I was 25. My first child was born just 6 months earlier. The adjustment to parenthood was, well a little rocky, but we were getting the hang of it. My baby girl was happy, nursing well but very spitty. We would go through bib after bib trying to keep her shirt dry. A “happy spitter” the doctor would call her. Very common. I did not think much of it. It never occurred to me to think that what I ate might be affecting her reflux.
Her first solid meal consisted of oatmeal mixed with a little formula. She had never had formula before and I thought that if I could introduce the taste it would allow me a little freedom. I could leave her with a babysitter for a few hours! How I longed for a little time to myself.
I mixed the formula/oatmeal combo and served it to her with high hopes and dreams of shopping alone at Target. One bite. Two bites. She plays in it. Squishes it around the highchair and into her hair. Literally covered in it. Then I noticed something. Red skin. Not alarming at first. But as the minutes passed, I noticed spots getting more red and defined. And then the hives appeared. Panic swept over me as I had the sudden realization that something wasn’t right. Hives? Why hives? I wondered this as I pulled her from her highchair to quickly wash her off. Even after being cleaned up the hives persisted, making my baby girl itchy and irritable. It took my brain a few minutes to register what was going on. What was new? Oh, the formula. She must have an allergy to something in the formula. I made an appointment with an allergist. Looking back, we were very lucky she didn’t have an anaphylaxis reaction. I’m not sure I would have known what to do. I certainly did not know the symptoms or have an epi-pen on hand.
I felt a little blindsided. Why? I don’t know. Food allergies run in the family, although my husband and I didn’t have any food allergies (at that time). Little did I know how this would change my life and the way I view food.
Kenna’s allergy appointment indicated that she was allergic to milk and eggs. Deep breath. “Ok, I got this” I told myself. After all, she was still a baby. I could still eat what I wanted in front of her and she didn’t notice. It gave me time to adjust. It gave me time to change. Looking back, I was naive to the changes that would be required in our lives. I started substituting soy formula in her oatmeal, and occasionally a bottle. At 8 months old and after just a few bottles, Kenna refused to nurse. Pain, literal and emotional ripped through my body. We tried for days, but she still wouldn’t commit to nursing. However, she would take a bottle of soy formula just fine. It was my first “mommy-failure” moment as I realized I was not producing milk her body liked. It was a tough teary-eyed week.
After the hormones and engorgement settled, I realized that it was for the better for her. After all, I was still eating milk and egg products. Maybe it was passing through into my milk and causing irritation for her. Research confirmed my hypothesis. Now, as she was getting older and trying new foods, it became my job to keep her safe from foods that could harm her. Mother bird keeping her young under her wing. It was easy to do while she was a baby… but what happens as she grows up and away from my protective cover?
Nine years have passed. I have learned a lot about food allergies, intolerances, social anxieties, using substitutes in cooking, reading labels, bullying, keeping composure when I want to crumble, and much, much more.
I am excited to share our story with you. I hope what we have learned can help you in your journey too.