When I first became a mom, I wasn’t quite prepared for the way that I would have the ability to know my kids. I’m not talking about knowing what they’re personality is or what they like, but rather the kind of deep-seated, gut feeling you get when you hear them cry and can detect subtle differences to know what is needed, or the way you know something isn’t right and action needs to be taken. I don’t really know that you can prepare for it.
When we had our oldest, B, the first few weeks of his life were HARD. I was attempting to breastfeed and it just didn’t seem to be going like I had expected it to. He would cry for hours for no apparent reason, spit up constantly, and never seem satisfied when he was eating. I couldn’t take it and I quit, I gave up. He needed to eat and I didn’t seem to be able to provide him what he needed. It was emotional torment and I experienced my first bout of mommy-guilt over it. If I had it to do over again I would change so many things, but at that moment it was what I truly believed was necessary. And so began our journey with formula.
I think I expected that there would be a change immediately, but when after a few weeks on formula he still wasn’t gaining like he should have been and he was still crying for hours, our pediatrician mentioned the possibility that he may be sensitive to dairy proteins and to change him to a dairy free formula (which meant soy). He was about eight weeks old at this point. I was struggling with depression from lack of sleep and an enormous amount of mommy-guilt because I felt like I just couldn’t do anything right. So we took the sample of soy formula from the doctor and went on our way.
Oh. my. goodness! Within a matter of DAYS he was like a completely different baby! The spitting up stopped. The crying for hours on end stopped. He started to sleep well. He was content! He stayed on soy formula until he was a year old, at which point, the doctor explained that many babies who couldn’t tolerate milk as infants grew out of it and could have it at that point. We decided to give it a try. To our surprise, he handled it fine! No reactions of any kind!
That was our first experience with food allergy/intolerance. We thought we had conquered it and went on with life, not really giving it a second thought.
The summer before B began his second year of kindergarten (that was a decision I will never regret) we noticed that he started complaining of a stomach ache frequently. That was in June. By late August when school started, the stomach aches were only getting worse and were now accompanied by vomiting, at least once daily. The doctor checked him over, ran a couple of tests, and determined there was no reason she could find and that it must be a virus. A virus?! That lasts for over two months?!
Then, the uncontrollable diarrhea started. I’m not talking *just made it to the bathroom in time* uncontrollable, I’m talking *running down his legs before he even knew what was happening* uncontrollable. It was awful. He was mortified and I was on a mission to put a stop to it.
My mama bear instinct kicked in. I had to fight to get appointments with a pediatric gastroenterologist and an allergist. I knew it had to be related to food. I just knew it!
The appointment with the gastroenterologist required a stool sample (that was fun) and blood work. They were checking for Celiac and Crohn’s disease. Of course those labs came back negative. They wanted to do a colonoscopy. On my six year old. I couldn’t put him through that.
Something kept telling me that we just needed to see the allergist. That appointment finally came. They pricked his back with all kinds of allergens. He reacted to none. That was great because those were all environmental allergens. Now on to food testing, right? Wrong. The allergist treated me as though I was an idiot for even mentioning it. I’ll never forget her response to me when I requested he be tested for dairy and nut allergies, “Ma’am, if he had a food allergy he would be breaking out in hives, not having a stomach ache, vomiting, and diarrhea.”
Excuse me? Straight from foodallergy.org/symptoms:
Mild symptoms may include one or more of the following:
- Hives (reddish, swollen, itchy areas on the skin)
- Eczema (a persistent dry, itchy rash)
- Redness of the skin or around the eyes
- Itchy mouth or ear canal
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Nasal congestion or a runny nose
- Slight, dry cough
- Odd taste in mouth
- Uterine contractions
See those in bold?! I was mad. Did she even go to school for this?
It was now January. Six months of my little boy crawling into my bed, curled up in a ball, and crying in agony because his stomach hurt so badly. Six months of doctors poo-pooing me as though I was overreacting. Six months of him being sent home from school for vomiting or uncontrollable diarrhea weekly.
Now I was really on a mission to prove them all wrong. We started a food diary. We wrote down every little thing he ate. And noted how he tolerated it. After a month, know what we saw? Every time he had something high in milk fat his symptoms were awful. So we decided right then and there to cut dairy from his diet. It made sense. He had problems with it as a baby. But since they had convinced me that he outgrew it, it wasn’t even something we considered throughout the entire ordeal.
Guess what? Within two weeks every. single. symptom. was GONE. He was no longer in pain. No more diarrhea, and no more throwing up.
And so began our journey of learning the ropes with dairy allergy/intolerance (call it what you want, he can’t have it and that’s the only thing I need to know).
Here we are six years later, and I’d say we’ve gotten pretty good at navigating. We’ve also added another one who can’t have dairy, and my own diagnosis with non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.
Wanna know the kicker? Now B breaks out in hives on his torso when he’s accidentally had dairy.
Mamas, you know your babies. Don’t ever doubt it, and don’t ever stop fighting for them, because sometimes that spilled milk is worth crying over, especially when you know how much it can hurt your kid.