When I think of children and allergies I think puffy faces, difficulty breathing, severe rashes and Epi-pens. My family’s experience of food allergies has been a very very different one to that. I want to share with you our story.
My daughter was born at 40 weeks and 5 days in a pretty amazing but intense birth. We were lucky enough to not need any intervention during the delivery and after a bumpy start, we were able to start our breastfeeding journey. She was a happy little feeder but things took a turn for the worse when at 10 weeks of age, I was diagnosed with a massive breast abscess. It measured 7cm x 8xm x 4xm and required immediate hospital admission and needle drainage. Disgustingly and amazingly they removed a total of 125ml of pus from my left breast over 3 separate aspirations. During this time I was on a long and heavy dose of antibiotics.
It wasn’t until I started to feel well again, that I realised just how sick I was. My happy little feeder wasn’t bothered as I had been breastfeeding her pretty much non stop for the past month as I just didn’t have the energy to do anything else! She was fat and happy!
Fast forward to when Possum (my daughter) is around 6 months of age. I was standing in the kitchen, Possum on my hip, munching on some strawberries. Possum reached out, grabbed the strawberry from my hand and ate it! And so began our Baby Led Weaning journey.
I had read lots of info regarding babies and allergies as Legoman (hubby) and both our families have multiple allergies and figured our children would most likely have at least one allergy too. The info I had read and in discussion with our GP, supported the idea of early introduction of foods likely to cause allergies. So we basically didn’t limit what “type” of food she was offered but rather just made sure it was a suitable size, shape and texture for her.
One of her first foods was egg yolk. I had read of its wonderful nutrition for bubs and it was a lovely soft texture and easy to hold onto. I would fry up an egg and peel away the white to offer the yolk. One day, when Possum was about 7 months old, I offered her an egg yolk as I had done multiple times before, only to have her sit far back in her high chair as if she was trying to move away from it. I was a bit confused and just sat with her for a little while. After a couple of minutes she gobbled up the whole thing very happily! I thought nothing more of it and soon after put her down for a nap. She went to sleep well, and an hour later I heard funny sounds coming from her cot. I walked in to find her covered in vomit and looking distressed. I immediately picked her up only to have her vomit down my back. She sounded really snotty but was breathing well. But not crying at all. I tried breastfeeding her, only to have her vomit all the milk straight back up as well. I was starting to panic. My daughter was not a vomity kind of baby. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Possum then kept vomiting another 4 or so times, fluid pouring out of her. I called Legoman, packed the car and drove her to the local hospital. But by the time we got there, she was her happy normal self again. Utterly confused, the three of us went to a local park to have a bit of quiet time and fresh air.
After discussing it with Legoman, we both just put it down to a bad egg and didn’t think too much more of it. Just to be safe, we didn’t offer her any more egg for another a week or so, and when we did there was absolutely no reaction.
Other things were starting to happen though. Possum went from waking once in the night, to twice, to three times, four then five. She was very clingy and easily upset. Her weight seemed to level out. My once butterball of a baby was starting to look lanky. When I took her to the doctor she had dropped from the 50th centile on the growth charts to the 15th. For a baby feeding as much as she was, something wasn’t right. We had a couple more episodes of vomiting in her sleep, which weren’t associated with egg or any other consistent foods. She also then developed a horrendous nappy rash, which had large raised pock marks. A doctors visit and a couple of swabs later, nothing was identified as a cause. It wasn’t until a girlfriend said “That’s what happens to my girls when they eat something they are allergic to” that a penny dropped.
Possum had food allergies. But what the hell were they??
Ambitiously I took it upon myself to put Possum and myself on the RPA elimination diet, which looks at reducing intake of natural food chemical ie amines, salicylates and glutamates. This diet was also gluten and dairy free, but included egg.
Dinner on Day 1 was a simple egg and white rice pie. All it was, was egg, rice and chives. I don’t know if it was because she was starving but Possum gobbled up a lot of the pie for dinner. When I undressed her for her evening bath, her entire trunk and back was covered in a very fine rash. I posted a photo to social media and the consensus was an allergic reaction. So no more egg, not until we saw a specialist.
I abandoned the elimination diet after a week as it was unbearably hard and I found myself hungry and angry most of the time. It was also the week of Possum’s first birthday.
So off to the GP for a referral to an allergy clinic.
Possum had a blood test, perfectly normal.
Then we attended a large teaching hospital for Possum to receive skin prick testing for over 30 different allergens. This is when we got our answer!
Possum has allergies to egg yolk, sesame, fish, hazelnut and pecan.
All foods which she and I had been eating regularly.
Immediately both Possum and I took all these things out of our diets. Her sleep improved. Her mood improved and she started to grow. And grow a lot! 4cm in one month!
I felt a huge amount of relief to finally know what was causing my daughter’s body so much distress. I felt frustrated and sad that these foods were no longer going to be part of our family’s diet. I felt hopeful that one day she would outgrow some of them.
She is due for her egg challenge now at nearly 2 years of age. It has been booked twice only to be cancelled at the last minute by the hospital due to no beds. So we keep on waiting to hear what may happen.
Possum has been amazingly calm and accepting of her dietary limitations. No tantrums and no fuss. I think it helps that she and I have the same rules for each other (as a breastfeeding mum I don’t eat her allergens as they can be passed on to her through my breastmilk). It can make birthday parties, going out to eat and general play dates hard. We always pack plenty of our own food incase there isn’t something suitable and meal planning has eased alot of stress. We have learnt to read ingredients on EVERYTHING, as quite often allergens are snuck into foods unsuspectingly.
I am grateful Possum’s allergies are not anaphylactic. But the chronic stress her body was experiencing was a horrible thing to witness.
I hope our story has given a different perspective on what having a child with food allergies can be like. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a message below.
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