The impetus for starting this blog was to have a safe place to talk/vent about baby M’s dairy/soy allergy. Already, it’s evolved into way more than that and I’m very happy, but I still think it’s important to give equal billing time to what I am learning about allergies (and motherhood) through baby M.
As I sit here eating a very plain salad, holding baby M’s hand while I attempt to type and eat with the other, I’d like to take a few moments to reflect on today’s appointment with our new gastro doctor. We were referred to a gastro after I found blood again in M’s poop several times over the past week. I was worried (naturally) because I’ve been dairy/soy free for a month and what could it mean if I still saw blood. More allergies? More problems? I started crazily re-reading all the labels of the foods I have in my fridge and cabinets to see if I accidentally missed some sort of dairy or soy. Nothing… Hmm… Had I eaten anything different? Nope… Jeez!
Then I realized, I was taking a vitamin C pill the past few days because aside from M and I, everyone in my house has colds (which I think we are now catching – of course!). In an effort to keep my immune system strong for myself and the baby, I had inadvertently ingested soybean in the vitamin C (cue awful guilt). I threw the pills in the garbage immediately (did I mention unbeknownst to me, they were also expired!? – To my brother and my cousin T – if you are reading this – can you believe I actually had something expired in my cabinet!? – The three of us are notorious for throwing things out if they are even close to the expiration date).
So this morning, little M and I went to see the gastro doctor and within just a few seconds of talking, I was already impressed with the doctor’s bedside manner. He asked me some routine questions and then began talking. I’m not going to lie, when I heard him mention formula, my mind momentarily went to a deep dark place of guilt and failure at not being able to breastfeed. I breastfed J & B for thirteen and twelve months respectively and I had all intentions of doing the same for M.
[Let me make mention here that while I choose to breastfeed exclusively, I am pro-mama’s choice. If you choose to give your baby breast-milk via the breast – awesome (my preference). If you choose to give your baby pumped breast-milk – awesome! If you choose to give only formula – awesome. If you choose to give formula and start solids early – great… (Just please don’t feed your baby Szechuan chicken at 3 months old like my mom did when my brother and I were babies — to her credit – there were no restrictions back then and most formula fed babies were getting rice in the formula very early on). Bottom line, your baby, your choice – do what works for you!].
The doctor said we had options. Two weeks of formula while I pumped and stored milk and we let M’s bowels heal. Then we could reintroduce breastmilk still dairy/soy free. We also had the option to just switch to formula. Or we had the option to cut out dairy, soy, eggs, fish, and nuts, all of the highly allergic foods.
Dr.: “I hate to tell breast-feeding moms to alter their diets so drastically, especially because this is 2014 and we have alternate options. I mean it doesn’t seem fair to say eat chicken for breakfast, lunch, and steak and rice for dinner.”
Dr.: “Now you could cut out everything and he will improve. Either way we don’t know the long-term damage or effects of continuing breastfeeding with or without adjustments because there aren’t really studies done on babies like this.”
He explained that there’s no magic age that babies outgrow an allergy – it could be in several months or several years. He also explained that if it were me that were bleeding and dietary changes would help, I would do it, so if I wanted to do it for my child, that was perfectly acceptable.
Dr.: “My advice, have a restaurant-size glass of wine and then feed the baby 30-40 minutes after you finish the wine.”
I smile and he continues (What doctor suggests wine?!).
Dr.: “Don’t laugh, it makes you and the baby a hell of a lot more peaceful. I suggest it to all of my breast-feeding moms.”
He quoted some La Leche League statistics about allergies etc. and then went on to ask me more routine questions. He also joked that M could be the smartest of all three boys if he went on formula (I guess he doesn’t subscribe to the “breastfed babies are smarter than formula fed babies” philosophy often thrown around to promote breastfeeding.) He said that M definitely has reflux, so he’s going back on Zantac (remember, I was anti-Zantac with B until I realized that it made him 1,000 times more peaceful and happy than he was prior to taking it). I agreed that M could take the Zantac and I am hopeful that will help him with his choking noises and maybe even make him sleep more comfortably than he does now.
He asked me for my age and I said I would be celebrating my birthday this weekend and I was racking my brain trying to find a dairy/soy free birthday sweet (I am a birthday and sweets person and every year I get a special black & white cookie from my mom and E and I always have some decadent birthday dessert when we celebrate). I joked with the doctor.
MFM: “I finally found a dessert option that would be dairy/soy free and safe and now you say no eggs!”
Dr.: “So go out for dinner and order a giant steak and an entire bottle of wine instead.”
He laughed and so did I. He explained that eating eggs when they are baked into something is generally okay.
Dr: “If the eggs are baked into, let’s say, a cake, they are usually fine.”
MFM: “So basically you’re telling me to eat cake and drink wine?”
The doctor laughed again.
Dr.: “Well that sounds great, but I don’t want you coming back to me in two weeks with sclerosis of the liver and weighing 800lbs.”
He tested M’s poop and he was very happy. His poop looked great. Hooray!!! (yes, moms get excited about poop – who knew!?). He then retracted almost everything we had discussed.
Dr.: “Ok, for the next two weeks stay dairy/soy free and that’s it. Maybe it was the soybean in the vitamin that affected him. Maybe not, but it could be. If you want to eat eggs, just eat them baked into something, like a cake, don’t eat them scrambled or hard-boiled. Choose what you want to do about the nuts.”
So we left with a prescription for Zantac and a very cautious eye on exactly what I am eating. He acknowledged that it is extremely hard to find things to eat out of the house and label reading is tedious, but doable. And it felt great to have a doctor not opt immediately for medication or push formula, but to give me options and to provide me with information so that I could make my own choice as a mother.
For now, I will continue dairy/soy free and I will no longer be eating any type of egg unless it is baked into something (like the mandel bread I plan to make for my birthday). I don’t eat fish, so I’m fine there. The only real issue is the nuts since I do eat almond butter, peanut butter, and raw nuts on the go. For the next few weeks, I will avoid nuts and then we will see how M is holding up.
Wish us luck!