By Rachel Losey, co-leader of API of Norman, Oklahoma
**Originally published in the Fall 2007 Special Needs issue of The Journal of API
Motherhood was different than I expected it to be. I never imagined that I would have an inconsolable baby. I always imagined that through Attachment Parenting (AP) principles, I would have a happy, healthy, “normal” baby. It is only those babies who are not breastfed, not co-slept, not worn in slings, and who are rarely touched who cry for hours and hours, right?
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Cora was a peaceful newborn until day three – when my milk came in. Within hours of that first nursing with my full supply of milk, all of our lives changed forever. She cried for more hours than not, each day. She never slept for more than 45 minutes at a time and only when she was in my arms. She arched her back, held her little tummy – trying to tell us she was hurting. Bowel movements became an act of torture for her.
The Doctor Says Colic – and Co-sleeping – to Blame
We went to the doctor. I was told by our pediatrician to stop breastfeeding, put her in a crib, and read Ezzo’s baby training books, but we chose not to take any of this advice.
Additionally, the pediatrician said it was colic – and we anxiously awaited the magic three-month mark when she would get better. Three months came and went with no change in my baby’s health.
My intuition all along was that she had food allergies. At three months, we started researching food allergies. We started keeping food diaries, eliminating the most common food allergies, and saw several allergists. The allergists we saw told us that they felt she couldn’t have food allergies, because they didn’t feel that children under the age of three years old do. Their advice was to stop breastfeeding and use sleep training methods for her sleep issues.
But Mom Follows Her Hunch…and Starts a New Diet
We were devastated. We knew there was something wrong with Cora – she was suffering greatly. I decided to do something drastic. At three months old, she was exclusively breastfed. I reduced my diet to only include the least allergenic foods – as vegetarians, this included the following five foods: potatoes, zucchini, brown rice, peaches, and sunflower seeds. We called it the “brown rice diet.”
Within 24 hours of eating only these foods, I had a different baby. She was sleeping, happy, and not crying for hours each day. Two weeks after starting my restrictive diet, we began to add foods back in one at a time – slowly – so we could identify the offending foods. Time and time again, she reacted to the new foods. We couldn’t find anything her little system could tolerate. Eventually, we gave up trying things, and I started accepting this very restricting new diet. After three months of this diet, my health started to suffer. I simply couldn’t get the nutrition I needed from these five foods.
At that time, we decided to seek a holistic care provider and followed her recommendation for VEGA testing. It didn’t give us any insight as to what was upsetting Cora’s system but she did say that perhaps it was me who was reacting to foods and that Cora was reacting to the reactions my body was sending through my breast milk.
VEGA is a machine used to measure energy imbalances in the body’s systems. Through a technique known as electro-acupuncture, a small amount of electricity passes through various points on the patient’s body determined by where the health care provider places the machine’s probe. Readings that are higher or lower than the normal range of electrical activity may indicate various medical conditions such as degenerative diseases and inflammatory conditions. VEGA can be helpful in determining the cause of a variety of general complaints such as backaches, migraine headaches, exhaustion, and sleep disturbance. VEGA can also be used to test for allergies by ntoing any reactions in electrical activity toward a suspected allergen.
We did additional research on food sensitivities and discovered that it is recommended that breastfeeding mothers take digestive food enzymes to help in this situation. I began taking the digestive food enzymes and began adding foods back into my diet one at a time. This time, her body was able to tolerate almost anything I could eat! I was able to build back my nutrition and health. The effects lasted about a month – and then things started getting bad again.
It was the same pattern: poor sleep, digestive upset, diarrhea, and inconsolable crying. We tried additional natural health remedies, IgG food allergy testing, a comprehensive digestive stool analysis, and other various tests but nothing unveiled answers or brought Cora relief.
Food Allergies Confirmed by a Pediatric Specialist
What we ended up discovering is that our pediatric allergist had more comprehensive knowledge about infantile food allergies than our former allergist. Our pediatric allergist did a lot of testing based on Cora’s reactions and reviewed the detailed food logs we were keeping, which helped her discover what Cora’s specific allergies truly were. We started her on a pretty hefty dose of cetirizine (Zyrtec). The medicine helps her feel well and sleep, and since starting it, she has gone through a huge growth spurt. Where she was once considered “failure to thrive,” she is now at or above the 50th percentile on the growth charts.
I later learned about Pancrease, which the breastfeeding mother takes at meal times. It helps to break down the foods a breastfeeding mother eats so that the offending foods are much less likely to pass into her breast milk and on to her baby. I learned about this remedy long after Cora was exclusively breastfeeding and was unable to try it. Since then, I have learned that it has helped many mothers maintain a nutritious diet while breastfeeding an allergic baby.
I think we have found all of her allergies now. She is allergic to all nuts, garlic, celery, and grapes. They are strange allergies – and if we hadn’t known what to test for, we wouldn’t have been able find our answers.
I am so glad that I listened to my intuition and continued to breastfeed, co-sleep, and attachment parent. I cry when I think of the damage that would have been done had I left her to “cry it out” when she was clearly in pain. Instead of learning that her physical suffering was not important enough for our attention, she learned that we would do everything we could to comfort her. And even though it breaks my heart that it took two and one-half years to find our answers, I find comfort in knowing that she never suffered alone – she was always held when she cried, and we never gave up searching until her suffering was relieved.
In June, Cora turned 3. She is a happy, healthy, thriving little girl. She has an amazing sense of personal power and sensitivity to other children. Because of our AP practices, there seems to be no lingering effects from her allergies and previous suffering. I am so grateful that we listened to
our intuition and practice AP.
6 thoughts on “Cora’s Story: Food Allergies in a Breastfed Baby”
Wow, Rachel. I really admire your tenacity to continue breastfeeding through such a challenge. Thanks for sharing your experience, especially the information about enzymes in the mother’s diet affecting the baby’s sensitivity.
I’m so glad you wrote this. I had no idea that a digestive enzyme could help and had I not read the word “pancrease” I wouldn’t have stopped when I passed a bottle of pancreatin at our local mothers store today. I’m praying between them I can eat more than lamb and squash.
Hi I am so glad to find this web site as I am going through the same thing my daughter is 7 months and I am still discovering her allergies most things I eat affect her tomm I have an appoitment with a 3rd doc. I did a patch allergy test and she is allergic to Milk Soy eggs peanut shellfish I was at my witts end and reading ur story has given me hope! Thank You
Hi……My daughter is going thru a similiar scenario with her 21 month old. I will mention the enzymes to her, as she is still restricting her own diet quite a bit. Baby is allergic to most everything!
I am wondering if your daughter has outgrown her allergies/sensitivities…..
So glad you persevered with the nursing !!!!
I went through a similar issue, but figured out quite quickly that it was onions and garlic that were causing the issues. I also utilized my chiropractor. On top of the allergies, she was having reflux due to a pinched nerve in her back. After several chiro appts and my diet change I had a much happier child. I had never heard of the Pancrease, but will remember that for my next child. Glad to know I was not alone!
Thanks for the post! I’m going to try pancrease. Currently I have eliminated all nuts, garbanzo beans, yogurt, all berries including grapes, citrus, green vegetables, peppers, melon, chocolate, and soy.. It makes you want to give up sometimes.