Welcome to ‘A Free From World’, discussing parenting, living with food allergies and eczema. I’m Emily, a Primary School teacher and current stay at home mummy. I’m married to my wonderful husband Benjamin, a church youth worker.
The cute little munchkin below is our 1 year old daughter, Elianah.
A confession to begin- aside from childhood asthma, I have never suffered with food allergies or eczema. So why this blog? What gives me any right to talk about these issues? How could I possibly understand the pain, frustration and weariness that they bring? Well, the two people most precious to me in the world live with eczema and food allergies.
Benjamin and I have been blessed with a gorgeous, incredibly cheeky and fun little daughter, although I should first describe her as resilient. On a daily basis she copes in her itchy little world battling her eczema, and food allergies to wheat, milk protein (including all animal milk products), eggs, peanuts, and soya, environment allergies to animal hair, soaps and detergents, and hayfever.
I have breastfed my daughter since she was born and from the day allergy blood results for Elianah came through when she was 4 months old, I have been on a diet that eliminates all the foods she is allergic to. For the time being, for as long as she continues to breastfeed, I am sharing in my daughter’s free from world.
On Christmas Day this year we celebrated Elianah’s first birthday which sparked an inevitable series of nostalgic conversations about our launch into parenthood and the expansion of our eczema and allergy family! The blogs I will share with you are intended as an encouragement to eczema and/or food allergy sufferers and their families and friends, to help you know you are not alone, to share together our frustrations living with, or raising children with these illnesses and, most importantly, to share in our joy as we fight the eczema and allergy battle.
A little more about our journey
I have been on a dairy free diet since March 2014 and a wheat, gluten, soya, egg, milk, and berry free diet since May 2014 in order to eliminate allergens to my daughter’s diet, whom I am still breastfeeding. Here is a little overview to our free from battle over the past year.
From day one, Elianah was always a tricky baby to feed. Like many babies, she was born with a tied tongue which made latching difficult for her and within a few days we were back at the hospital to get it snipped, hoping it would help her take milk. Initially it seemed to do the trick, but soon she was screaming at most feeds and staying on for barely 3 minutes at a time. For the second week of her life I expressed every feed and fed her breastmilk through a bottle, topping up with formula. Expressing my milk on top of trying to coax Elianah onto me to feed left me exhausted, sore and frustrated. On the advice of the midwife at our checking out appointment, my husband and I made the decision to go cold turkey on the bottle. Without my husband’s help, getting up with me every night feed and soothing Elianah onto me for the feeds there is no way I could have continued. I say this to explain that I only have one opinion on the best way to feed your baby and that is the way that allows you to be the best parents for your baby. If that is bottle feeding with a trusted and tested formula, hypoallergenic formula, expressed breastmilk or if that is breastfeeding, that decision is best made by you as parents.
For us in our situation, given what we now know of Elianah’s allergies and eczema, it was truly a miracle to us that Elianah and I were gradually able to get into the breastfeeding groove. However it was certainly not without pain, both emotional and physical.
At around 6 weeks old, Elianah was screaming at nearly every feed, and broke out in small hives on her cheeks, resulting in dry, red skin. I spent my time at baby groups and church creche, rocking a screaming baby, boobs flashed to all in sight, crying, feeling completely helpless. Her skin was soon out of control.
My husband, who suffers from eczema and a peanut allergy, recognised Elianah’s pain as an allergic reaction. After a visit to the GP for requests for lactose free formula and a very unsuccessful period trying to get Elianah to take the new milk, and still with clear reactions, I was a struggling mess. Postnatal depression had truly got its grip on me. In the end, a visit from our health visitor was the stimulus for getting the help we needed. As she watched Elianah feed, she immediately appreciated that this was not a happy feeding baby.
A couple of months later, after dermatologist, dietician and pediatrician referrals, a round of blood test allergy results revealed Elianah was allergic to wheat, milk protein (of all animals) and egg. In the meantime I had cut out dairy products, thinking this would be a likely suspect but substituted into my diet a lot of soya which had an adverse reaction with Elianah’s skin. On the dietician’s advice, soya was added to the no go list for Elianah.
Whilst I didn’t want Elianah to have food allergies, I must admit to feeling a sense of relief when they came through 4 ½ months after Elianah was born. Firstly it confirmed to me and my husband that we weren’t being fussy parents and secondly it gave a reason for Elianah’s pain and reactions during breastfeeding. (Recent blood tests results in January 2015 confirmed a positive IgE allergies to soya and peanut as well as wheat, egg and milk).
At 6 months old, once the new diet had settled in, it felt like Elianah and I were able to start afresh with breastfeeding and I am so thankful to God, to friends, to family and doctors that our multiple daily and nightly battles soon turned to times of bonding.
A diagnosis is such a helpful starting point and there are still unexplained reactions Elianah has on a weekly basis with her skin, but knowing the underlying issues at least gives us a framework in which we can shape her diet and to some degree her environment.
Navigating our way through the weaning process has been a little bumpy which is the main reason I wanted to share our experiences and hopefully in the meantime provide some tried and tested free from recipes, and some useful resources.
Thank you for reading, and I look forward to hearing your experiences too,