Our Breastfeeding Journey… with Allergies

It is the end of breastfeeding week and I really wanted to share our story on breastfeeding as it may not be one that many of you have heard or know about. Some talk about breastfeeding like it was so simple and easy. Others talk about their struggles with it; poor latch, tongue or lip ties, mastitis, bleeding, poor supply, pain etc. I knew all of this going in.

When our daughter was born in October everything was going perfectly. She latched well, she had no problems breastfeeding, I loved every second of it. Everyone talks about that feeling, of just absolute love, knowing your body is making everything necessary for you child. It’s incredible.

All that changed when V was 3 months old. She had started having blood in her stool. Now what does that have to do with breastfeeding many may ask? Absolutely everything. I started to get concerned, as any parent would be.

We went to the family doctor and she sent in a referral to see a pediatrician. Funny thing about pediatricians, they are considered specialists, so even though we had one for a different reason for V, we were required to get another referral to have our daughter seen for this new reason, which is absolutely ridiculous and a waste of time, especially since it is impossible to get in on short notice (less than at least a week). Anywho, family doctor raised some concerns that it might be serious and if she starts to have excruciating pain we should go to emergency.

Later that day I started thinking back more on the last few weeks and realized that our happy, nothing bothers her, really never cries baby, had started waking up screaming and pulling up her legs for some reason after naps and several times throughout the day. I had just thought it was a faze, that she would grow out of it, but the doctor had me concerned, so I decided it was better to be safe.

An emergency visit later, where the doctor there was not breastfeeding knowledgeable at all, told me my child was completely fine and she seemed happy so what was the issue. Of course he didn’t seem to understand that something was wrong, my child wasn’t acting like herself. She was having bouts of pain 6+ times a day where she was screaming, inconsolable. He just told me babies do that. She seems happy. Go home.

I was not happy with that and demanded to see a pediatrician ASAP. Thank goodness he listened to that and we got to go in to see this new pediatrician in the morning.

V had always been a spitty baby, always puking her food up (I changed her 5+ times a day…), always having 7+ burps a feed. She went from sleeping through the night to waking up every couple hours screaming in pain. She would wake up from naps screaming, she would scream randomly throughout the day. For anyone that knew her, this wasn’t normal. She never cried normally. She had mucousy, green looking stool with black specks or bright red blood in it, and it smelled off. Sorry, but it’s true. I just didn’t realize that all of this was linked.

We found out I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t imagining things. Our daughter has what is called CMPA (Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy) as well as a soy allergy. It is an infant allergy that babies usually outgrow of by age of three.

I was a little confused though. I am already allergic to dairy. So one, babies can have issues with breastmilk? And two, how is she reacting to something that I don’t even eat, or at the most maybe have something that says “may contain milk”.

Apparently it is entirely possible. Any allergen can pass through breastmilk into baby. We got this huge list of ingredients to look out for and I purged our kitchen. I gave so much food away to family and friends, I honestly had no idea I had so much that contained soy ingredients! I felt discouraged, but we were figuring it out.

Those first couple weeks were so hard. I continued breastfeeding knowing that it takes a while for the allergens to leave my milk, knowing I was causing my daughter pain. She would just scream and pull away and was completely inconsolable. All I could do was rock her and repeatedly say “I’m so sorry baby girl, Momma’s trying to help. I’m so sorry.” I bawled. A lot.

I had so much guilt. So much anguish. I wondered if I should give up breastfeeding. if I should switch to formula. But I knew there was no guarantee that the formula wouldn’t bother her either.

I think one of the hardest parts was that it takes so long for the allergens to leave your body. When you first eliminate something, say dairy, it can take 2 to 3 weeks for it to be out of your body completely. So when you are breast feeding, you also have to add in that time to baby. 4 to 6 weeks to know if your diet is working, to know if you are making a difference or continuing to harm your child.

Suffice to say, I spent weeks bawling, hoping I was doing enough, kicking myself if I made a mistake. When it is just your allergies, who cares if you have a reaction when you knowingly put yourself at risk. That is your choice. My daughter didn’t chose to react. She didn’t chose to eat something just because she really wanted it, knowing she would have a reaction. I was making that choice for her. And because of this, I knew I had to make better decisions. I couldn’t knowingly hurt her.

After a while we also figured out she was allergic to corn and egg too. I had thought the soy allergy was difficult. I was wrong. Corn is in everything and part of everything.

Now, this is not everyone’s breastfeeding journey. I had it so easy at the beginning, I had an oversupply, a baby that nursed every 4 hours from the time she was born, sleeping through night from 1 month on, a dream baby. And then that changed. She started recognizing that she hurt after eating, so for several weeks she started refusing to nurse, screaming at me, crying, There were tears everywhere. I seriously questioned if I was a good mom. I must have been a monster, I was hurting my child, forcing her to nurse, making her hurt. It was pure torture.

After we got a new normal, knew what we could eat in the house, what was safe, what wasn’t, then shopping became one of my dreaded tasks. I used to love grocery shopping, what changed? I would read everything I put into the shopping cart, or really, read everything and then put it back on the shelf. There was so little I could eat. I felt like I was eating the same things, couldn’t eat out, I seriously for a time hated food. Then we got a handle on that and now I just deal with the cravings. Cravings for things I can’t eat. Popcorn, icing, the ease of ordering take out.

So, would I do it all over again? One thousand times yes. We are at 9 months going strong and I don’t know when we will stop. I love breastfeeding again. I love knowing that everything I am putting into my body is for my daughter, to keep her safe and healthy. I cherish our times together and dread being finished. Do I look forwards to the day I can have popcorn again, YES! But I can live without it, and if any of our future kids have similar problems I will go through it again, gladly, for them.

Breastfeeding isn’t easy, it isn’t simple, there is so much involved, so much commitment. But it is one of the most rewarding things that you can do.

For those that can’t breastfeed and wished they could, I completely understand. I grieved when I thought I might have to give it up. It is so important to do what is necessary for your child. For us, there wasn’t a formula that would have even worked for V, so I am happy that I was able to make the changes necessary to keep her safe and fed and healthy.

I hope that I have perhaps educated you a little, helped some moms not feel alone in such a difficult trying journey. This isn’t a breastfeeding topic that is commonly shared or known about, but it is becoming more a more prevalent. Let’s talk about our journeys. Let’s share about our parenting struggles. No judgement, no condemnation or accusations. Let’s just support each other, knowing we are all doing our best for our children.

Anyone else had a similar journey? Please share, I’d love to hear from you.

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