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Advise to the Mama of a Nursling with Allergies

Advise to the Mama of a Nursling with Allergies

Originally published at:

Detail & stylistic updates have been made.

Dear Mama of a Nursling with Allergies,

I speak to you from my own experience. I empathize with you. I both cry with you because being the mother of a nursling with allergies is so painful as you watch your beautiful blessing endure pain each day. I smile with you because you have a little blessing to hold in your arms, you are doing your best as a mama to an ill child, and you are here.

My first baby girl was born 11 years ago. She was born at a robust weight, but within two months she had what I later learned were signs of food allergies: eczema, mucus in the eye that often sealed her eye closed, what was labeled colic, and blood in the stool. As if those symptoms were not enough to worry a first time mama, she failed to thrive as I nursed her. By the time she reached 2-3 months, I had gone on an elimination diet removing a major allergen one by one and then two by two every two weeks hoping to find the offending food, but she remained sick and was repeatedly tested via blood draws.  Finally after 5.5 months into the diet, we knew discovered what the offending foods via skin testing: dairy, rice, corn, eggs, cod, shrimp, and peanuts. The allergist told me I could not sustain myself and my baby on this diet as I nursed her. He prescribed Neocate, a specialty formula that is full of corn. I protested, but was exhausted and wanted my daughter to be well, to thrive. At the time, I did not know about the paleo diet or the primal, AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) or SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) approaches to eating. The internet and social media were not yet an big part of my life and I trusted the allergist when he declared that I could not survive and nurse a baby while on her diet...he was after-all, a medical doctor, an allergist who deals with food allergies daily so he must have been well versed in nutrition, right?

I would later learn that the latter conclusion was wrong. That allergist's declaration is malarkey.  Medical doctors do not typically have more than one class in nutrition over the course of their education. If a mama wishes to nurse her child  for whatever reason, but especially in order to avoid formula with corn, she can find a way to be creative on a restricted / limited diet. Today, there are many websites dedicated the paleo or primal diet as well as the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) all of which omit corn. 

My advice to a mama facing the choice of whether to continue to breastfeed a corn-allergic child or to choose a corny formula is: Please do what you feel is right for you and baby.  Find an empathetic friend or group with whom to vent regarding challenges, lament the losses or celebrate the victories no matter how small the latter are.  I am also here with my website and messaging.

Our journey with Corn-Allergic Mini-foodie who is now 11 years old included a lot of blood work done before she was 7 months that did not show allergies, followed by consultations with a gastroenterologist who insisted we "take a break" from nursing so that we cold give her "hypoallergenic" formula so that she could get to being healthy and then we could attempt re-introducing nursing.  Hold on a minute! Yes, you guessed it, this pediatric gastroenterologist was no expert on the subject of nursing. A mother-baby nursing relationship does not just take a 2 week break. I had not yet attempted this route, but it felt so undo-able knowing my daughter, that my husband and I thanked the M.D. and went on our way. This was not an approach for our family and so continued to search for answers and this led to allergy skin testing at 7.5 months that revealed her 7 food allergies allergies as well as a cat allergy. I was on an elimination diet at the time, but we had not suspected that corn, rice, shrimp or cod were problematic, so I was eating those. This is when the allergist insisted that we use formula because I could not avoid her allergens while sustaining the both of us.  

I was a first time mom who was severely sleep deprived because it often took an average of 2-3 hours to get our sick baby to sleep and had a limited support network at the time. And sadly we did not know about the paleo diet at the time as it was not as well known then as it is now. Many people say, "If I had known then, what I know now, I would have..." In this case, I would have said thank you to the allergist for finding out to what my baby was reacting. I would then have thanked him for his advice  and walked out the door and gone grocery shopping for the paleo diet. Upon returning home, I would have  gathered all the non-paleo food items in my home so that I could give them to a friend who could enjoy them. I would then have begun revamping recipes (which I did) and written them down to share them with other corn-allergics sooner. To this day, the one parenting choice that brings on sadness or the sense of regret is that I did not continue to nurse my baby girl.

Since then, I have  learned A LOT and I have been nursing for 8.5+ yrs straight and through 2 pregnancies which includes a little tandem nursing. I have learned during these years that I have Celiac Disease in addition to having allergies to corn and walnut as well as sensitivities to legumes and high carb foods. Top it off with baby 3 and 4's allergy to dairy and the result is that I eat paleo and Baby Foodie and I are thriving.

The take away is: Stick to your guns mama while listening to your body and that of your baby.

Be well dear Mama,

Mena, the Corn-Free Hippie


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