugar, grains or dairy. I turned to popular Paleo sites such as PaleOMG, Elana’s Pantry and Against All Grain. And thank God for Pinterest. Just enter any diet search term, such as “dairy-free” and enjoy a plethora of palatable recipes. For formula-feeding mothers or those looking for supplements, many insurance companies will help cover the cost of pricey allergen-free formulas such as Alimentum or Nutramigen.
And it’s worth mentioning that there is hope on the horizon: many babies outgrow their food intolerances between the age of one and three years old as their stomachs mature!
Have your children had any food intolerance issues? How did your family deal with it?