Despite H being my first baby, within days of her birth I knew something wasn’t quite right. She squirmed constantly, slept in stints of no longer than 20 minutes, and she screamed regularly and could not be pacified. She was windy, constantly passing smelly gas, and she was either constipated or produced foul-smelling explosive poops. Being a researcher in my “day job”, I quickly turned to the internet and days before the health visitor suggested I cut out dairy I had already reduced intake significantly.
From that day I went cold-turkey. No more milky coffees, no more cheese, no more chocolate. These are the obvious that I eliminated, however I quickly learned that dairy was ‘contaminating’ so much more of my daily food choices. Even some bread contains milk powder.
My biggest challenge has been eating out. We had an awful night once when I was given a sauce that despite being assured was dairy-free actually contained butter, resulting in an awful night with lots of pain for my little girl and screaming. The other issue is that some restaurants are not very accommodating to allergies and there have been occasions when my only option has been a salad with no dressing. I now dread going out to eat, or to other people’s houses, as I worry that the checking of food will not be as vigilant as I am at home, and that people are often not aware of ‘hidden dairy’.
Breastfeeding is challenging enough as it is, and breastfeeding with allergies adds a whole new emotion to the mix. Whilst H was still only on breastmilk I had so much anxiety over eating something that could hurt her. As I was her only food source, if I ate something by mistake I would still have to nurse her through the pain until it was out of both our systems, like I said – this fortunately only happened to us on one occassion. Gone are the days, for the timebeing, that I can eat something without even a second thought as to what is in it. So often I am “that awkward one” asking to see the packaging of some snack that a friend is offering me, and this usually involves in me declining whatever tasty treat it is.
I feel blessed to have had the support of a fantastic health visitor, and I have also discovered some great online groups full of mamas breastfeeding babies with allergies. Whilst it is rough being totally dairy-free, some mamas have to cut out so much more to help their babies flourish. I have also found great comfort in vegan foods – especially coconut milk pizza from Zizzis, cookies from The Happy Daisy and cupcakes from Whole Foods. H still has a number of digestive issues, however since cutting out dairy she has improved significantly – it took around two weeks to see a change in her, and they say this is the time it takes to get out of both your systems.
If you are breastfeeding with allergies, then I salute you. Heck, if you are breastfeeding at all then I salute you – this business is hard work! But if you are breastfeeding with allergies then you deserve a medal. And a cookie. A dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, gluten-free cookie.
Hang in there mama, you got this.