Mental health check-in

It’s time to be real. I’ve been struggling the last little while. Struggling with being honest about how I am doing. Struggling with being real.

This part of my story is all related to breastfeeding and allergies and it goes back several years. I can only hope that by me sharing this I may help someone else, even just one person, to go and get support.

So to start we have to go back 27 months to when our oldest blessed our lives with her presence.

When our oldest, V, was born over 2 years ago we had some scares health wise (read all about it in The terrors of being a NICU parent) but our breastfeeding journey started out amazingly. Yes it took us a day and a very helpful nurse being a little forceful in helping V latch property. But she latched well, I got over the 3 week hump easily and I never had any cracks or bleeding or anything.

Fast forward to 3 months when we started realizing the V was reacting to something in my breastmilk. We knew something was wrong, green diapers with blood, abdominal pain, screaming uncontrollably, etc. This wasn’t my baby. I knew something was wrong.

I went to the ER because it takes 2 weeks to talk to our family doc. And he tried to gaslight me.

“Must be your cracked and bleeding nipples causing the blood.”

“um, I don’t have any cracks. She has a great latch”

“well then it must be from a milk clog”

“I pump once a day, if there was blood in my milk I’d see it”

“Well, she is happy so I wouldn’t worry about it”

What kind of response is that? How is someone being happy for a 5 minute period indicative of everything being ok health wise. I pushed to see a pediatrician and sure enough she had what is known as CMPA (cows milk protein allergy) and advised to cut out all dairy and soy from my diet, including derivatives. That list is like 40 ingredients!

I was prepared for the dairy, I already avoided most of it due to my own dairy allergy, but V reacted to things made in the same facility, so any cross contamination. I was also informed it would take 6 weeks for her to heal. The first few weeks I kept making mistakes, not reading a label twice, missing warnings on labels.

I bawled a lot. Mentally I struggled. I felt like it was my fault. I was failing her. I hurt my own baby. And it got worse from there.

I noticed after 4 weeks that she was getting better, but kept getting worse again repeatedly. Crazy enough we noticed a link after I ate popcorn. This opened our eyes and felt like we saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Little did we know how immersive corn is in our diets. I have had to completely overhaul our lives. I do a lot of food prep and honestly it is overwhelming, but something I was willing to do to keep my family safe and healthy.

One thing I wasn’t expecting was that I couldn’t keep any of the milk I had pumped while eating her allergens. I ended up donating my milk to a local mom in need of milk for her adopted baby whom she wasn’t able to relactate enough to fully feed herself. What an incredible feeling to know I could help someone else during our struggles! I think that first donation was just under 400 ounces of milk!

Things took a while to stabilize and from there we just struggled with adding foods to her diet directly. We ended up getting an allergist who diagnosed her with FPIES. Through all of this I continued to breastfeed her and we fell into a great rhythm.

Yes my diet was restricted because of her, but I knew I was doing everything I could for her. She was healthy and gaining weight. I always wanted her to wean when she was ready and after we found out we were pregnant I kept hoping she would want to wean. I wanted my body back, if even for a few months. But it wasn’t to be and I was ok with that.

Our beautiful Kae was born and she also latched well and didn’t have any nursing issues and man did I feel blessed.

And then after 3 days of V getting a bottle after Kae was born I nursed her. And I felt so beyond violated. I pushed through and helped her lay down for the night. I came out and almost curled up into a ball. I felt dirty. Violated. My skin was crawling. I didn’t know what had happened. I had never experienced that before and I was confused.

I tried to talk to J about it, but he was more confused than I was. “You just nursed her 3 days ago. Do you feel the same way with Kae?” I didn’t know what to say. I felt like I was betraying my daughter.

I had of course heard of breastfeeding aversion. Seen in mentioned in some mom groups. But usually only for people when they first started out nursing, not 2 years in. I felt like I could just plow through and it would go away.

Well over the course of the next 2.5 weeks I nursed her 8 times. And by the last time I actually had to fight the urge to throw her down on the bed and run from the room. My skin crawled. I felt resentment towards her. I dreaded bedtime. I couldn’t stomach looking at her. It just felt so horribly wrong.

To top it off I felt like I was abandoning her if I quit before she was ready to stop. Suffice to say there were many tears. I didn’t know what to do.

Finally a good friend said the words I needed to hear, “I think that switching to bottles is a really good alternative. She still gets mom milk and snuggles, but gets her mommy at the right mental space, which is so important. Your mental space is important, and you take on a lot. It’s okay to takes steps to be gentle with yourself ❤ you are a wonderful mommy.  You got through 25 months of breastfeeding before that happened. You crushed it.”

What an encouragement I needed to hear.  We made the transition and thankfully it went so smoothly. She only cried a couple times for me, for the most part she was totally fine with taking the bottle over nursing.

I thought our nursing troubles were behind us. I was so wrong.

Less than a week later I realized since I wasn’t nursing her anymore that meant I could eat the food she reacted to. She had gained a couple more allergies after we figured out the dairy, soy and corn. Long story short I hadn’t had eggs in 1.5 years. I ate 2 scrambled eggs and man were they delicious. My joy was short lived. 8 hours later Kae had the exact same symptoms that V got. She was in so much pain and I just knew that once again I had caused it.

What was so wrong with me wanting to eat food? Why were all my kids broken? Did I cause this? Did I somehow mess up and now they had allergies because of it? Why me?

I kept thinking, “Ok. It’s only eggs. No other symptoms. Everything else is fine. We are at baseline otherwise so I can not eat eggs. I can do this again.”

I thought I could hold it together. And then several weeks later she started to get worse. We noticed she reacted to peanuts, then pecans and cashews. Then fish and shellfish. I cut out the top 8 allergens (already gluten, dairy, soy and corn free from before). She was still reacting to something. Everytime I eliminated a suspect she got a little better. And then a day or two later she got worse after eating something else.

I didn’t know what else to do. I had been tracking literally everything that went into my mouth for a month and I couldn’t see a pattern. I tracked every possible symptom. I felt so lost. So I bit the bullet.

I started a TED (Total Elimination Diet). I still felt like I was in control. That I could do this. We would just cut down and figure out maybe one more trigger food and then I could add everything back in. This was 4 weeks ago.

I cut down to chicken, potato, apple, carrot, plum, salt, pepper and olive oil. And by that I mean literally only those whole foods. Nothing else. She got WAY WORSE. So looking at charts we cut chicken and swapped with beef, then cut potato. Slightly better. Then plum. Then raw carrot and apple. We had 4 days of everything looking like she was on the mend. Of looking like it was all worth it. And then the symptoms came back with a vengeance.

I did the only thing I could think of. I went to only beef and salt. For 3 days. I was desperate. She started getting better. We have had a few ups and downs since then, I am now eating beef, rutabaga, salt and coconut oil and I think we are almost at baseline.

Am I ok? Some days.

Am I broken? Every day.

Have I struggled. SO MUCH.

Do I feel like a failure? 100%

Do I feel like a crappy mom? I can’t hide from that feeling.

I cry every day. Multiple times a day. I have lost weight. I eat so much of those few foods in a day it’s disgusting. The amount of fat and oil I need to stop losing weight is obscene.

I feel fat, which obviously isn’t true.

I feel lost and alone.

I know I have friends, but no one else has struggled with this and it is so isolating. How do I talk to people about it without them saying I’ve sacrificed enough. I don’t want to give up. I want to keep going. In the long run this is good because we will find her safe foods. There isn’t even a guarantee that there is a safe formula, and if I lose my milk supply then I will have failed her.

So I keep going. I am struggling every day managing a baby who is obviously not feeling well and a 2 yr old who is craving attention and is incredibly jealous. I struggle with cooking 2+ meals for every meal. Of not being able to taste anything but the most basic foods. I struggle with trying to be happy in the face of depression, something I’ve never dealt with before. I struggle to feel God in these moments, to know he is walking beside me. I struggle because COVID-19 has secluded us from everyone and everything. I struggle because most days I just need a hug from a friend and a phone call just isn’t enough. I am also struggling to admit that it’s ok to struggle. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok.

I feel some days like I’m a piece of paper tacked by a nail to a post. Storms keep coming. The rain and wind have shredded me to pieces. I am barely hanging on to that nail. The words on the paper are my identity and the rain has washed away almost all of it. Pieces are missing. But I can’t let go, I have to hold it together for my family.

So where do I go from here? This looks so different for everyone. I guess that’s what this post is about. Everyone’s mothering journey is different. Everyone’s feeding journey is different. Some struggle with post partum depression or anxiety and others don’t ever have to worry about that. Some struggle raising one child. Others struggle raising two or more. Some want a huge family, some want only one child.

It’s time to be honest with yourself. Honest with your friends. Honest with your family. Talk about how you are doing. The good stuff and the bad. Don’t let your fears of them not understanding hold you back. You can’t get help if you don’t ask. You won’t find someone to share your burdens with if you never open up. You won’t find peace in Him if you never give your everything to Him. And for some you may never get the relief you need mentally without assistance from a medication.

So this is me being true to myself. This is me opening up. I’d love to hear about your journeys. I’d love to be a friend, to listen and be there for you. It’s time to be real.

Much love,

From a struggling mom

Gluten Free Tortillas and Why I Make My Own

Anyone that has tried gluten free tortillas knows that all the ones in the store are dry, the break & crumble, and honestly they don’t taste that great either.

I miss the soft texture that rolls and folds without cracking at the seams and breaking into pieces.

When we could no longer eat anything with xanthan gum in it, that meant that pretty much all store bought tortillas were off limits for our family. Unfortunately that also meant no more wraps, tacos or other delicious meals.

I tried a bunch of options, and I know there are other great recipes out there, but this one is super simple with minimal ingredients. It stays soft for 5 days in sealed container in the fridge, they only split from over stuffing and not from just folding it over. They are soft and have a similar texture to wheat tortillas. Are they exactly the same? No. But that’s ok. They are delicious.

I have tried this recipe plain as well as with Italian seasoning in it. I am planning on making a spinach tortilla and potentially a tomato flavored one in the future, I’ll be sure to update the recipe and let you know how they turn out!

Coconut Flour Tortilla

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

Ingredients
2 Tbsp psyllium husk fibre
1/2 C coconut flour
1 C lukewarm water
1 Tbsp oil (olive, coconut [melted] etc.) + 1 tsp to oil pan
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt (optional)
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning or other flavoring (optional)

Directions
Make the dough

  1. In a medium mixing bowl combine psyllium husk fibre with coconut flour (ensure no lumps in coconut flour)
  2. Add the lukewarm water, oil and baking soda. Stir well with a spatula then knead well with your hands. Add in salt and seasoning if desired at this time (adding salt separate from baking soda to prevent deactivating the leavening agent).
  3. Knead for 1 minute. It will be quite moist and get dryer and softer as you work the dough. It shouldn’t be sticking to your hands at the end of the 60 seconds. If it is, add 1/2 tsp more psyllium husk at a time, kneading for 30 seconds and check consistency. It should still be moist but not sticking to your fingers and form a dough.
  4. Set aside for 10 minutes in the bowl. It should now be soft, elastic and well together.

Roll/Shape the tortilla

  1. Cut the dough into 4 even pieces, rolling each into a ball.
  2. Place one ball of dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper, rolling out to desired thickness. I roll mine to be 8 inches in diameter and to make 6 tortillas.
  3. Unpeel top layer of the parchment paper and use a lid/small plate to cut out a round tortilla. Keep the outside scrap to reform a ball and roll more tortillas. This extra dough makes roughly 2 more tortillas (to make 6 total).

Cook in non stick pan

  1. Warm a non stick pan (best to use a crepe/pancake pan, I use a normal frying pan) under medium high heat.
  2. Grease the pan with oil of choice (don’t leave drops of oil or the tortillas will fry)
  3. Flip the tortilla onto the pan and carefully remove the parchment paper. This can take some finesse/trial and error.
  4. Cook for 2-3 minutes on first side, flip using a spatula and cook for 1-2 more minutes on the other side.
  5. Place on a plate and use warm for tacos or allow to cool for a wrap later.
  6. Repeat the rolling/shaping and cooking steps for remaining tortillas. Ensure you grease the pan between each tortilla.
  7. Store in the fridge up to 5 days in sealed container or 3 days on the counter. Freeze if desired for long term storage.

I hope your family can enjoy these tortillas for tacos or for wraps, I know my family downs them.

To Die For Blueberry Muffins

If you are anything like me, you have bags of frozen fruit in the freezer, just waiting to be put into something delicious. I love to stock up on fruit in the summer from local farmers. Raspberries, blueberries, sliced apples, peaches (whole and sliced), plums, currants and much more.

So what do I do with all those bags of fruit? Last week I posted about Apple Crumble and I use those sliced apples in it regularly. My Banana chocolate chip muffins are moist and delicious, usually using frozen bananas.

We just started trialing blueberries with our daughter this week and I figured, what better way to trial than to make some muffins. This recipe is super simple, quick and absolutely delicious. They even taste great after frozen! They are so good I forgot to take a picture before I froze them lol.

Blueberry Muffins

  • Servings: 8 large, big topped muffins / 10 standard muffins / 20-22 mini muffins
  • Print

Ingredients
1 1/2 C flour or flour substitute (I use my Gluten Free All Purpose Flour)
3/4 C cane sugar plus 1 T for muffin tops
1/4 tsp sea salt (1)
2 tsp baking powder (or 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar) (2)
1/3 oil (olive, grapeseed, avocado etc.) (3)
1 egg or egg replacer (1 T flax seed meal and 2 T warm water) (4)
1/3 – 1/2 C milk or milk alternative
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (5)
6 – 8 oz fresh or frozen blueberries (about 1 C)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare muffin tins; I grease my pans, but you can also use paper cups. (6)
2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
3. Add oil to a measuring cup that holds at least 1 cup. Add the egg, then fill the jug to the 1 C line with milk. Add vanilla. Whisk to combine.
4. Add milk mixture to the bowl with dry ingredients, using a fork to combine. Don’t over mix. The batter is quite thick. Fold in the blueberries
5. Scoop the batter into your pans. I use my large trigger release ice cream scoop. Sprinkle a little sugar on top of each muffin (optional).
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes and tops golden or until toothpick comes out with crumbs, not wet batter. (Mini muffins bake for 9-11 minutes). Transfer to cooling rack. Place in airtight container and store at room temperature for 2-3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Notes
(1) Salt: Corn Allergy – Many that are allergic to corn are sensitive to iodized salt as corn is used in the processing. Sea salt is better, but some are still quite sensitive.
(2) Baking Powder: Corn & Grape Allergy – Baking powder is not corn free. Find corn-free if need be. Cream of tartar is made from grapes, if you have a grape allergy; you just need 1/4 of powder for baking soda and remainder in apple cider vinegar
(3) Oil: Corn Allergy – Don’t use “vegetable oil” as it can be corn or soy oil. Canola oil is one of the worst oils for cross contamination with corn. I usually use grapeseed oil. Olive oil isn’t always 100% olive oil either, so if you are sensitive, be careful.
(4) Egg Replacer: Corn allergy – I have found that many of the egg replacers out there use corn starch, so beware which one you buy. Bob’s Red Mill works as a great replacer, however it has a lot of cross contamination and isn’t recommended at all with corn allergies. You could also use a flax egg as an alternative.
(5) Vanilla: Corn Allergy – Vanilla is made with alcohol, often corn, you may need to make your own
(6) Grease: Corn & Soy Allergy – PAM is full of contaminated corn oils and soy oil. I use safe oil & grease with my hands. You can buy oil mister bottles and fill with your own safe oil as well.

photo creds: inspiredtaste.net

Apple Crumble

Anyone been craving apple crumble lately? This recipe is so delicious! I have made it around 6 times… In the last 2 months lol. And I’m the only one who eats it in my house due to a stubborn husband who doesn’t like fruit. More for me!

Apple Crumble

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

Ingredients
Apple Filling
2 lb Granny Smith Apples, weight before peeling
1 Tbsp white flour (I use my Gluten Free All Purpose Flour)
1/2 C cane sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice or water
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Topping
1 C rolled oats
1 C white flour (I use my Gluten Free All Purpose Flour)
1/2 – 1 C brown sugar (loosely packed) (1)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 C unsalted butter, melted (2)
Pinch of salt (3)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Peel apples, cut into 16 slices each apple (I use my apple peeler, corer, slicer)
3. Mix the apple, flour, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl, then pour over the lemon juice. Toss. Spread out evenly into a 9×9 baking dish. If I have extra apple I put into a 3×5 mini baking dish and make a 1-2 serving for later (I freeze it)
4. Place topping ingredients in a bowl and mix until clumps form, like wet sand. Depending on how sweet you like it, change the amount of sugar you add. I like it with 1/2 C of sugar. Spread over apples, crumbling with fingers as required.
5. Bake 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove, loosely cover with foil to keep warm. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Notes
(1) Corn Allergy – depending on sensitivity, you may need cane sugar. We use Cuisine Camino.
(2) Dairy & Corn Allergy – Depending on allergies use whatever butter you need. There are several options: MELTEarth BalanceMiyoko’s, coconut oil, goat butter). Beware of salt in butter if corn allergic (look for sea salt/unsalted). Many of vegan butter have corn derivatives.
(3) Corn Allergy – Many that are allergic to corn are sensitive to iodized salt as corn is used in the processing. Sea salt is better, but some are still quite sensitive. We use Maison Orphee.

I hope you can enjoy this recipe as much as we do in our house. It has become a staple for visitors. Quick, easy and delicious.

How do you prepare for your child’s surgery?

I don’t know about you, but I am the type of person who needs to know the pros and cons, and all the potential side effects and worst case scenarios. It helps me to just feel prepared for anything.

This actually really seems to bother my husband sometimes as he feels I am dwelling on the worst case, fearing the worst for no reason. I don’t know how to fully explain it but for me, I’d rather be prepared for the worst and get to celebrate the best than be so unprepared that I didn’t see the situation coming.

So why am I sharing this? We drove this week to the BC Children’s Hospital to see several specialist involved in V’s care for her genetic condition. This involved meeting an ophthalmologist surgeon who performed surgery on Thursday. We also met with a neurologist to confirm sure isn’t having any neurological complications of her vision and had an EEG to confirm and a requisition for an MRI to get a baseline of her central nervous system.

We have 10 doctors who are involved in V’s medical care, most of which have been supportive and helpful. Most of our appointments have been the perfect example of a supportive medical team.

But that isn’t always the case. We are so blessed to have such an amazing team. This week, meeting the two new specialists, as well as everyone involved in her care in the hospital during her surgery, including anesthetists, medical residents, and nurses to name a few, was nerve wracking. What if they aren’t supportive in our struggle with her uncommon allergies, what if they won’t listen to our requests for specific meds, for the necessity in certain IV fluids, food etc.

For anyone that wants to know about corn allergies and what hospital treatment and care looks like check out the following links:

Emergency Room Protocol

Hospital and Medical Safety with Corn Allergy

ER Safety: Emergency Medical Treatment with a Corn Allergy

So how did we prepare for surgery for our little girl? For starters, we have a “care plan” for lack of a better word made up for her. This includes her daily routine (which is helpful if we have people watching her), emergency numbers, medical conditions, allergies, including her safe foods that she can eat and where we buy them, the emergency room protocol for corn allergies, what to do in case of an anaphylactic reaction or a FPIES reaction, and information on her genetic condition, IP.

We also brought copies of the protocol to give to the anaesthetist and doctors, including a list of safe and unsafe things for her. This included medications, IV fluids and other practices.

Obviously not everyone needs to have all of this if your kid doesn’t have allergies affected by hospital care. So what can everyone else do to prepare?

We always prepare before any appointments by writing down concerns we have, things we have questions about, and ask about potential complications with any procedure that needs to occur. We talk about in emergency situations what steps would be taken or how long a procedure would take and what recovery will look like.

Often times doctors have done a procedure so many times that they forget that us as parents or patients are worried or don’t fully understand exactly what they are going to do. Don’t be scared to stop them from leaving, ask more questions, ensure that you feel comfortable with everything that is going to happen.

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is surgery start times and fasting. When your kid doesn’t understand why you aren’t giving them food when they keep asking for it, it is so difficult. Thank goodness V was able to be distracted by a walk, playing with toys in the waiting room, more walking, and watching a little TV. If that didn’t work, I don’t know how we would have made it so long. She was starved.

I always hoped and prayed that I wouldn’t have to experience the fear of walking away while my child was put to sleep with anaesthetic for a surgery. It is a scary thing. We talked about who would go in with V to hold her while they put the mask on and put her to sleep with the medication. That was a hard decision for me. Do I want to be there while she is terrified and then walk away with her unconcious?

So what do you do while you wait? Well I wanted to keep my mind busy, so we actually went and ate our packed lunch. We were a couple floors down and I knew they had our number. I needed to be distracted. Obviously not everyone can eat when their little one is in surgery, so what else can you do?

We packed a couple small card games to play and our books to read. And obviously we had our phones as well. V’s surgery was only 45 minutes, so we had no issue filling that time. Just do whatever you need to do. If you need to leave the ward or if you can’t leave just in case, those are both ok.

If you bawl your eyes out the whole time or never shed a tear, you are an amazing parent. It isn’t easy having your precious child in surgery, whether it is major surgery or something simple, it’s scary. Feel what you need to feel and don’t feel embarrassed.

Getting to see V after surgery was so heartening and heartbreaking. Be warned that it may take a while for them to feel ok, to settle in. It took V about 30 minutes to calm down and feel better. I’m going to be honest, I am so thankful we are still breastfeeding as it was such a simple, easy way to help her stay calm and feel safe.

So what am I trying to say with all of this? Maybe just that surgery is terrifying and it’s ok to be worried sick. Do your research, find all your answers before hand, and know that those doctors only want what is best for your little one.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Anyone else have a hankering for banana chocolate chip muffins lately? This is my go to breakfast/snack. I always have premade muffins in the freezer and several in a container on the counter at all times.

I love banana muffins as you can use up those older bananas that you don’t really feel like eating anymore. I usually throw them into the freezer until I have enough to make a double recipe.

What is your favorite muffin?

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

  • Servings: 12
  • Print

Ingredients
4 ripe bananas, medium or 1 1/3 C mashed banana
1/3 C melted butter/vegan butter, cooled (I use miyokos) (1)
2/3 C cane sugar
1 egg/egg replacer
1 tsp vanilla (2)
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of sea salt (3)
1 1/2 C all purpose flour/GF flour (I use Gluten Free All Purpose Flour)
1 C chocolate chips (I use Cuisine Camino Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips) (4)

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 F
2. Grease your muffin tins (5)
3. Peel bananas and throw them in a big bowl with melted butter and smash it all together with a fork or potato masher
4. Blend until it is creamy and smooth with no chunks
5. Add sugar, egg, and vanilla and mix until just combined
6. Stir in sea salt and baking soda
7. Add flour and chocolate chips and mix until just combined. Do not overmix!
8. Divide into muffin tins & bake until toothpick pulls out cleanly, about 18-20 minutes.

Notes
(1) Dairy & Corn Allergy – Depending on allergies use whatever butter you need. There are several options: MELTEarth BalanceMiyoko’s, coconut oil, goat butter). Beware of salt in butter if corn allergic (look for sea salt/unsalted). Many of vegan butter have corn derivatives.
(2) Corn Allergy – Vanilla is made with alcohol, often corn, you may need to make your own
(3) Corn Allergy – Many that are allergic to corn are sensitive to iodized salt as corn is used in the processing. Sea salt is better, but some are still quite sensitive.
(4) Corn Allergy – During the dutching process to create cocoa, it is treated with ph balancing agents, derived from corn. It is difficult to find safe cocoa or chocolate chips. A couple of corn lite options: Cuisine Camino, Equal Exchange.
(5) Corn & Soy Allergy – PAM is full of contaminated corn oils and soy oil. I use safe oil & grease with my hands. You can buy oil mister bottles and fill with your own safe oil as well.
I don’t line my muffin pans as it isn’t needed. They hold well on their own, and often they are too greasy to stick anyways.

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.