In past Motherhood Monday posts I’ve mentioned that I am on a strict diet due to my little one’s sensitive stomach.
A handful of people have sent me questions so I thought I’d share more about how I knew Blake had food sensitivities and what I’ve done to help the situation.
Warning: we’re about to get real MOM-LIKE up in here. We’re talking spit up, diapers, poop colors…the whole deal. So if you’re uncomfortable with such topics you may want to come back to the blog on Wednesday for a regular fitness-inspired post :)
Where to begin…
After giving birth I was SO excited to eat foods that had been off-limits during pregnancy. Namely, soft cheese. So naturally, I started eating cheese like it was my job. What’s more, we were blessed to have food on hand from family and friends to help us throughout the first few weeks with a newborn. Our fridge was stocked with casseroles, enchiladas, mac & cheese, lasagna…all delicious, CHEESE-filled dishes.
All was well for the first few weeks but around 6 weeks of age, Blake’s diapers turned from the normal yellow color to a bright green. Green with mucous to be exact (I warned you).
So we took her to the doctor where they tested her stools for blood just to be safe. Sure enough, there were microscopic amounts of blood in her stool which is a sign that her digestive system is inflamed and not processing something well.
My sister-in-law had a similar situation so I knew what this meant – I was going to have to go dairy-free.
I spoke with the doctor and we determined that I should elimate all dairy and soy from my diet.
Dairy protein intolerances are becoming more and more common in babies and approximately 50% of babies with a dairy protein intolerance also have a soy protein intolerance. My doctor even called it an epidemic.
So I eliminated all dairy and soy products from my diet (soy being incredibly challenging…it is in almost everything packaged and most restaurants use it in one way or another).
Within a few weeks we saw a bit of improvement but not 100%. In fact, some symptoms were starting to get worse. She was spitting up more than normal and even started throwing up every few days. Since she was so little it was really scary.
So much milk coming out of a little body who doesn’t know how to cough or spit yet. Needless to say it was hard to leave the room for fear that she might choke.
At this point the doctor didn’t have much advice other than continuing to cut out common allergens to see if that helped.
So I was on my own.
All this time Blake was totally happy! Not fussy, not colicky, sleeping great, gaining weight…so the doctors weren’t too concerned. She was thriving. They classified her as a “happy spitter”. Even in the midst of this I considered her to be an easy baby…which actually made it all the more confusing.
So I continued to cut out additional foods…eggs, caffeine, tree nuts.
I saw a big improvement in her spit up after cutting out tree nuts but diapers were still the same.
Next came gluten. Saw a tiny bit of improvement. Her diapers became intermittently green with yellow at times too.
She also stopped rubbing her face at every feeding which I hadn’t recognized as a sign of an intolerance or allergy until she stopped doing it.
At this point I was at my wits end. I was hardly eating anything and as any breastfeeding mother knows – a girl needs food!
So the next 3 things to go were seeds (I had been subbing sun butter for almond butter on my toast each morning), tomatoes (due to their acidity) and out of curiosity I cut out my prenatal vitamins.
I had been taking The Honest Company’s prenatal vitamins because they are free of soy and contain probiotics.
And FINALLY with all of these foods eliminated, her symptoms disappeared 100%. Diapers went back to normal, throw up stopped completely and she hardly spits up anymore.
This took place over the course of 3 months.
I scoured the web for answers and hardly found anything so my hope is that writing and sharing my experience will help my fellow desperate mothers who are googling MSPI, diary intolerance, green diapers, etc. etc.
Blake is now 6 months old and I have discovered that 3 things still cause her symptoms to return: dairy, sunflower seeds and The Honest Company Prenatal Vitamins (weird, right? For the record I still love the company).
The jury is still out on soy, gluten and tree nuts.
I am slowly adding foods back in but it’s so hard to have a “clean experiment” with a baby since there are always so many factors to consider.
My advice to mothers who are just starting out on this journey:
- If you are going to cut out foods do it ONE food at a time and wait to see the results (have your diapers tested after 2-3 weeks of cutting out each food). I made the mistake of cutting out multiple foods at once so it has been hard to know which foods truly cause the reaction.
- OR bite the bullet and do a true elimination diet. If your baby truly does have intolerances that you will have to work around it will be SO worth it in the end. Trust me, I wish I would have done this.
- You can still dine out! Some restaurants are more accommodating than others. Don’t hesitate to call ahead and inform them of your dietary restrictions. More often than not they will be willing to work with you.
- Have your diapers tested for blood. It only takes a few moments and then you will know if your baby is having a true internal reaction or not.
- Meal planning is EVERYTHING. I’ve been sleep deprived, hungry and out of food and it makes this whole journey 1000x more challenging. Do your best to plan ahead and keep the kitchen stocked with foods you can eat and your life (and mood) will be lighter. I know it’s hard when you have a newborn to tend to but it will help.
- I have a Pinterest board where I regularly post allergy-friendly recipes. You can follow it HERE.
- Ask your Dr. about probiotics. I give Blake BioGaia probiotics daily to help keep her digestive system healthy. BioGaia is now sold by Gerber as Soothe Colic Drops, but it is still simply probiotics, just marketed for colic.
My favorite dairy/soy/gluten/nut/seed-free foods:
Rudi’s Bread (cinnamon raisin is my favorite – but beware it does have egg)
Meat (watch out for fillers and marinades, always read the ingredient list)
Enjoy Life products (they even have cookies!)
Kettle Chips (not all flavors are safe)
Organic, nitrate-free sausage (helps me get protein in the mornings)
Mission Tortilla Chips & Salsa/Guacamole
Bee Nut Free Bars (the chocolate chip are seed-free…these have been life-savers!)
Fast Food Meals I Have Found To Be Acceptable:
Qdoba: naked burrito bowl with black beans, shredded pork, salsa, lettuce & guacamole
Red Robin: burger lettuce wrap with NO Red Robin seasoning, fries with NO seasoning (it contains soy)
Mad Greens: multiple salads with modifications (their allergen info is outstanding)
Chipotle: All Chipotle locations are in the process of switching from soybean oil to rice bran oil. Double check with your local store to make sure they’ve made the switch. I order a burrito bowl with black beans, chicken, pico, corn salsa, guacamole and lettuce.
*note: please be sure to do your own research. I am not an expert on this topic and it’s possible that I have made mistakes.
Dining Out Tips:
- Don’t be afraid to call ahead and inform them of your allergies. Generally speaking the nicer/fresher the restaurant the easier it is to make adjustments to the cooking method/ingredients.
- Ask for allergy menus.
- Always ask what oil they cook with. More often than not it’s soybean oil. If they mention vegetable oil there is a good chance it’s actually soy.
- Always ask what meat is seasoned with and if it’s marinated. Soy is sneaky and butter is lurking in many restaurant recipes.
- Bring your own salad dressing. I always have mine in my purse! So if all else fails I can eat a green salad and just enjoy being out, even if the meal is sub-par.
And it should be noted that this road block has not curbed my Starbucks addiction. I bring my own rice milk. Yep, it’s a true.
These days my drink of choice is a decaf americano with 2 pumps of vanilla. Then I add my own rice milk :)
(I recently found out that the pumpkin spice syrup & caramel both contain dairy so be careful if you have a true allergy)
Thanks for hanging in there with me in this long post.
My hope is that others in a similar situation will stumble upon this post and it will be a resource for mother’s looking for help.
I will be slowly adding foods back into my diet to see if Blake has outgrown her intolerances as the months go on. She will likely outgrow them eventually, it’s just a matter of time.
In the meantime, it’s a true labor of love.
Questions? Tips? Similar experiences? Please share!
**3/8/14 update: I’m happy to report that I have been able to add nuts and gluten back into my diet with no problems. I added nuts for 2 weeks then had Blake’s diapers tested. We did the same for gluten. Now that Blake is 9 months old there is a good chance she has outgrown everything at this point. I’ll be adding egg in next and then from there my doctor has instructed us to give Blake a bit of soy yogurt rather than me having it myself. The reason being that it takes 2-3 weeks for soy/dairy to leave my system and it will pass through Blake’ much more quickly. Dairy will be next. Fingers crossed that she has outgrown it all!**
PPS – The meal plan that Drew Parisi created for The Pilates Body Program has been a lifesaver. Full of yummy dairy & soy free recipes. You can join and receive the 6 week meal plan when I host the next round on March 16th! Sign up HERE.