I’ve never had a food allergy and no one in my family has ever dealt with food allergies, so it was a surprise and an adjustment of my expectations when I found out my baby was most likely reacting badly to something I was eating and getting transferred to her through my breast milk. She didn’t just have colic (whatever that is, really). She had severe gas pains and eventually even bloody stools. I couldn’t stand to see my daughter in so much pain and couldn’t wait to properly identify the culprit, so I eliminated the three foods my lactation consultant said she saw babies react to the most often: gluten, soy, and dairy.
Generally, nursing moms don’t need to worry about what they eat negatively affecting their baby. I learned, however, that I am one of the lucky not-so-few whose baby has issues with some foods. How could the food I was eating matter to my daughter’s digestive issues? Proteins from the foods I eat are absorbed into my body and ultimately end up in my breast milk. Since a baby’s digestive tract is still immature until about 6 months of age, it’s not uncommon for them to have issues during those early months. And for some babies the issues last until a year old, and sometimes longer. For more information on food sensitivities in babies, I found this Kelly Mom article very helpful.
When I thought that gluten, soy, and/or dairy were the offenders causing the gastrointestinal issues in my daughter, I stopped eating all three immediately. No last supper or final hurrah. My husband happily took care of the beers and cheeses I had stocked up on and were looking forward to eating. I found that restricting my diet wasn’t the hard part; it was waiting for the change to take effect. Over the next couple days, when my baby would cry and experience her then-normal pains, I would wonder why I was limiting myself in this way if it wasn’t doing any good. It was frustrating. But it can take two or up to even three weeks to fully get the proteins from those foods out of your system, so I was patient and waited. Sure enough, by the next week her bouts of inconsolable crying where much more sporadic. The week after that they were totally gone. She was a new baby! It made the inconvenience and depravity completely worthwhile.
And inconvenient it was! Eliminating gluten or soy or dairy would be very doable, but all three at once? I won’t lie, it was difficult. But I took a positive approach. Instead of focusing on the foods I stopped eating, I celebrated the foods I was eating and loving in place of them. It’s about enjoying the foods you eat, whatever they are. With my giant bags of quinoa, oats, and brown rice at the ready and my local beef and produce CSAs going strong, I was ready to take on this challenge. Pinterest was a convenient way for me to save and organize new gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free recipes I had discovered online. I found some dairy-free paleo food blogs that gave me a wealth of ideas. Gluten-free vegan food blogs were good as well. I found I could substitute coconut aminos for soy sauce and that there’s such a thing as chickpea miso made from fermented chickpeas instead of soybeans. My go-to, easy weeknight stir-fry dinners were safe! I could still eat chocolate and steak and sweet potato fries. Not to mention all of the avocado I wanted. I was already in the habit of reading ingredient labels, but I made sure to double check for ingredients like soy lecithin and whey. The biggest challenge was dining out. Thankfully in today’s dining culture, many restaurants are sensitive their customers’ allergy concerns and dietary needs. I simply explained that I couldn’t eat gluten, soy, or dairy, and most servers were amazingly helpful in helping me find something on the menu I could eat. Salads were often the easiest thing to order. But sometimes dining out was a bigger hassle than it was worth, so I generally just ate at home. There were a few things I missed (beer, burgers, pizza, ice cream), but honestly they were foods I was better off not eating anyway. I didn’t feel like I was subsisting on gruel by any means. On the contrary, I made some fantastic meals that just happened to fit within the limitations of my elimination diet, and I discovered some great new resources for meal ideas. My husband rarely noticed that the meals I was serving were diet-friendly, only that they were delicious. Sometimes that meant telling him to get his own almond butter banana muffins.
About a month after I started the elimination diet, I was ready to experiment to see which foods were and were not the culprits in giving my daughter such an unhappy early few weeks. I started with dairy. At the recommendation of my lactation consultant I tried goat cheese. The protein from goat’s milk is different than cow’s milk and can often be more easily digested. So I started with a little goat cheese for lunch. Then I had a little more for lunch the next day. Then a little more for lunch the next day. On that third day, my daughter had a horrible bout of painful gas. Was dairy one of the culprits? A big, fat affirmative! So I stopped eating dairy again and waited another few weeks for it to leave my system. Next I tried reintroducing gluten. I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich one day (oh how I had missed them!), and drank a beer the next day. Every day I ate a little gluten and waited, but my daughter never reacted and I just kept eating it. When we finally reintroduced soy, it similarly proved to be fine. It appears dairy was the lone offender, as is very common.
My daughter is now 6 months old. I thought perhaps her digestive system may have matured enough that I could eat dairy again. I tried reintroducing it the same way I did the first time; I ate a little every day for a few days. And just like before, on that third day she was a gassy mess. So she’s not ready for it yet. I’ll keep trying every couple of months until her gut cooperates. In the meantime, I’ll still be eating well and enjoying my happy daughter!
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a breastfeeding advocacy day at my state capitol in Lansing, Michigan. Michigan is one of five states that does not have a law protecting breastfeeding mothers to nurse in public. It has been no surprise to me that my passion for breastfeeding and activism has allowed me to become greatly invested in this particular woman’s right issue. I have been following my state legislation for about a year now and you may have even read my previous blog post about this. Well, we are still fighting for this right in Michigan. My attendance at our state breastfeeding advocacy day has really helped me not only understand the measures that must be taken to protect nursing mothers, but also how our state legislative system works and how my voice can make a difference. (more…)
I hear moms say it a lot. Especially new moms. My baby nurses 24/7. ALL. THE. TIME.
I remember when I was pregnant, someone, I can’t remember who, told me that if I felt like I was breastfeeding all of the time I was probably doing it right. While my breast feeding journey wasn’t quite as straight forward as most, I kept this in mind once we finally were able to start breast feeding. I offered to nurse every single time that kid made a peep. I realized nursing that frequently meant I needed to either get comfortable nursing in public or run quick enough errands to be home each time I needed to feed her. I’m pretty sure I nursed in public, and in the car quite regularly when I deemed the area available not sanitary enough. Offering to nurse every time she stirred did wonders. She was a pretty darn content baby. She had a little fussy period some evenings, but that was short lived and solved quickly with a simple walk. (more…)
I’m great at multitasking. I think that as a mother of two young children, this is something I have mastered not only as a skill, but also as a necessity. If I tried to do anything in isolation, it would be hard to get things done. I can cook dinner, while singing songs and having a dance party, I can clean the house while playing house, and I can breastfeed doing just about anything.
I used to find it hard to have time to sit down, take a moment for myself, check my emails and tend to the little tasks I used to have time for. When my second daughter was born, this became even harder. Good thing for smart phones! I didn’t need to have my computer open, to find the time to check or send emails. With my iphone, I could do this while doing all of the other things a mom-of-two needs to do. I would look forward to the quiet moments of breastfeeding my daughter, iphone in hand, ready to catch up on the latest updates, posts, tweets and emails. It’s amazing how quickly things can turn into habit, and that is where I found myself, habitually scanning my phone for any new updates, the second I had some alone time with my little one. (more…)
When I first became pregnant with my daughter, who is almost four years old now, I didn’t know anything about pregnancy and breastfeeding. I relied heavily on my Obstetrician and later my daughter’s Pediatrician. Sure, I read as much as I could about anything and everything breastfeeding related, but did it really prepare me? Nope. Not one bit. No matter how much you read, books really don’t prepare you for real life. I ended up with a C-Section after very long 22 hours of labor. When I first held my daughter in my arms, I thought breastfeeding would be a breeze. All I have to do it bring her close to my breast and hope she latches on. Well, needless to say, that actually happened. She latched on.