My husband and I were elated when we found out I was pregnant. We knew it would be an adjustment having a new baby, but we didn’t expect to have to deal with severe allergies which took 6 months to find answers to.
It started when my son was born. He began with eczema that appeared all over his body from the age of 3 months. I was breastfeeding and formula bottle feeding at the time and so we were not sure what was causing it. I adjusted my diet slightly but there were no changes.
We then visited our Pead who advised that it was a possible MILK ALLERGY, which was my baby's staple food. She suggested I would need to cut dairy out of my diet, as well as to find a dairy-free formula. We went from one formula to the next. I had never been aware of the fact that you can get dairy free formulas and what we were then looking for was a hydrolysed protein in the milk. The more hydrolysed the milk, the more expensive it is, and the less appealing it is to the palate. It took us ages to find one that saw an improvement in his skin eczema. Luckily, he responded well to each of the formula changes.
The eczema never went away but in fact heightened at times where he would scratch himself until he bled. It was heart-breaking to watch and I would end up crying feeling so helpless. We eventually settled on Isomil Milk. Our Paed had warned us against Isomil, as it is soy based, and recent research has shown that it can cause too much Estrogen in boys. Both Gareth and I had been on Isomil as babies, as well as our siblings, and we felt we turned out okay! LOL!
Our actual reason for choosing Isomil in the end was because the other formulas showed no changes and we couldn't afford to keep him on the higher protein ones. We also felt that he wouldn't have the dairy allergy forever and so he wouldn't be on the soy for that long. Research shows it's the EXTENDED use of soy that may cause issues in male hormone levels.
After many visits to the Paed, she finally suggested we go do the full allergy testing. This test can only be done from 6 months. It is quite invasive and quite traumatic as they need to draw blood from baby. We were very against it but at our wits end. The test came back and we found out that he in fact had a dairy, egg and nut allergy. Considering we, and none of our family members have similar allergies, we were uneducated and quite stunned to say the least.
We were able to see a fantastic allergy specialist who specializes in children. A gift from God for us at the time. Her son had also gone through the same journey, although her journey seemed more challenging than ours, I was so grateful for her wisdom. It was until this point that we had visited a Naturalist, a Homeopath, 2 doctors and our paediatrician. They had all given different diagnosis', medication and creams. In the meantime the allergy specialist suggested cortisone cream (which is seen as a big NO in most doctors' eyes). Many are unaware of how to use cortisone cream correctly and we are warned to only use small amounts at a time. She taught me how to use it correctly and how to wean him off. Her son had been treated in Edinburgh and so she shared the experience with me. It was the first time we were able to get his skin clear and it worked.
My son is now 21 months old. He is now able to process dairy and we are en-route to getting him through his egg allergy. We can only do skin allergy testing for his nut allergy at the age of 6. Until then we will need to carry an Epipen with us.
Daily, it is still exceptionally frustrating trying to find food that does not contain peanuts or tree nuts. It has been a process to get him to this point and it involved a very slow introduction to milk. It started with milk in a biscuit or a piece of cake (no egg though). Then with boiled milk. A teaspoon a day for a week in his food. Then we could add 2 spoons, then 3 and worked our way until he was having about 150ml of boiled milk in his food. Then if my memory serves me well, we could do raw milk, so again 1 teaspoon added to his food, then 2, then 3 until we reached 150ml of raw milk a day. Some steps caused the eczema to flare up and so we would then have to stop the process and start again. It took about 6 months in total.
We then started egg. It started with egg in a biscuit or baked in a cake. A bite first, then two etc etc. We then could continue with this for an extended time. We have only now started to try quiche. It has taken about 6 months to get to this point and is predicted that it will take us until the age of 3 to work through the allergy which we're hoping he'll also overcome.
Things to consider if you suspect milk allergies/things I wish I knew about milk allergies
Try not to do too much reading on Google. There is an information overload and information that may lead you astray. Dairy allergies can present with many symptoms.
"Eczema is something children at school got on their legs and arms and would scratch it a lot, especially in winter right?" I was so wrong. Eczema can present very early on and it is the body's way of telling you that it is rejecting something that the body isn't able to tolerate.
I didn't realise how many people had gone through a similar journey and I could learn from them and help others too.
In hindsight I wish I hadn't jumped from doctor to doctor. The homeopath was very helpful and obviously having the blood test gave us total clarity. The problem is that too many people try to give you helpful advice and you go seeking answers wherever you can in a panicked state. However, listen to your mom voice. It's amazing how accurate it can be.
If you suspect a dairy allergy, seek help as soon as possible or change to a dairy free formula to see if there is any improvement. Our allergy specialist was our saving grace in the end so I would highly recommend a good one.
Reading food labels is so important and has made us more aware of food contents. While most people wouldn't even blink at what they are able to give their child, I often feel disheartened and helpless as I scan the shelves for items that do not contain nuts. It's been a long road, but we are learning every day.
It is also amazing as to what is available to kids with dairy and egg allergies. Coconut milk, goats milk, rice milk etc. Obviously these are for older children, but a great option. We also loved the soy yoghurt. You also get egg free cakes and biscuits. We are very lucky with today's variety on our shelves.
My heart goes out to all those families that are dealing with similar "roadblocks" in their children’s food choices. I want to encourage you to stay strong and positive. I've learnt through this season that we are still exceptionally blessed and that having a food allergy has enabled us, in many ways, to be better eaters and label conscious. The positive in all this is that it can and does get better if treated timeously, and it warms my heart to know that Cole will never remember what his little body went through during his infant years.
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