Feature Mom: Meet Nicole

Hi!  My name is Nicole.  I’ve been invited to share about our journey down the road of allergies, intolerances, and our extremely fussy little baby.  My husband Brad and I had our first son, Tucker, almost 3 years ago.  He was what I like to call “easy breezy” and his easy-breeziness did not prepare us for what our daughter would bring into our lives.  Our sweet Hadley was born this past January.  For the first few weeks of her life, she was sweet, snuggly, and the source of our sleepless nights.  Around 3 weeks, it was as if a switch was turned on and her chronic crying began.  It would start at 8:30 pm (usually right on the nose) and it wouldn’t stop until at least 10:30…but sometimes lasted until 2 am.   She wasn’t hungry, she didn’t have a dirty diaper… she just screamed.  Laying her down didn’t help, the swing didn’t help, and holding her only helped for a few minutes at a time.  We would take 30 minute intervals each, counting down the minutes each night until she would surrender and go to sleep.

A few weeks of this happening consistently led us to believe she had colic.  She had the 3’s they talk about—starting at 3 weeks, lasting for 3 hours each day, over a period of 3 months.  She also was struggling to poop, sometimes going days without one; and when she did poop, it was often green.  Her cradle cap was out of control—looking like the first signs of eczema.  When she was 6 weeks old, I was reaching my breaking point and headed to the Dr.  She recommended that I eliminate dairy from my diet.  At the time that seemed completely overwhelming (now, it seems like a dream) but eliminate I did.  The next 2 weeks not only didn’t get better, they actually got worse.  She was not only crying for her regular 3 hours at night but during the day as well…sometimes starting at 2 pm and keeping it up until 2 am.  Discouraging.

At this point, my doctor recommended that I eliminate 4 of the major allergens from my diet-if I was committed to continuing breastfeeding.  DAIRY, SOY, CORN, and GLUTEN.  What would I eat, you ask?  I asked the same thing…and for the first week, I was H.U.N.G.R.Y.  But, a few of my friends came to the rescue—friends that had been down the road of food allergies and crazy diets before me.  I quickly learned tips such as Oreos don’t have diary in them, and almost all Brianna’s dressings don’t have the main allergens in them, and the most important one–there is a coffee creamer I can use – YAY for So Delicious hazelnut creamer!

General Elimination Process that I follwed:

  • Cut out allergens completely-no cheating.
  • After 4 weeks, start adding back in one allergen at a time, for a week at a time.
  • If you notice fussiness/weird poops/more gas, stop eating that allergen and wait another week or so to add something new into your diet.

To our amazement, after those 4 weeks of elimination, Hadley’s fussiness subsided significantly.  Until 12 weeks she still had her rough time every night at 8:30 but she appeared to be content throughout the rest of the day.  After 12 weeks when she started sleeping through the 8:30 time, we were absolutely convinced that the diet was working.  It was like someone replaced our fussy baby with a happy, content one.  The diet was challenging but doable…even with my husband and 2 year old son.  We didn’t have to adjust much at dinner time (meat, veggie side, and some version of rice or potatoes) and throughout the day, they were able to eat allergens even thought I wasn’t.

The “adding back in” process for me was a long one.  Each allergen I added back in backfired on me, plunging Hadley back into that familiar fussy pattern.  The green poops returned as well as the gas…and she would have a hard time getting comfortable to sleep.  After trying dairy and soy with no luck, I decided to continue to eliminate everything for awhile longer and allow Hadley to grow and hopefully grow out of whatever was going on.

At Hadley’s 6 month appt we decided to do bloodwork to test for allergies and food intolerances.  At this point, we had it down…she was happy, the diet had gotten manageable, and I was prepared to stick it out for the next several months.  But, I was craving the piece of mind a test result would give and my doctor recommended we see what we could find out.  The craziest thing happened – all bloodwork was completely NORMAL.  Not only was she not allergic to anything (I expected this), she was not intolerant to anything!  The doctor did say that intolerances wouldn’t show up if the things she was intolerant to were out of her system for awhile—which they were.  So, this was relieving and a little maddening, all at the same time.  I didn’t want anything to be wrong but I also wanted some answers to this long road we had been on and these tests weren’t providing that.

At this point, it was up to me to decide when I wanted to add things back into my diet.  Although that process seemed daunting, it was very relieving to know that I couldn’t “hurt” her since she wasn’t allergic to anything.  At 7 months, I started adding the allergens back in, one at a time, a week at a time, in very small doses.  Hadley will be 8 months in a few days and I’m in the process of adding the final allergen, dairy, back in as I write this.  All of them seem to bode well with her so far … but all of this food is rockin’ our stomachs in the process!  🙂

My conclusion is that Hadley’s stomach was sensitive and possibly a little too underdeveloped to handle some of these foods—that are in everything we eat—that our bodies don’t digest well.  I am convinced this was the case because she was a difference baby once the food was out of her system.  Was the process hard?  Absolutely.  Was it one of the biggest sacrifices I’ve ever made?  Sure.  Was it worth it?  Of, course!  If you’ve ever had a baby that just won’t stop crying, you will do anything to make it stop…even if that means giving up butter and all things carbs.  Since the 6 month mark, Hadley has consistently been such a happy, easy baby!  It is so strange to say those words, since the first several months were HARD, but we finally arrived in content baby land and it feels so good!  🙂

If you are reading this and are in the midst of your own journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or post comments on this blog so that someone can encourage you.  What a great idea my friend Jessica had to create this blog—a place for moms to come and not feel alone!

What I’ve learned:

  • Food is powerful and the abundance or lack of it in our bodies can change our entire demeanor.
  • Although having a limited diet is challenging, it is POSSIBLE.  There are more options than ever – blogs of moms who’ve been there, Health Food stores in most cities, and lots of other online resources.
  • It really does get better.  It is hard to imagine that when you’re in the middle of the sleepless-night-screaming-day-and-verge-of-tears-stage, but it really does come to an end.

A few of my favorite foods on the allergen free diet:

My “go to’s” at restaurants were salads (request oil and vinegar to use as your dressing), burgers (it is more unlikely that butter is added to a burger as opposed to chicken, seafood, or red meat), fries…NO guilt over fries on this diet 🙂

A favorite recipe of our family’s during this time was given to me by my friend Reagan, who was actually the “Feature Mom” last month!  This is a great, easy one-pot meal that my family actually still requests on a normal basis!

A {dairy, corn, peanut, egg, soy, gluten-free} not-so-dirty Dirty Rice:

1 lb. lean ground beef {there’s no draining}

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 T. chopped fresh parsley

1 green pepper, chopped {Here is a short cut…buy the celery, onion, parsley and pepper frozen combo in the grocery store OR I freeze extras when I chop them for other recipes}

– Cook in a large skillet over medium-high, stirring until beef crumbles and is no longer pink.

1 tsp. salt

pinch of red pepper

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1 T. Worcestershire sauce (original Lea and Perrins is allergen free)

– Stir in seasonings, stirring well.

1 c. uncooked rice

1 can beef broth

3/4 c. water

-Add rice, broth, and water, stirring well. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25-30 minutes until rice is tender.

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One response

  1. Your story is encouraging! I also didn’t have any problems with my son,Ezra, who is now 3, but wow when his sister, Esty (13mos), came along it was a rude awakening.
    I laughed out loud when you mentioned that Hadley’s crying started around 8:30! Same for us! I remember coming down around 11pm many nights, teary-eyed and exhausted asking my husband to take his turn!
    It wasn’t until she was 2 months that I went off dairy. Then at 4 months, I eliminated wheat, eggs and tree nuts from my diet. The next day she was a different girl and has been since!
    I tried introducing the foods back into our diets but was unsuccessful. I just weaned her a few weeks ago and can eat ANYTHING – such fun!!! Esty remains on a dairy, egg, and wheat free diet, but I pray that she grows out of it like most others.
    Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait to dive into the site’s recipes!
    Sarah

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