"Your breast milk is killing your baby!"
In 2015, I gave birth to my first daughter. My husband and I had decided that I should breastfeed if possible, and we got off to a rocky start. After a few weeks of latching issues, I was finally starting to get the hang of things. She was a very colicky baby, but we figured that was normal. When she was only a month old, we awoke to find her diaper full of bloody diarrhea and her body covered in eczema. She was eventually admitted to the hospital where doctors put her on a 24-hour starvation diet.
It was determined that she had severe food allergies. I felt as if I had been punched in the gut. My milk was killing my baby. They recommended starting her on a hypoallergenic formula which was amino acid based. I was truly saddened that they were suggesting that our breastfeeding journey should come to an end, and was then shocked when I found out that the formula cost nearly $50 a can for what would last only a few days. This simply wasn’t feasible on my graduate school wages.
I began asking her doctors if it was possible to make hypoallergenic breastmilk. Each one scoffed at the idea. Technically I could, but since they couldn’t effectively test her for which allergen caused her reaction, I would have to eliminate them all. Her reaction was so severe that they recommended removing the top 8 allergens in addition to oats and corn from my diet. They said to do this for two weeks while feeding her formula and then attempt to slowly return to breastfeeding.
I was relieved and terrified. I needed to cut out dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, wheat, corn, and oats. What is left? I began to strategize with my husband and we made the decision to go for it. I could still eat meat, fruit, and vegetables. I just wanted what was best for our little girl.
I began my allergen free diet while still in the hospital and continued when we returned home. I spent two weeks pumping like a madwoman to keep my supply up while still attending graduate school, teaching college courses, and serving in the National Guard. It was difficult to continue pumping when I knew that she would likely never have any of that milk.
After two weeks we began slowly reintroducing breastfeeding, one feed at a time. I was lucky that she returned to the breast, which I attribute to paced bottle feeding. We returned to exclusively breastfeeding and continued our journey until her first birthday, slowly introducing allergens back into her diet one at a time.
My second daughter was born in 2018 and is plagued with the same ailment. After three years I was surprised to find that there was still little to no content available for parents in this situation. I decided that it was time to remedy that problem and provide the platform they needed to make informed decisions.