The Modified and Restricted Diet Of A Breastfeeding Mum
I was once comically described as a ‘fat bird trapped inside a skinny birds body’! Whilst this description is unflattering, not to mention derogatory to all women (thanks btw!), you pretty much get the picture-I LOVE food! So, when I found out that my son had IgE mediated allergies to milk and peanuts, as well as a long list of intolerances, I was quietly devastated. I had been unwittingly fuelling his illness just by being a normal breastfeeding mum.
It was a shock more than anything. ‘How on Earth has he ended up with allergies?’ I kept asking myself. No-one in our families had issues with food and I’d been solely breastfeeding him so this just didn’t make any sense! It was so confusing at the time and the process of weaning, which, according to a number of websites, is supposed to be a fun and exciting process full of intriguing exploration and picture snapping of your babies best PopEye impressions, became a disjointed journey of trial and error, full of anxiety and fear.
My beautiful and sweet baby boy had spent the first 6 months of his life suffering from reflux which prevented him from sleeping well, or even at all, at times. He vomited throughout the day, often curdled milk more than an hour after breastfeeding – truly delightful; he had diarrhoea that left his bottom incredibly sore or he went the complete opposite and screamed for days. The eczema on his face was an unsightly constant reminder. At times, it was so bad that his cheeks were red raw and bleeding. It was as if I was living a nightmare watching my child suffer every day and every night and I felt like a failure; incapable of protecting him. Depression had now become deep rooted.
Bay was 7 months old when we finally found out the cause of his illness. (However, it wasn’t until he was 1 that we discovered all of the harmful foods.)
I found myself struggling to cope with the juxtaposition of feeling utter relief yet submerged and drowning in guilt. However, I knew then that there was finally something that I could do to help him. I started restricting foods in my diet allowing me to continue breastfeeding safely.
I normally would have consumed a very large bowl of cereal in the morning. So the word ‘difficult’ was a bit of an understatement when it came to saying goodbye to the first meal of my day. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I could have exchanged it with some toast alongside a hot cup of tea. However, he was intolerant to wheat and the prospect of having a black tea didn’t quite cut it for me. We finally found a coconut milk with added calcium that was suitable and, although it was pretty disgusting to drink straight, we got used to eating a big bowl of coconut porridge each and every single day.
The hardest part of this new restricted diet was the serious lack of stodge (and chocolate and cake!). Within the first few days my energy and sugar levels must have dropped considerably. The happy calm me quickly turned into a grizzly unstable me, quick to react to the smallest of mole hills. At this time, I had an uneasy feeling of misgiving about my ability to succeed in this task. I still have a vivid memory of sitting slouched on the kitchen floor overwhelmed with the feelings of inadequacy and failure. I had cut out a number of vegetables, including potato, as well as the milk, nuts, wheat and rice, and I craved, I really craved, all the meals I was used to eating.
I didn’t know about the hypoallergenic milk formulas that were on the market at this point as I didn’t feel the need to research them. I had made a decision and a promise to myself when Bay was born that I would breastfeed him until he was at least 1 -an informed choice made on the numerous health benefits that breastfeeding has on an infant, and I wasn’t prepared to break this promise, not just yet anyway. Bay eventually went on to Neocate just before his first birthday. He susequently slept through the night for the first time at 14months – what a relief!
It wasn’t easy moderating my diet especially when everyone around me were eating the foods that I so desperately wanted. Not being able to eat out was tough and at times (always when I was starving!) I didn’t have enough food in the house to cook something safe. However, within just 3 weeks, Bay’s eczema had cleared up, the vomiting has ceased and he started to sleep for 4hrs sometimes! Before this moment I couldn’t see the light of day and I couldn’t have imagined what life would be like having a normal healthy son (and sleep). It was amazing! Truly amazing!
However, nothing was to prepare me for what happened next…