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  • Nurturing Through Challenges: A Journey of Breastfeeding and Allergies

    Nurturing Through Challenges: A Journey of Breastfeeding and Allergies

    Embarking on the journey of parenthood is as much blissful as it can be challenging, but never more so than when when faced with the complexities of allergies or intolerances in your little one. Breastfeeding and the profound bond between mother and child, are often severely compromised when allergies or intolerances become a part of the equation. 

    In this blog post, I want to share my own story of the challenges I experienced both trying to breastfeed and then also formula feed my baby who suffered from one of the most common intolerances seen in babies - milk protein intolerance.

    My own struggle with establishing breastfeeding is one I talk about a lot and my 'why' behind founding both The Yummy Mummy Food Company and The Make More Milk Method (you can read more about that part of my journey here), but something that IS NOT talked about enough is what to do when things take a completely unforeseen turn and your baby starts suffering symptoms of allergies and intolerances.

    This is not something that anyone ever explained could happen while we were in the throws our our breastfeeding journey and certainly not after switching him to formula afterwards, but when we did work it out, it explained the many months of frustration, upset and even bottle-throwing antics my baby had displayed from birth.

    Understanding the Difference:

    Before delving into the world of food allergies and intolerances, it's crucial to distinguish between the two.

    Food allergies involve the immune system reacting to specific proteins in foods, triggering symptoms that can range from mild hives or other symptoms to severe anaphylaxis. On the other hand, food intolerances are generally non-immune responses that result in digestive discomfort, such as bloating or diarrhea, often due to the body's inability to properly digest certain substances.

    Common Culprits:

    Several common foods are known to trigger allergies and intolerances in babies. For allergies, top offenders include cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, and fish. Meanwhile, lactose, found in milk and dairy products, and gluten, present in wheat and related grains, are frequent causes of intolerances.

    Symptoms to Watch For:

    Recognizing the symptoms of food allergies and intolerances is crucial for early intervention. Keep an eye out for signs such as:

    1. Allergies:
      • Hives or rash
      • Swelling, especially around the face
      • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
      • Vomiting or diarrhea
      • Persistent crying or irritability
    2. Intolerances:
      • Upset stomach
      • Diarrhea or constipation
      • Gas and bloating
      • Skin rashes, such as eczema

    In the case of my baby, we actually had no idea that the 'difficult drinker' baby we had who would push bottles out of our hands so violently at each feed was actually trying to tell us it didn't agree with him, until we kept presenting at the GP seeking solutions for the eczema that covered his body and happened upon a GP who suggested it could be an allergic reaction. We were then referred to a paediatric allergy testing clinic within our local children's hospital where they did specific tests to determine the cause of his reactions. For us it turned out to be a cow milk protein intolerance!
    I can't recommend highly enough the need to insist on a referral to a similar allergy clinic if you suspect allergies or intolerances in your baby. For us, it helped eliminate all the guess work around what it could or couldn't be!

    Seeking Professional Guidance:

    If you suspect that your baby may have a food allergy or intolerance, seeking professional guidance is paramount. Like our GP did, your pediatrician may recommend diagnostic tests, such as skin prick tests or blood tests, to identify allergens. For intolerances, an elimination diet under the supervision of a healthcare professional can help pinpoint problematic foods.

    Managing Allergies and Intolerances:

    Managing food allergies and intolerances in babies involves careful attention to their diet and needs to be done whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding. Neither is an easy option. 

    In our case, my own postpartum health was so poor that we had already needed to switch to formula feeding, but this was when our son's eczema seemed to worsen! 

    Once we identified milk protein being the cause behind his intolerance symptoms, we were prescribed a special (and HUGELY expensive) allergy formula, which he outright refused to even drink (I have to admit it did smell awful).
    Then after trying every other allergy friendly formula on the shelf and out of sheer desperation (AGAIN) at not being able to feed my baby, I reached for the only one on the shelf we hadn't tried - goats milk formula.

    It was like having a different child from the moment we made up the first bottle of this formula for him and I will never forget the first bottle of his life he actually drank all in one go from start to finish without distress and fighting it. 
    We never looked back from that point on and he remained a goat milk drinker until he was well into early primary school and slowly seemed to grow out of the intolerance to cow milk.

    However, in the case of allergies rather than intolerances, strict avoidance of the allergen is key, and parents should educate caregivers and family members about potential risks. For intolerances, adjusting the diet to eliminate the problematic food while ensuring adequate nutrition is essential.

    Breastfeeding & Avoiding Trigger Foods and Ingredients:

    In my work now as a Postpartum Nutrition Professional, I help a lot of breastfeeding mothers to overcome the overwhelm around the need to eliminate trigger foods and ingredients from their diets, while at the same time ensuring their own nutrition is not compromised or further depletion during the already delicate postpartum period of time.

    Postpartum nutrition protocols actually eliminate or lessen the the amounts of the most common trigger ingredients of dairy, wheat, gluten and soy as a rule and instead focus on deeply nourishing a mother in ways that help heal her postpartum body from the inside out, often also helping to increase milk supply plus a whole host of other health and wellbeing benefits too. 
    So, it makes sense to utilize the services of a qualified Postpartum Nutrition Professional or to undertake a program like the 12 week Make More Milk Method where you can be safely guided through how to make these changes.

    As an 'allergy mum' myself I'm passionate about helping breastfeeding mothers to continue successfully despite challenges presented by allergies in their little ones.
    I would love to chat more if you could like to CLICK HERE to book one of my FREE Breastfeeding Assessment Calls where I can help you navigate the best pathway forwards so you and your baby both can continue to reap the many health and overall wellbeing rewards that breastfeeding provides.

    By Kelly Northey
    (Certified Postpartum Nutrition Professional)