After a while, having a baby with food allergies becomes your new norm. You find your staple foods and get used to your new (temporary) diet.
It does feel like family and friends have the hardest time understanding infant food allergies though. The why, how, when, and everything in between. The hundreds of ways your diet is different and why it’s so important to follow it.
If only you could have one bite of that queso dip…
Even after explaining to family and friends your diet restrictions, it can be hard for them to understand how serious it really is. They might not get why you can’t have the mashed potatoes (butter), or the rolls (soy), or the beans (your babe reacts to legumes). The list goes on.
You have to remember, YOU (and your family) are going through this. Every. Single. Day. Diligently reading every label and laboring over every meal. You’re the one who’s changed the bloody diapers or listened to your baby cry for hours on end – not your family or friends.
That raw emotional experience makes a big difference in understanding the weight of every single food decision. And the good news is that you can still find support in your family and friends. Part of this comes from helping them see the seriousness of your baby’s food allergies and understanding your desire to continue breastfeeding.
The next part is showing them new ideas for supporting you. In this blog, we’ll highlight a few ways your family and friends can help you succeed in breastfeeding your sweet baby with food allergies. You can even send this blog right to them as a thank-you for wanting to help and a practical guide to even better ways to do that! :)
Loved Ones Can Treat You to Something Other Than Food
When you have a baby, people often offer to bring over meals. Amazing for most – but having a baby with food allergies seriously limits your food options. Your family and friends can help support your journey in other ways, so let’s think outside the box...
When’s the last time you had more than 5 minutes to yourself?
When’s the last time you went shopping for yourself?
When’s the last time you had your hair done?
Self-care is so incredibly important during the post-partum period of your life. And we don’t just mean a shower — though we get how life-giving they are when you finally grab one! We mean real, quality time with yourself. The self-care that you melt into, that lets off some steam and eases the stress from the daily needs of keeping a tiny human alive.
A lot of food allergy parents feel comfortable cooking their food and not eating out because, let’s face it, it’s less stressful. When a well-meaning loved one asks to bring a meal, don’t be afraid to ask for help in other ways.
If your best friend is coming over, ask her to hold the baby while you take a nap or even just lay down for 20-30 minutes. When your folks comes to visit, ask them to watch the baby while you go get your nails done. We bet they’ll be happy too! And, we promise you might even feel human again.
While you’re a parent, you’re also so much more. It’s important to remember that and give yourself pockets of time to recharge and enjoy yourself. And it’s okay to ask for a little help that’s actually helpful — not more stressful. Your family and friends want to help. Remember that and tell them better ways to show their love for you during this time.
Loved Ones Can Cook Something Special And Show You Every Ingredient Label
How cool would it be for your loved ones to make allergy-friendly foods? While not everyone is a chef or excellent home cook, many people truly want to make you something special. If you clearly communicate your requests and they’re on board, they can cook a meal that respects your diet restrictions.
We know the anxiety that comes with eating meals that you or your spouse don’t personally make. We understand how stressful that can be, and believe having a baby with food allergies causes PTSD. Don’t feel pressured to accept outside food from well-meaning relatives.
But if a family member or friend insists, make sure it’s clear exactly which foods you’re avoiding. Tell them all the hidden names for sneaky allergens like Soy. Then, if your aunt ‘must’ make food for your family, she gets the job of reading and sharing every food label. Make it a game! How many food labels does every dish get? If she chooses to cook for you, she’ll maximize her gift by making food you can actually eat!
It might seem absurd to some people to see every label for ingredients of something homemade and delicious, but allergen-free breastfeeding families understand. It simply isn’t worth it when a treat leads to your baby crying for hours or having diarrhea or eczema or whatever symptom your sweet one gets with their food sensitivities. When you agree, as loving adults, on what needs to happen for a helpful meal, then the meal actually helps — and you get to relax and enjoy it.
The People You Love Can Be a Listening Ear to Your Valid Frustrations
Maybe all you need is someone to listen to you cry about wanting a grilled cheese. A real grilled cheese. Let’s be honest – the fake cheese just doesn’t cut it. Having someone other than your spouse listen to your frustrations can feel empowering and validating.
Because guess what? Complaining is okay. This parenting thing is not easy!
Sometimes it’s helpful to tell your friends or family that you need them to just listen. Not offer advice. Not tell you to switch to formula. You just need them to listen to you vent.
It’s good for your soul to get things off your chest. It may seem trivial to some that you want to talk about how you can’t wait to shove an entire pizza in your mouth when you’re done with your breastfeeding journey – but it feels nice to have someone listen. Your complaints are valid and this is a frustrating time.
It’s important to remember that the people who care about you care about YOU. Your experience, your struggles, your fears, all of it. Ask for that shoulder to cry on or a listening ear. We bet your loved ones (you know the ones who are a safe place to land) will jump at the chance to give you what you need.
When you talk about what’s hard, it doesn’t mean you’re not happy with your choices. It doesn’t mean you want to give up on the diet changes that help your baby feel better. Yes, you chose to produce allergy-free breastmilk. But it’s still hard, and that’s okay.
Free to Feed Gives The Information You Need to Be Successful in Your Breastfeeding Journey
We may not be your oldest friend or blood relative – but we deeply care about you. We’re here for you. Free to Feed was born when Dr. Trill experienced severe infant food allergies with both her beautiful girls and there wasn’t enough research or support in this space. Our mission is to give others what she didn’t have.
If you’re struggling with what foods to cut or how to reintroduce allergens back into your diet, consider a one-on-one consult. They’re unique to you and your baby’s situation. We’ll help guide you on the next steps to take to make your journey easier.
We truly hope you find support in your loved ones. It sure does make all this a little easier when the people you care about – care about what you’re going through. Helping them help you is part of your baby’s food allergy journey.