Isabelle’s birth gave my husband and I more joy than we ever thought possible but when this tiny, helpless, beautiful little girl was handed to us the realisation kicked in that she was completely dependent upon me.
As with most first time parents, the first few weeks were a blur of emotion, exhaustion and exhilaration and between the laughter, tears and overwhelming love one thing I really struggled with was feeding.
Isabelle was breast fed from birth and whilst this was beautiful and a wonderful bonding experience, it was never without its challenges. She would squirm, pull away, cry and arch her back at nearly every feed. I used to wonder what the term ‘milk drunk’ meant as my baby never seemed to finish a feed that way! I worried that she wasn’t getting enough milk, that she didn’t like my milk and that I was doing it all wrong.
Doctors, Health Visitors, Breast Feeding Councillors and Cranial Osteopaths all had their conclusions as to what the problem was - reflux, colic, poor latch on and muscular problems following a difficult birth and all seemed to disagree with what I thought the problem was - a dairy allergy - as she wasn’t showing the classic symptoms of eczema .
I persevered and followed my intuition and eliminated all dairy products from my diet. A few days later, my baby was a different child - she fed happily and slept well. To ensure this wasn’t coincidence, I briefly introduced dairy back into my diet, and the screaming, arching and squirming returned. Many people said they could not believe cutting a food group out of my diet would make any difference to a breast feeding baby, but mothers intuition told me otherwise. The allergy was then confirmed when I tried Isabelle on her first bottle of cows milk formula resulting in almost instant projectile vomiting.
At five months old, Isabelle was weaned off my breast onto a prescription formula, Aptamil Pepti (contains lactose but the protein is extensively hydrolysed) and continued to grow beautifully but I soon came across the frightening hurdle of starting her on solids!
I read every weaning book, website and magazine I could get my hands on for ideas and agonized over what I could and couldn’t give her to eat once the basic pureed veg and fruit stage was over and watched with fear each time she tried a new food.
Soon enough, allergy number two showed up - gluten. After a few days of giving her weetabix (with formula milk) for breakfast, the crankiness, crying and sleepless nights returned along with severe, very smelly, very grey diarrhoea. Again, I removed gluten products from her diet, she quickly went back to her happy, healthy self.
And so it continues! My diagnosis has been confirmed by a dietary paediatrician who held my hand for the first few weeks and we have yet to try egg (will keep you posted!) but luckily she is happy on soya, fish, meat and pulses and I have gained in confidence and experience in what I can feed her resulting in an exceptionally happy, healthy, bouncing little baby.