Tell us about your allergy story.
Our pediatrician first suspected food intolerances when my son was close to two months old and had green stools with mucus. Further testing showed some occult blood was present as well. She told me to try cutting out dairy and possibly soy as well. After doing my own research, I decided to cut out dairy, soy and eggs and see what happens. I saw almost immediate improvement in stool color, but our allergy journey was a long one, since it took months of trial and error trying to figure out what was truly causing issues for baby. My son developed reflux and was a terrible sleeper and it was definitely a challenging season. We eventually saw a GI doctor who recommended I cut out beef as well as dairy as a precaution, and this was just one of many extra foods I was slowly eliminating—desperate to reach a baseline with my son. Eventually I started reading more about how soy can be found in derived forms in lots of ingredients and I decided to give a go of cutting out any ingredient derived from soy. This was the turning point for us. I had been cutting out so many foods, but in the end, I truly believe that besides dairy, my son was just truly very sensitive to anything soy related. Even in the same food family, like legumes! Although this was a difficult diet, I have no regrets going hardcore dairy and soy free. I'm so glad that I was able to continue to breastfeed and I was so healthy on that diet! Luckily my son outgrew his intolerances —we started a very slow journey down the dairy and soy ladder once he turned 1 years old, and by the time he was two years old he was able to eat everything again. However, we still try to stick to really high quality dairy and we eliminate soy in our home just because of the negative aspects of soy for our diets in general.
What piece of advice would you give to parents who just discovered their child has allergies?
Take a deep breath and don't panic. For those breastfeeding, try and look at the long term picture instead of the short term inconvenience of having to cut out favorite foods. Looking back, it was really hard but it feels like such a small blip of time that I couldn't eat cheese! If you're not nursing or have an older child, give yourself lots of grace as you figure things out and don't feel bad about being "that person" who is extra precautious. Remember that it doesn't matter what family members or friends think.
What keeps you motivated in this journey?
At this time I'm done nursing my son—we successfully breastfed just shy of two years. I just had a new baby, and now, having seen all of the benefits of sticking it out and getting through the hard times of nursing through food issues, I would hands down do the same thing for this baby if she ends up having food intolerances as well. The benefits of breastfeeding makes it all worth it!
What do you wish others understood about food allergies?
They really do need to be taken seriously. In particular most people don't know about non IGE allergies which tend to get brushed off or people assume you are making something up. The consequences of giving a baby or child something that they are allergic or intolerant to can have effects that last for days or be very serious. You also gain a deep understanding for people who deal with allergies after you have to cut out foods—it makes you more sensitive to what people deal with eating out at restaurants or at people's houses.