When Your Baby Has a Food Allergy: 4 Ways to Cope
My son was an awful baby. I know saying that makes me sound like the awful one, but if I am being completely honest, when I look back at his infanthood, awful is the only way to describe it. There was crying—lots of crying. Rashes and belly aches and sleepless nights. When we finally discovered why, I’m not sure if I was happier to finally know what we were dealing with, or more panicked about how to deal with it. The verdict was food allergies to milk, eggs, and – of all things – bananas and pears!
Some days I felt like my whole day was consumed with thinking about, preparing, or eating food.
It felt very heavy. That might seem silly, but think of all the things you eat on a daily basis, and then subtract anything with one of those ingredients. Oh, and I forgot to mention—this was before my son was eating solids. I was nursing, so that meant it was affecting not only his, but also my diet. Now there is a lot of debate over whether a food allergy can be passed through a mother’s breastmilk, but I will tell you it made a HUGE difference for my little boy.
Maybe it was out of desperation, but I adapted. There were a few things I found that made my life a little easier, and they eventually helped me find that motherhood groove for me and my sweet boy. So if you’re just discovering a food allergy in your child, I’m sorry. It stinks, but it gets easier. Here are a few things you can try.
Parental support groups
The Kids With Food Allergies Foundation Community is an online resource for parents who have children with food allergies. There you can find resources to help you with recipes and information, plus you can also find a community that will support you and answer the questions that will inevitably arise. I found that speaking to other parents who were dealing with similar allergy situations and getting their tips about what worked and what didn't work for them was the most helpful thing for me. I felt like I had experts to go to when I needed it, and people who wouldn't judge me for feeding my kid the same thing for breakfast every single day because it was all he would eat! There’s no resource quite as valuable as other mothers who've been there!
Some days, I felt like my whole day was consumed with thinking about, preparing, or eating food. With so many allergies, my options for myself and my son were quite limited, but I wasn't going to take milk and eggs out of my 4-year-old's diet, so planning ahead and calendaring-out meal options was essential to having a smooth day. I found it also helped us waste less food. I don’t know if you've noticed, but almond milk, rice replacement-cheese shreds, and other allergy-free replacement products are expensive! The last thing I could afford to do was let it go bad, so planning meals with those perishable ingredients in mind helped me justify their expense.
Ask your supermarket to carry new products
Your grocery store will carry what there is a demand for. My son began having issues maintaining his weight without dairy fat in his diet. The doctor suggested we try coconut milk as a replacement because it’s a bit fattier. My son loved it, but my grocery store would often be out of it. When I let them know they could count on me to buy at least a gallon a week, they ordered more to accommodate me. They also began ordering Earth Balance brand butter (dairy-free) for me, which they hadn't carried before. So find out the products that will help make your life easier, and then don’t be afraid to ask for them! Most purchasers are happy to make a change if they know it’s going to be purchased. (On your first trip to the grocery store to shop for new food to fit your new guidelines for food allergies, give yourself PLENTY of time, so that you can read labels, ask questions, and become familiar with your new routine!)
Breathe. It’s hard. There is no guarantee that your child is going to eat what you’ve made (even if it costs $6.50 for 4 oz. of rice cheese). There are bound to be frustrating days. There will even be issues with weight gain, reactions, inconsistencies … Breathe. Take a deep breath and try again. There is a learning curve, but you will find a groove. Ask for help and realize that it'll be OK if you have a bad day. Tomorrow will be better.
Luckily, many children outgrow their food allergies. My son is now 3 1/2 and is clear of all of his allergies. So, while I may look at his infanthood as awful, it didn’t continue that way. Once we got a handle on his health and allergies, things began looking up quickly. I love the little man that he is becoming and would definitely consider him a childhood food allergy success story!
Do your children have food allergies? How do you deal with meal planning? Have you found any supermarkets that have awesome food substitution selections?