Last week, I celebrated my 1 Year Anniversary for this blog, NourishwithRenata.com! Over the last year I have seen so many amazing things happen with this blog. In addition to posting weekly recipes, I have been able to host cooking classes and demos, meet so many incredible people and be featured on various podcasts and media outlets. I’ve started playing around with videos, improved my skills with my website and even launched a free e-book! I never imagined that I would have accomplished so much in 12 months. And I can’t wait to see what happens next!
How It All Started
For this blog post, I wanted to do something a little different. As some of you know, my healthy food journey really started after the birth of my first child, Olivia. As a first time mother, I was not prepared for how difficult everything would be. I was utterly exhausted, I struggled breast feeding her, and to make it worse, she barely slept and cried all the time. I lost all confidence in being able to be a mother for my child
We were able to get breast feeding help from a local lactation consultant, which really helped ease some of the worry. But Olivia was still not 100%. I started to think Olivia was having digestive issues, so we took her to the pediatrician. Based upon her symptoms, the doctor told us that she might actually be allergic to something that I was eating. One of the main allergies kids have is to dairy. So the doctor suggested I try going off dairy for awhile to see if it helped Olivia.
The results were incredible! Olivia didn’t have the same symptoms anymore, she slept better and she was much less irritable. I also felt the effects of this simple change. I was able to sleep better and feel more confident as a mother.
I had seen how effective a change in diet was in helping Olivia’s condition. I had seen first hand that what we put in our bodies has a significant impact on our health and well-being. More than that, making better food choices could actually improve how we feel, which in turn, improves our quality of life! This completely changed my perspective on food. Food was no longer just something that tasted good. It was also a way to heal our bodies.
Allergies and Intolerances in Kids
Allergies in infants and young children was something I was not knowledgeable about at the time. Since I have shared this story about Olivia, I have had so many of you reach out to me with questions about infant allergies and food intolerances. While I’m not a doctor, I can offer a few thoughts I had when reflecting upon this difficult time in our lives. In addition, I’ve asked two of my good friends to share their insight on having similar experiences with allergies and intolerances in kids. They are:
- Julia, a coworker and dear friend, with a 4 year old daughter and another on the way. She shares a fascinating story about dealing with her daughter’s allergies.
- Jim, a fitness/finance/faith based entrepreneur, that I really connected with after hearing the story about his daughter’s allergies. Jim has 2 small kids with his wife, Autumn.
I hope that these insights may help you or someone you know that is facing a similar situation and can provide a little comfort during these stressful times.
Renata’s List of 5 Things I Wish I Knew About Allergies in Kids
1. If you have a concern, see your doctor as soon as possible:
As a new parent, it’s easy to think that you’re blowing things out of proportion and you’re going to annoy your doctor. But don’t worry about that! The most pressing issue is your child, so don’t even bat an eyelid if someone gives you attitude! Plus, I wholeheartedly think that it’s way better to be safe, than to be sorry. If your medical professional is not giving you the care that you require, find someone else. Your health and the health of your children is your responsibility. You hold the power
2. It’s OK to ask for help:
These days, it’s so easy to compare yourself to other parents and think that you’re not doing enough. The truth is, there is not one child I know that does not have an entire village of family and friends that help to raise them. Don’t feel like you have to go through these things alone, especially when it comes to medical conditions. I bet there is someone out there that has been through something similar and can provide a shoulder, a comforting word or be a thoughtful listener to the things you are going through. Reach out to those people and keep them near. Support from these people really does help ease the load you are carrying.
3. Allergies and intolerances can look different in different kids:
As a first time mother, I didn’t know what the symptoms were if a child was suffering from a dairy intolerance/allergy or really any intolerance/allergy. I didn’t grow up with food intolerances so I didn’t have any experience with it at all. If you have time, do a little research on what symptoms can look like but don’t let it stress you out. And go back to point 1) if you are uncertain.
4. Give yourself some grace:
We were fortunate that Olivia’s intolerance/allergy was determined quickly. However, as you will see with Julia’s story below, some of these allergies take much longer to diagnose. It can be a stressful time, to say the least. But I want you to know, its ok to be angry, upset, scared, panicked, uncertain or any emotion you are feeling. It is ok to not be supermom or superdad and just be a real person with real worries. Bring down your walls, and be ok with not being ok. The people around you who support you no matter what, will be the ones to help you during this time.
5. Celebrate the small wins:
It’s easy to focus on some imaginary future time and say to yourself, “when such and such happens, I’ll be happy”. It’s time to change that thinking and start focusing on the present. Celebrate the wins that just happened today, like your kid didn’t throw up on you after this meal or there were no explosive accidents during that diaper change! I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way (read: lots of post-meal throw ups and explosive accidents). Changing this thought process will not only help you to have a more positive mindset but it is also helps you stay in the current situation and really enjoy each moment with your kids.
Julia’s List of 5 Things I Wish I Knew About Allergies in Kids
My daughter Josie turned 4 years old in September. I nursed her from 0-4 months, with much headache, and she was on a hypoallergenic formula from 4-16 months. When she was 1 year old, she had 4 safe foods in addition to her formula. It took a year to determine that both cows milk and corn were causing her so much grief. She was diagnosed with allergic colitis and cows milk protein intolerance. These are considered a non-iGe allergy. Though not considered life threatening, like an iGe allergy which can cause anaphylaxis, it can cause severe gastrointestinal distress, behavior changes, and more.
- I Wish I knew… that there even was such a thing! As a first time mom I was aware of various stories like “Sarah needed soy formula” or dramatic phrases like “oooh, colic” but no one – not the baby book, not the baby class, not the pediatrician gave a primer that said “This is what acid reflux looks like in an infant,” or “Cows milk protein intolerance (CMPI) looks like this… OR this… OR this…” All of those explanations came well after the proverbial **** hit the fan in our new baby household.
Typically infants who have trouble gaining weight or growing (“failure to thrive”) are quickly tagged for an intolerance issue. But my baby was (and still) has never been under 93% for anything- i.e. she is one healthy baby chick, right? (Many of her symptoms were true to Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome/FPIES, but she was never officially diagnosed because she didn’t look sick and wasn’t underweight.)
2. I Wish I Knew… of better breastfeeding support and education. It’s out there, but it’s not necessarily given to you in your Congrats You’re Having a Baby Kit. In fact, my lactation consultant at the hospital was so pleased with my progress when we were discharged I thought, okay, I can do this! But by about 6 weeks old my big, tall, constantly growing baby was writhing, arching her back and screaming bloody murder for feedings. A series of choices/mistakes/cluelessness brought us to 4 months old when I had completely dried up my supply due to stress, and we were 100% relying on hypoallergenic formula and reflux medication.
3. I Wish I Knew… that not all formulas are created equal. I say this plainly – they literally have different ingredients, and there are different levels of regular, hypoallergenic and elemental formulas. Generally speaking, all formulas have similar formulations for the health of your child. However, Nutramagin, which has a higher content of corn syrup solids than Alimentum, made my child break out in a rash around her entire mouth within seconds. She was able to tolerate the powdered version of Alimentum for months before switching to the Ready to Feed version – which has zero corn syrup solids and was the best tolerated for her.
4. I Wish I Knew… you should have an OBGYN and a pediatrician (and/or allergist and gastroenterologist) that you trust – this includes their staff! Take notes at home, take notes at the doctor’s office, make sure key issues are written in your file, and always make face with the doctor. Move on if you feel like you are not being listened to as a parent, or feel pressured to do something you are uncomfortable with.
5. I Wish I Knew… no one is the boss of you. Your body, your baby. Educate yourself and make decisions based on what you feel is best. Don’t feel pressured to feed your baby jarred purees at 4 months just because you’re “supposed” to, or because that’s what family and friends say. Sometimes waiting or trying something new and different is the right way for you. And sometimes a normally healthy food – like milk, or corn – can wreak havoc on your body. There will be doubters. Just focus, journal, read, eliminate food, trial foods, work with childcare providers, and help your child be as healthy as they can be.
There is support for you in your struggle. Medical staff, nonprofits like La Leche League and the FPIES Foundation, Facebook support groups for elimination diets, corn allergy, infant reflux – they’re all out there, and they all count. You’re not alone.
Food can be harmful. Find the way – for you, your family – to make it healing.
Jim’s List of 5 Things I Wish I Knew About Allergies in Kids
1. How early can you have a child tested for food sensitivities? My wife and I have both had this done on ourselves, with a lot of success, so it would be great to have this done for the kids, too
My wife and I have both been tested for food sensitivities (multiple times), and it has improved our overall health so much! Rather than just thinking that something might or might not agree with our systems, we just decided to find out for ourselves. With the kids, it would be so great to know this early on in their lives, so that we can make the right choices that are unique to their bodies.
2. After learning (through trial/error) that my daughter, Penelope, is most likely really sensitive to dairy (cow’s milk), what are some other good options to give her the fat that she needs in her diet?
Fat is a critical component of a healthy diet. And cutting out cow’s milk automatically takes away a big source of that. So, having other substitutes on hand to replace that makes this substitution that much easier.
3. I also wish we knew how early you can start testing nuts with the kids!
From what we know, peanuts can be one of the more dangerous (and common) allergies that kids frequently have. My wife and I were always wondering when it would be okay to be able to test these out with the kids, but we were never exactly sure when it was deemed “safe” to give it a go.
4. When the kids are breastfeeding, how important is Autumn’s (my wife) diet? Will the kids automatically consume everything that she consumes, or will there be anything that gets “lost”?
Having had a birthing coach before Penelope (our first child), we learned firsthand all the benefits of breastfeeding. They were too vast and significant to ignore, so it was an easy choice for us. On that note, we always knew that my wife’s diet would be really important, but is it the same as when she’s pregnant? Where whatever she eats basically goes straight to the baby like when it was in the womb?
5. When kids have ‘unusual’ (i.e. way nastier than normal lol) poops, is that a clear indication that something is most likely wrong? Or, do they just do this at times as part of the growth process?
Every parent has experienced this…ha! Your child musters up a poop that looks, smells, and even feels (haha) like pure DEATH. When this happens, as it always inevitably will, does it mean something is off? I know my wife and I always wondered this – especially with Penelope, when we were first-time parents.
Thank you to Julia and Jim for these insights. I hope that their words resonated with you and you have a couple of new perspectives to consider. If you have any questions at all, please reach out to myself, Julia and/or Jim. We are happy to help you in any way we can!
Renata, Nourish with Renata:
Jim Schultz, F Cubed:
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