Posts Tagged ‘weaned’

Should You Wean Your Baby who Has Multiple Food Allergies?

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Ever since my first child was born, I have been a big advocate of breastfeeding. I figured I would nurse as long as there was an interest. This was heavily influenced by a friend who was still nursing her two-year-old. I weaned my daughter at 19 months because my second pregnancy had made it too painful–and she was only nursing once a day by then anyhow.

I planned on nursing my son at least that long. But I began to have second thoughts about nursing as I watched him break our in a rash as he drank. It got worse as he got older. We tried giving him goat’s milk formula, and even experimented with homemade sunflower seed milk (that experiment landed us in the emergency room, though we didn’t make the connection between the reaction and the seeds until later, especially since he threw up just outside the hospital and had no symptoms once we got in the door). Soy wasn’t an option–we knew e was allergic to it. I didn’t know about hemp back then. It is a complete protein and has lots of good fat in it, but hemp milk is very expensive. I pay $34 per dozen for it from Azure Standard now, but imagine how much milk a 6-month-old can drink… I would use a case in a week or less. There are amino acid based formulas available, such as Neonate, but by the time we found out about them, he simply would not eat them. Period. And I don’t blame him; they taste awful. Plus I think there was at least one ingredient in them he couldn’t have; I don’t remember now.

Once we were convinced that there was a relationship between what I ate and his eczema, I tried eliminating various foods from my diet to clear it up. This works in some cases. My brother was allergic to wheat as a baby and would break out in a rash anytime mother ate wheat. Once she made the connection, she quit eating it and he quit breaking out. But then, she quit nursing and switched to goat’s milk at 6 weeks due to supply issues, though his allergy to wheat, as well as some other things, continued for years. He was never as bad off as my son, however, and has pretty much outgrown all the allergies.

So I tried eliminating the four worst offenders, wheat, soy, eggs, and milk, one at a time. When I saw no change after two weeks each, I added them back in. Later after some strange skin electroacu-something allergy test, I tried eliminating the 6 or 7 foods it showed as reactive. No change. Later he had an IgG food sensitivity test done, and I eliminated and rotated as best as I could based on the results. Still no change (thanks in part to several false negatives on that test–one of which was the infamous sunflower seeds; which reminds me, if you can eat them and can’t have dairy, they make a delicious sour cream–I found this recipe during this time). I remember hunting the kitchen in desperation one day, trying to find something to cure my nursing-induced hunger. But I couldn’t find anything that didn’t require preparation, so I ran to the local health food store to buy rice crackers and such.

It was a very hard time. I had to bring my own food to potlucks. I remember mixing quinoa, fresh and frozen veggies, and olive oil, because I didn’t know what else to fix, and eating that while I looked with envy at all the delicious entrees and mouthwatering desserts everyone around me was eating.

So I began to consider weaning. Manny had not been interested in solid food at 6 months. My husband thought I was neglecting him, but my research told me that as long as he was still gaining weight and nursing well, I shouldn’t worry about it. He finally did start eating around 10 months. I decided to wean him at 12 months. My plan was to feed him beans and cereal to give him a complete protein, with flax or olive oil mixed in for fat, and whatever veggie or fruit I could get down him. So at 12 months I began to wean him, finishing the process in less than two weeks.

When I declared my intention to wean online, I could not believe the amount of flack I got for my decision. “Breastmilk is best for your baby, even if he has allergies,” some insisted. Others told me of how they had persevered with their baby’s special diet until they were two or even later, as if they were trying to make me feel guilty for wanting to wean so I could go back to eating normal, tasty food. I mean, try eating pinto beans without onion or tomato. My husband would not eat half of what I was forced to eat during that time. I didn’t know enough about gluten-free baking to give up gluten. If I had known what I know now, I might have tried, but it wouldn’t have helped, because there were other foods that he was highly allergic to that I was still eating.

All I knew was that it was hard to identify trigger foods with the delay between my eating them and them turning into breastmilk and entering my baby’s digestive system. I knew it would be easier to do an elimination diet with him than with me, and that reactions would show up faster. So I ignored the naysayers and just weaned him.

In hindsight, I know now it was the best thing I ever did. I was still eating so many things that we didn’t know he was allergic to (remember the sunflower seed sour cream? That was one of the things; we didn’t figure out that one until later). Plus I comforted myself with the thought that I had nursed him a good 12 months; many babies are lucky to get 6 months or even less. He was able to go straight to solids with rice milk and hemp milk for liquids, without the need to add in a formula. We did eventually find a good hypoallergenic multivitamin in capsule form that we could dump into his milk to help make up for gaps in nutrients (Children’s Basic Nutrients). It was much less stressful for me to cook him a batch of beans, blend, and freeze them to use a few cubes at a time (I froze them in ice cube trays), and cook cream of some gluten free grain, such as quinoa or rice or millet daily, than it was for me to try to find something I could eat that was palatable. We made more rapid progress in figuring out the trigger foods this way. And he thrived.

So what should you do? I can’t tell you. Each case is different. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you make an informed decision:

  • How old is the baby?
  • How well is your baby eating solids?
  • How long is the list if food allergies?
  • Have you identified all the food allergies?
  • Can you survive on your baby’s special diet?
  • How is your milk supply?
  • Is the restricted diet affecting your milk supply?
  • What is your budget for special formula, and is your baby young enough to accept said formula?
  • Can your baby handle alternative milks, such as goat or almond, that could be doctored into a homemade formula?

Let’s look at some of these in more detail.

The longer you nurse, the better. Of course, whether you work or not, and how good your milk supply is, are factors to consider. And how well the baby is eating. Your baby should have breastmilk and/or formula until at least 12 months, though you can start adding in safe foods whenever he is ready. I would recommend waiting until at least 6 months, and then holding off on the grains for a few months more, since grains are harder to digest.

If your child has just one or two or a few allergies, such as gluten and milk, then don’t eat those and nurse as long as you can. Websites such as Gluten-free Goddess have tons of delicious recipes, and I can testify that the Delicious Gluten-free Bread really is delicious!

But if you are dealing with a long list, and getting enough calories to keep up milk production is becoming an issue, because the food is so boring it makes you lose your appetite, then perhaps you should consider weaning. If your baby can handle a homemade formula with a milk ternative, or you can afford the expensive amino-acid based formulas, or if you can get your insurance to help pay for them, and if you start early enough that your baby will accept them, then don’t feel guilty for switching to a bottle. Figure out what is right for you after careful research and prayer, if you believe in praying. And once you know what decision you are going to make, ignore the naysayers and guilt-trippers. Be a duck–let their criticism slide off without affecting you. Because you are the mother, and ultimately you know what is best for your baby. Period.

Have you weaned a baby with food allergies? When did you and why? If you haven’t weaned yet, feel free to share your circumstances for feedback; I promise I will give opinions and not criticize your decisions, nor will I allow other commenters to do so. Please share!

My Baby Has Eczema: New House, New Doctor, New Plan

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Last week I shared about how my life spiraled out of control as I watched my baby get worse and worse, with no end in sight. My emotions were out of control, and I didn’t know what to do about it.

New Home

I had been resisting going to a regular doctor (MD) out of fear. My husband worked for Child Protective Services, and he told me that a doctor had turned a mother in to CPS for not following the treatment he had outlined for her child. I didn’t want to have a doctor prescribe steroids for my son and then turn me in to CPS if I didn’t use them! But I was getting to the point that I couldn’t handle things the way they were. My son was miserable nearly all the time. If I put him down to practice crawling, he would put his face down on the carpet and rub back and forth. I knew I had to do something. Besides, the naturopath he had been going to had pretty much exhausted her knowledge of the subject.

My husband and I realized that we needed to have him home more. He worked an hour away, and the 2-hour round-trip commute was killing him, especially on top of all the stress we were dealing with. So he started looking for a place to rent near his work, and I decided it was time to start using the hydrocortisone more than just a tiny bit on the worst areas, as I had been.

New Doctor

I also decided it was time to find another doctor. I didn’t know where to start, but I knew of a place where I could ask for recommendations. So I logged into Mamapedia.com and asked the moms in my area for a recommendation. I specified that I wanted a doctor that would look favorably on alternative options and that would not be bothered by the fact that I had chosen to delay vaccinations.

I only received one reply, but it was a recommendation for a doctor that was only 3 or 4 miles away from my husband’s work–and even closer to the house we were going to rent! Integrative Pediatrics with Dr. Paul Thomas was her suggestion, and I eagerly checked out the website. When I read that “it is the goal of Integrative Pediatrics to bring the best of complementary, alternative and holistic medicine,” I was sold. I called and made an appointment for as soon as I could–which happened to be several days before the actual move.

The doctor was very understanding of our choice not to vaccinate yet, and even supportive of it as he learned more about Manny’s situation. I have found many swollen lymph glands on him–in the back of his neck, in his groin, and maybe some other places. For all we know, they are probably all swollen. This indicates an immune system response, and is likely a side effect of the allergies he has. His doctor believes that adding vaccinations to the picture is just not a good idea at this point.

Allergy Tests

While he encouraged me to continue using the hydrocortisone as needed to relieve the symptoms, and even suggested Benadryl (which actually made him break out more, so we stopped that), his main line of attack was with natural things. He did an IgG food sensitivity test and later an IgE food and environmental allergy test. The results told him that Manny has some kind of internal irritation that is causing the external manifestation of eczema; he is more or less sensitive to almost every food they tested on the IgG test, with a few exceptions (mostly meat, which we don’t eat, and random things like bananas and beets). He also had an IgE count of almost 3,000–the highest the pediatrician had ever seen–and was allergic to almost every food they tested, except chocolate and yeast and meat.

When we got the results of the IgG test back (the IgE test didn’t come until months later), I modified my diet to match up, hoping that his eczema would subside, even if only a little. It didn’t. Only the hydrocortisone helped anything. I began to dream of weaning him so that we could feed him an even more limited diet than I could manage to do myself, and maybe we could eliminate all the bad foods and he would clear up. So just before he turned 12 months I started the process of weaning him, cutting out one feeding per week, until by 2 weeks after his first birthday he was totally weaned. But his eczema didn’t clear up. Then I felt bad about weaning him, but I just couldn’t stay on his diet anymore. I ignored the criticism from those who said I should have nursed longer, knowing that I was doing the best I could. I had nursed my daughter for 20 months and wanted to nurse my son until 2 years at least, but I could not imagine another 12 months of eating such a bland, limited diet. In the end, I’m glad I did, because not long after weaning him we figured out that he was allergic to some of the things I had been using in my diet to replace things we already knew he was allergic to (for instance, he is highly allergic to sunflower seeds, which I was using to make a “sour cream” to replace the dairy version), and when we eliminated those foods, he stopped breaking out during meals like he had so many times when I was nursing him.

But back to the doctor. I was very pleased when he didn’t push steroids right off the bat; instead he suggested a regimen of probiotics, vitamin D, Omega 3 oils, digestive enzymes, and multivitamins. Over the months we found sources for all of these things in forms that he could handle (for instance, try finding multivitamins for children that don’t have some food substance in them took us quite a while). He also encouraged us to rotate his diet so that he didn’t eat the same foods every day, as a means of preventing new sensitivities from forming.

We Try Steroid Cream

Of course, by using the hydrocortisone .5% and sometimes the 1%, we were able to clear up the worst of the skin issues. His little cheeks no longer oozed, and the yeast infection in the folds of skin on his neck cleared up, since it was no longer raw and oozing there. Patches of good skin began to reappear around the areas of inflamed skin, and gradually the symptoms began to subside, little by little.

However, it never really cleared up. At his 18-month check-up (or maybe it was a 2 or 3 months later, I don’t remember) when the doctor asked if I would like to try something a little stronger to help control the symptoms, I agreed. He prescribed Triamcinalon, a medium-level steroid cream, and said to use it once a day or less, as needed, but not on the face or genitals.

I felt a little guilty about using this steroid, but at the same time, I realized that he was a much happier little boy. And besides, the steroid was not our main plan of attack. It was just something to keep the eczema at bay while we continued searching for the cause.

I remember there was a patch on my son’s wrist that had been encroaching on the back of his hand. The hydrocortisone had calmed it, but it simply would not go away. Manny’s father is Hispanic, so his natural skin color is a pale olive complexion. However, the eczema had bleached it as white as a readhead’s skin.  Wherever a patch of eczema would clear up, the skin would slowly get its natural color back. However, this patch would not clear up. Until I started putting the Triamcinalon on it. When I did, it cleared up and hasn’t come back! So now I don’t need to use it there anymore. That taught me that sometimes when the eczema gets too far, it really does need something to get it back under control. I can control pretty much anything on his arms with hydrocortisone and am using less of the Triamcinalon now that I did when I first started.

Of course, not every patch of eczema was that easy to clear up. But gradually his overall natural color began to show up, and some places would be almost cleared up at times. I finally got to where I was using the Triamcinalon only every other day, using just hyrocortisone on the odd days.

But I wasn’t able to cut it out entirely.

Allergist’s Opinion

Shortly after starting the Triamcinalon, at the suggestion of his doctor, we visited an allergist. That, for us, was a waste of time and money. I know many people have been helped by an allergist, but for us, by the time we went, we had already figured out almost everything he was truly allergic to, and the allergist wasn’t willing to subject such a young child to allergy testing, since he, as he put it, “he will probably outgrow most of them anyway.” Since being weaned at 12 months, he had been on a strict, fairly hypoallergenic diet, and we had also been on a fairly good moisturizing plan, so the allergist’s conclusion was that we were doing everything right and hopefully he would outgrow his allergies. And now we have a bill that we are hoping we can pay with our tax refund.

By this time, we had bought a house an hour away from my husband’s work–again. It was the only one we could afford that met most of our needs. We  decided to keep his pediatrician–especially when the allergist said he was one of the best pediatricians in the Portland area–but he was a pediatrician, not a skin disease specialist, and he was running out of ideas now too. He was convinced that the cause of Manny’s eczema was somehow tied to irritation in the gut, but he didn’t have the time or resources to really dig into that. So he suggested that we try going to a naturopath that specialized in gastrointestinal issues. So we made an appointment with the naturopath after our second visit to the allergist.

Next week I will tell you about the visits to the naturopath, what we tried, and what the results have been. That post will bring this story up to the the present day. This story is far from finished. But now you have an overview of my son’s life.

So in the mean time, please share with us about your experience with doctors and steroids–or your avoidance of either. Also, if you have something that worked for you, feel free to share it in the comments. If you want to share something with me but you don’t want to name it in the comments, please use the contact page to contact me directly. Thank you for reading and consider subscribing so you won’t miss the rest of the story!

This post is mentioned on Blogelina’s Blogging Buddy Blog Hop.