Taking Scout to the ER when she reacted to eating scrambled eggs was definitely the most nerve wracking day of parenthood for me. Since, I have been incredibly nervous about food and have shied away from introducing new foods, even though it has been nearly two months since the episode. Each time I believe I am gaining some confidence, a mom shares a story about her child reacting to strawberries or peaches or green pepper and that sends me right back to the ride to the hospital and, sadly, back to the few foods I know are safe for her to eat. To tell you the truth, I have been very anxious since the episode and my worry has extended to the size of her food bits, lest she should choke. It is easy to follow guidelines to parenting when you have a textbook baby but the moment your child is different, there is this massive grey area that very few can help you navigate; even medical professionals do not have all the answers and so I have been left with ‘try these and let us know’ when I would have preferred clear instructions telling me what I should do. You see, I like structure and facts; uncertainty and I are not friends and so I feel that I’ve been treading water for these last two months, barely coping and having that spill over into other areas of my parenting and life in general.
I will tell you that meeting with the dietitian last week provided a clearer path but before we get there I will share what the last two months has been like and how much has had to change since learning that Scout has food allergies.
Having her tested.
The paediatrician recommended that we have blood drawn and tested for the basic set of allergens, namely peanut/ soy/ egg/ wheat/ gluten/ cow’s milk and fish. Scout tested positive to peanut and egg and was shown to have a borderline allergy to cow’s milk. It meant that we had to cut out all foods containing these allergens; we were also told that we should not introduce these allergens until she has gone for testing again, which we will do when she is a year old. It gave me peace of mind to have answers about what we may and may not introduce but my nerves around her reacting has meant that I am slow to introducing known allergens in general. We tested the dairy and she seemed fussy and uncomfortable thereafter so we have chosen to go dairy-free until the next test. Out of the three, dairy is the only food product that I am still consuming while breastfeeding as dairy has not shown to give her a reaction when she’s had my breast milk.
Breastfeeding a baby with allergies.
It is a known fact that milk feeding is the primary source of nutrition for a baby up until around nine months of age; with breastmilk, your baby is getting nutrients from all that you eat. Because Scout cannot have food containing eggs and peanuts, I may not have those foods either. Articles that I have read online have said that it may be okay to eat highly cooked eggs, in things like cake and pastry for example, but we found that when I ate those foods, that she would develop a nasty rash under her chin. The rash would make her scratch and she’s opened her skin a few times because of her discomfort. I am sensitive to gluten; most gluten-free, processed foods use egg as a binding agent. I have since had to cut out the gluten-free bread that I ate and can no longer buy many of the gluten-free treats I enjoy. Because my diet has had to change so drastically, my milk supply has taken a knock, too. It may have been easier to manage her food allergies if she was a formula-fed baby but because I am a breastfeeding mom I have had to make considerable alterations to my diet, too. I have so much more to say on this topic and will write a separate post to share the challenges we have faced regarding her milk feeds.
And eating out at restaurants, too. The previous bit should explain why I need to be careful what I eat. The short version of the story is that most restaurant kitchens have traces of allergens in them and so we have had to stop buying food that has not been prepared in a controlled environment.
At our last paediatric appointment we were told that Scout was not gaining enough weight, that she had stopped moving along the weight curve, gaining only 500g since her last visit to the clinic (about two months prior). My nerves about food had amounted to me underfeeding Scout and relying on her milk feeds to help her gain weight. After a visit to the paediatrician this week we have decided that we will visit the doctor’s rooms every two weeks to monitor Scout’s weight gain until she has reached a number that the paediatrician is happy with. Scout’s doctor and the dietitian have communicated about Scout’s specific needs and so we have a plan that will help us move forward. Thankfully, Scout’s head circumference has increased in size which is an indication that we are moving in the right direction.
Meeting with the dietitian.
We had a zoom meeting during one of my free lessons at school and were able to address many of my and Wesley’s concerns in the hour spent; the dietitian has since sent me many charts and lists to assist my food choices and she has even gone as far as looking for gluten-free replacements for me on her personal grocery trips! I have had a lovely experience with the medical professionals we have seen. Below are some of the practical tips she has given me as well as the ways I have chosen to tailor them to suit our daily needs.
- I have chosen to make Scout gluten-free overnight oats for breakfast as she struggled to keep the baby rice cereal down. The dietitian recommended that I add vegan butter to her cereal to add healthy fats to her diet. I am yet to find one in store but I am sure that we will find a brand we like soon. She also suggested that we introduce a cereal with wheat to help her build tolerance for it.
- Her plate needs to be divided into three at mealtimes: half of her plate should contain vegetables, a quarter proteins and the other quarter should be carbohydrates. At this stage, her plate size is roughly the size of a circle made when joining the tips of my thumbs and forefingers.
- Her snacks include fruit, cultured soy beans and rice cakes. We were told to add blueberries but she seems to have a reaction to them as well as to banana and avocado (the blueberries caused a rash that scabbed and the banana and avocado brought on vomiting. We will need to have her tested for more allergies).
- We have introduced a variety of proteins as this will support her growth (I will list them below). We like pulses and beans but they were not a part of our home eating and were part of the foods we enjoyed when visiting our parents. Nothing beats my mom’s lentil curry!
- We have cleared our pantry of allergen-containing foods and I have had to say goodbye to cake, doughnuts, gluten-free biscuits, bacon and egg bagels and a number of other treats and meals while we prioritise her needs.
- I will continue to breastfeed but we will also be introducing one to two formula feeds per day. My paediatrician was very supportive of the decision as it will take away some of the pressure to express enough milk for the day (while I am away at work). The formula that was recommended was Pepticate (but we are yet to start it so I am not able to comment on it or recommend it at this stage).
Below is a list of the foods that are currently on her menu:
Cereal: gluten-free overnight oats (made with milk and occasionally mixed with apple/ pear/ cinnamon – one variation at a time).
Protein: chicken/ fish/ beef/ beef mince/ lamb/ lentils/ chickpeas/ butter beans
Carbohydrates: Potato/ sweet potato/ pasta (wheat containing and gluten-free)
Fruits: apple/ pear
Vegetables: carrot/ butternut/ broccoli/ cauliflower/ green beans/ baby marrow/ squash/ greenpepper
Processed snacks: cultured soy beans (replaces yoghurt)/ kiddylicious rice snack
Spices: turmeric/ chicken spice/ barbecue spice/ cinnamon
Here is an example of her weekly meal plan (that I make up and plan as I go along. I always think of combinations that I would like and put them together for her. So far, she has eaten everything on the menu). Please note that I am not a professional and have used guidelines sent to me to plan and prepare these meals. Once I am able to find vegan butter I will add it to her cereal or to some of the meals that contain sweet potato or butternut.
|B/FAST||Overnight oats (with breastmilk)||Cultured soy + apple (mashed with fork, stirred in)||Overnight oats + pear (mashed with fork, stirred in)||Overnight oats + apple (mashed with fork, stirred in- add cinnamon)||Apple +pear Puree|
|SNACK||Milk feed||Milk feed||Milk feed||Milk feed||Milk feed|
|LUNCH||Beef/ potato/ carrot/ green bean puree (add turmeric)||Chickpea/ Carrot/ sweet Potato/ Green Beans (mashed with fork)||Chicken (made with onion & chutney in pan)/ broccoli/ pasta (pulsed in blender)||Beef/ potato/ carrot/ green bean puree (add turmeric)||Chickpea/ Carrot/ sweet Potato/ Green Beans (mashed with fork)|
|SNACK||Pear puree||Apple sauce||Cultured soy||Pear puree||Rice cracker|
|SUPPER||Lentil/ broccoli/ cauliflower/ baby marrow (mashed with fork)||Fish (hake)/ sweet potato/ baby marrow/ broccoli||Chickpea/ sweet potato/ baby marrow/ carrot||Chickpea/ sweet potato/ baby marrow/ carrot||Chicken (made with onion & chutney in pan)/ broccoli/ pasta (pulsed in blender)|
|NIGHT||Milk feed||Milk feed||Milk feed||Milk feed||Milk feed|
I know that this was a really long post with quite a lot of information but I know that some moms will appreciate the information and that many of my loyal readers will walk away having been exposed to something new.
As always, I want to thank you for your readership and, should you know someone who would enjoy reading this post, please click ‘share’ and send it along.
Until my next post,