In September 2006, after seven hours of labor I gave birth to our eldest daughter. I know it sounds cliche, but when that little warm body was placed on my breast I was hit with an overwhelming feeling of love and adoration. Every time I gazed at those big innocent eyes looking up at me while nursing at my breast, I felt my heart break and expand over and over again.
Even before I became a mother, there was never any doubt in my mind that breastfeeding was I the way I would nourish my babies, however I had just assumed that everything would be 'textbook' in that department. With a healthy diet and an overabundance of milk - what could possibly go wrong?
During the first three months of my daughter’s life it seemed as though she was suffering from either colic or gas as after every feeding, she would cry and writhe in discomfort. Everyone assured me that this was normal for infants and so I let it go for a couple of months before discussing the situation with our pediatrician. Our doctor recommended that we try gripe water and remove ‘gas producing foods’ from my diet. Unfortunately neither one of the suggestions worked and the crying spells became more and more frequent.
Fast forward two months later and our daughter’s "colicky" symptoms were joined by a raised weeping rash all over her face. Our physician diagnosed it as eczema and prescribed a cortisone cream for me to apply to her cheeks until it had cleared. Call it a "gut feeling" or mother's intuition, but I knew that there was a deeper underlying issue behind her symptoms.
After researching online, asking questions in online forums and consulting various books, it seemed as though my daughter was experiencing either a food sensitivity or allergy to something that I was ingesting thus coming through my breast milk and causing issues.
I went with Dr. Sears’ recommendation of trying an elimination diet’ and after removing the common allergens such as wheat, soy, dairy and nuts from my own diet, I saw a huge improvement within just a few days. My daughter was sleeping more soundly, fussing decreased dramatically and after two weeks her rash had completely disappeared.
Gradually, I began introducing one food at a time again and gauged her reaction after a few days of nursing. There were no issues to any of the other foods until we reached dairy. Several hours after I ingested some yogurt and nursed my daughter the fussing began and by the end of the day you could see the beginnings of a rash.
To say I was thrilled to find the cause of her distress would be an understatement! After removing all dairy from my diet, my little girl was happy, healthy and rash-free.
Two years ago upon the doctor’s request, my daughter was tested at an allergy specialist’s office where they confirmed that she was indeed "highly allergic" to dairy. There is a chance that she will outgrow it in the future as her immune system strengthens.
Although our breastfeeding experience was a little bumpy at times, it was extremely rewarding and I wouldn't change it for the world! I’m grateful for the ability to breastfeed for many reasons, but mostly for my daughter’s health. Due to her allergy, regular milk-based formula would not have been an option.
Here are a few symptoms and signs to look out for that could point to some kind of food sensitivity or allergy* in your nursing baby. La Leche League’s advice proved to be correct: offending foods are usually gone from breast milk after fourteen days of removing them from your diet - sometimes sooner.
*Every case is different and although these are my own suggestions from experience, always be sure to consult with your doctor beforehand.