The Answer to Allergy Problems
Mandeville LA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 6, November-December 2006, pp. 259-260
When my husband used to have hay fever attacks, I would roll my eyes and think it was all a big show. Little did I know that our own two children would have serious allergies, which forever changed my point of view concerning my husband's hay fever.
When my daughter, Elle, was two months old, I began to find small amounts of blood in her stools. It was also the time when her eczema began. The pediatrician advised me, as a breastfeeding mother, to eliminate dairy from my diet and to see how she did after three weeks. At that point, there was no improvement. The pediatrician then advised me to temporarily stop breastfeeding until Elle's stools became normal and sent me home with two cans of formula. For me, it seemed like the end of the world. I told myself, "No, I am certainly not going to stop breastfeeding. Who does this doctor think he is to tell me that formula, with corn syrup solids listed as the second ingredient, was a better food for my daughter?" I went home and immediately starting researching alternatives and developing my own treatment plan.
I decided to go on an allergy diet, eliminating the top six allergens that I discovered from my research: dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts, and fish. Boy, was that tough. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough, and Elle's stools remained abnormal. Then I went on a "cave man" diet, which includes consuming some fruit and root vegetables and a lot of the same types of meat that pre-industrialized societies ate 40,000 years ago (with little or no consumption of grains or dairy products). That was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I was willing to do anything for my precious "snuggle muffin." Besides, I thought, maybe this would help me to finally lose the pregnancy weight.
Time went by and, before I knew it, my baby girl was two years old and free and clear of her eczema. Today, she is only allergic to cashews, which is interesting to me since I ate a lot of cashew butter while on my allergy diets. That was why I decided that, if my next baby had allergy issues, I was not going to go on any specialty diets.
Twenty-one months after Elle was born, I gave birth to my son, Andrew. I was thankful in those first months for normal stools and clear skin. My hopes were dashed, however, when at two months, the dry, scaly skin emerged.
Andrew's allergies have been more severe than his sister's, and even though I didn't realize this at the time, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months saved him from developing worse allergies. It wasn't until he snatched a shred of cheese from his big sister that we realized the severity of his allergy to dairy. Within minutes, he was covered from head to toe in hives and welts. I had never seen anything like it before. It was the first of many reactions he would have. As time went on, I realized he is sensitive to many things -- detergents, lotions (even some labeled "for sensitive baby skin"), medications, and even some things I haven't figured out yet.
Andrew has also had severe eczema since he was two months old. His pediatrician told me it was the second worst case she'd ever seen. My heart broke, because I knew what misery was in store for him, as we had gone through it with Elle. Eczema causes one to itch almost incessantly. To keep Andrew from scratching so hard that he bled, I dressed him in a sleeper to cover his skin and then I'd pull pants or shorts over that so he'd look more "normal" to inquisitive eyes. I have had to keep up a very diligent routine of bathing, creaming, antihistamines, and diet to keep his eczema in check. Now that he's older, his skin is much improved.
Nighttime, at least for me, has been the toughest test of my strength and endurance. The incessant itching keeps us up. I remember walking Andrew around our room at night for two to three hours straight. Yes, sometimes it really was three hours, because I was counting every footstep, every minute, every hour. I think the carpet is almost threadbare. Nursing has been a blessing during these sleepless nights. Even now, I am still nursing him two to three times a night, but a few minutes at the breast is enough to relax him back into a deep slumber. I am entertaining thoughts of nighttime weaning, as I long for a full night's rest, but I am not ready to cross that bridge.
Even though it's hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes, I can look back over the last few years and realize that our situation has greatly improved. I wanted to share my story in hopes of giving other mothers with allergy-prone children hope and to let them know that it does get better with time. Breastfeeding makes it a whole lot easier. Now when my husband has an allergy attack, I reach over and give him a hug and a tissue.