What We Can Learn From Food Allergy History & Stories
Every parent that has a baby with food allergies or sensitivities is special to us and “our people.”
We’re thrilled to meet up with an extra-special person to Dr. Trill — her dear friend and collaborator, Heather. They met in 2018 when Free to Feed was just an idea coming to life. Without this duo, who knows where the baby food allergy world would be! (We’re not exaggerating.)
As a child, Heather had eczema, hay fever, exercise-induced asthma, and other allergies. Fortunately, they weren’t severe, but they factor into her story. During gestation, she recalls not eating what we now recognize as the top 12 infant food allergies. Honestly, she just didn’t like most of them. But she also worried they may not be healthy for her unborn children. She doesn’t think she ate a single nut or egg during her pregnancies!
Heather’s journey gives insight into breastfeeding babies with food allergies 10-15 years ago. Free to Feed is here to educate you about infant food allergies and sensitivities, so we always like providing great information that helps make your life easier.
We know the power of sharing real-life examples of food allergies and their effects on babies. You’ll see how the medical field steered an entire generation of parents the wrong way — and the effects some children now have to live with for the rest of their lives.
Heather’s advice to today’s parents is simple: follow your instincts. She’s learned the hard way with her two children, Leyton and Hadley.
Recognizing Infant Food Allergies Symptoms
Heather knew she wanted to breastfeed and was told by everyone that it was the best choice for her baby. Like any mother, she wanted the best for her child. Her son, Leyton, was born in 2007 — a time when the world of food allergies was confusing and recommendations were very different.
Starting in 2000, peanut-containing foods were not recommended before the age of 3. Experts now believe that this may have caused a significant increase in the rise of peanut allergies.  She followed respected guidelines and withheld peanuts from Leyton for years.
Heather recalls Leyton having constant diarrhea and diaper rashes, leaving him raw and crying often. She switched to formula a few times, but it would only help for a few days. At a loss, she continued to breastfeed and pump until he was 12 months old.
After his first birthday, the eczema started. They went round and round, trying different types of creams and lotions to soothe his skin. The skin irritation wasn't constant, but it never completely went away.
At 18 months, she laid Leyton down for a nap — and noticed what many mothers fear. He was struggling to breathe. After rushing to the emergency room, he was diagnosed with asthma.
This made sense to Heather because both she and Leyton’s dad had asthma. But the doctors never drew blood or did any other diagnostic tests. Leyton was put on corticosteroids, and we wish we could say he improved...
Even in the Medical Field, Baby Food Allergies Are Confusing
Around 2-3 years old, Leyton went through food and environmental allergy testing by an allergist and immunologist. All test results came back negative, which shocked Heather. But according to the doctors, test results were test results.
They chalked it up to hereditary asthma and left it at that. Feeling frustrated and sad, she started to blame herself, as any mother would. But she kept trying. She suspected allergies and tried to address them on her own through diet, feeding him less packaged and processed foods.
It’s important to remember the confusing and inconsistent dynamic of the medical and nutritional industry. In 2008, the guidelines for introducing peanuts changed to, “should not be delayed,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. But without any significant scientific data behind this change, many parents continued to withhold allergic foods for their babies based on prior recommendations.
Two years later, in 2010, Hadley arrived. Almost immediately, her second child started to have runny stools, eczema, and asthma. Heather breastfed and pumped 6 months this time. Frustrated that her daughter was on the same path as her son, she switched to formula sooner — desperately hoping it would help.
Finding Answers to Baby Food Allergies and Sensitivities
At 5 years old, Leyton’s asthma escalated to severe, despite his medication. The doctors responded with a simple recommendation to increase his dose. After years of feeling her son must have allergies, Heather requested another allergy panel. It took her an hour to convince the doctor to repeat the testing.
Leyton’s food allergy panel came back positive for everything.
Every. Single. Food.
Relieved to finally have answers to the cause of her son’s health issues — she now had to deal with the fact that the medical field had absolutely failed her as a parent.
Remember the 2008 change in peanut recommendation and the lack of significant research? It wasn’t until January 2015 that the most significant peanut study called Learn Early About Peanut (LEAP), was completed. Unfortunately for all the parents who kept to former, science-backed guidelines, the findings showed that early and continued introduction of peanuts reduced the risk of peanut allergy by 86% by 5 years old. 
By this time, Heather’s second child was 5.
“With Hadley, I thought I’d wait to introduce peanuts to let her immune system mature enough to handle nuts. She now has a severe anaphylactic reaction to peanuts. She is in a life-threatening situation, where peanuts and some tree nuts could potentially kill her.”
All Heather ever wanted was to give her children the best start and foundation for life. She breastfed and pumped because it was recommended. She withheld allergic foods because it was recommended. Now she has two food-allergic children, who deal with life-long food allergies and sensitivities.
“So now I’ve induced these long-term conditions in both of my children not knowing. This is the most frustrating part. Thinking I was doing the best thing for my children, breastfeeding because it was the best thing for them. Pumping and saving my milk because it was the best thing for them. I wanted to help them have the best start to life by giving them immunities from my breast milk. It turned out to be the complete opposite.”
Now almost 14, Leyton continues to navigate food sensitivity to peanuts, tree nuts, and legumes. If he eats them, he gets itchy or an upset stomach with vomiting.
Hadley will have to carry an epi-pen for the rest of her life. At 6 years old, they experienced the terrifying pain of having to use it when she ate an unmarked candy on Halloween. Heather saw the epi-pen work in seconds. From the harrowing moment Hadley couldn’t breathe, convulsing wildly — to suddenly being back to her silly little self — all in a matter of seconds.
While the medical field has failed us in some ways, it proves powerful in others. The invention of the epi-pen saved Hadley’s life.
What We Can Learn From Important Food Allergy History & How We Help
The Free to Feed community includes parents who are first-timers, parents having more children and anticipating food allergies, and those trying to figure out how to reintroduce allergens into their baby’s diet. We’re on a mission to give breastfeeding moms options.
Allowing mothers to feed with confidence and know they aren’t exposing their children to sensitive foods with Freedom Strips is one of our biggest goals. We also want to provide a support system for parents who often feel alone and confused.
To struggling parents, Heather says, “First and foremost, listen to your instincts, because it’s very easy to get medical professionals to recommend something, and it might not feel right. If it doesn’t feel like it’s getting to the root cause, trust your instincts, even as a first-time parent.
If it seems wrong, it probably is. The next thing I would recommend is a consult, from someone who understands the immune system’s real-time nature. I know I’m biased, but I also know how many lives Dr. Trill has helped. Dr. Trill is all data and she can likely pinpoint what’s happening to your baby with food allergies.”
Heather’s story breaks our hearts but also gives us important lessons for now and the future. Parents need to trust themselves, and sometimes the medical field doesn’t have all the answers. We can change our future — and that of our food-sensitive children... One step at a time, together.
Free to Feed wants to help you continue breastfeeding through your baby’s food allergies or sensitivities. If you’re ready for specific answers, schedule your one-on-one consultation here.