If you’re a mom of a food allergy child, you may have been faced with the decision to breastfeed or not to breastfeed your food allergy infant.
I was faced with this challenge almost from day 1. It was because of breastfeeding that I knew something was not quite right with my son at around one month old (of course, I would have figured it out with regular baby formula as well). He developed baby acne and cradle cap that turned into eczema that never went away (until we figured out his allergies around nine months old).
Early on, I feared food allergies with all of children given my husband’s childhood history of food allergies. I was very careful when nursing not to eat peanuts because I feared the risk of that allergy developing. I also exclusively breastfed past the recommended four month age (before introducing rice cereal). The medical community use to suggest these restrictions in order to protect your child against developing allergies. More recent research is showing trends otherwise (read this past Monday’s post on the research), but not everyone is on board.
When my son started showing early signs of food allergies, I changed up my diet over and over again trying to eliminate foods that I thought were causing his eczema to flair, to no avail. I asked the pediatrician repeatedly what I should do about his severe eczema (He had open seeping wounds on his face and head and the creases of his legs and arms.), only to be given increased strengths of steroid cream. I asked that she test him for allergies. The pediatrician said that they routinely do not allergy test children until the age of two. That was unacceptable to me since I was almost certain food allergies were the source of the problem. I went over her head to find my own allergist and have him tested. Finally, around 8-9 months of age, my suspicions were confirmed about his food allergies. Tests came back positive for dairy, peanut, egg, wheat and almond.
At this point, I had a decision to make whether to continue nursing my food allergy son or switch him to soy-based formula. I decided the best thing for him would be for me to continue breastfeeding him and eliminate those foods from my diet. I did it immediately and almost instinctively for seven more months, and with absolutely no regrets! In my opinion, breast milk was the best source of nutrition for my son. Besides, I lost a lot of weight!!!!
Regardless of the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding, my son was still very small. He only weighed just over 16 pounds at 12 months. I met with several nutritionists over the next few months to try to help him gain weight. Not being able to have heavy cream and fatty peanut butter; however, did not help this effort. Nonetheless, he’s never been termed “failure to thrive;” he was, and still is, just a small kid. Someday, maybe he will tower over me…I hope 🙂
What were my reasons for continuing to breastfeed?
1. I thought breastfeeding was the best thing for him. Trust me, it was never an easy thing for me…with any of my children. I produce what my grandmother termed “skim milk” and there wasn’t a lot flowing. But I thought the benefits of breastfeeding in general (like brain development, increased immunity, knowing the “ingredients,” etc.), according to research, was the right option for us.
2. I don’t like formula, especially when my son was getting “poison” (in the form of food allergies) for the first eight months of his life. I didn’t know how all the myriad of hidden ingredients in formula would affect him. Besides, formula is really expensive and especially for specialty formula.
(Note: I am not saying there is anything wrong with having your child on formula. It is a blessing for families who need it. In fact, my first daughter was put on formula after I lost my milk supply when she was three months old. She has always been a smart and thriving child.)
3. It was a way that I felt I had some control over the situation. As long as he was only getting what I knew he could have and not getting anything that he couldn’t have, it seemed like there would be health and harmony in our home.
4. After removing the above food offenders from my diet, his eczema cleared up dramatically. There were no more seeping sores over his body. There was no more baby acne and cradle cap. He actually looked like a normal, but small, baby. If the system was working, why mess with it, right?
As stated in point #2, I do not have a problem with formula if that is what families choose to do. Breastfeeding and dealing with the negative aspects of eliminating foods from my diet were choices that I chose to make. Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart for the benefit of your child, and do not complain about the sacrifice. It’s only for a short time and you never know the benefits your child may gain from your sacrifice.
Kids with Food Allergies has an online support group dedicated to breastfeeding food allergy babies.
What is your opinion on this issue? Did you choose to breastfeed a food allergy baby? Or did you choose to go the baby formula route? Why or why not? What were the results from your choice?