Welcome to the World Breastfeeding 2013 Blog Carnival cohosted by NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center!
This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.
Over the past year and a half, I posted quite a bit about my breastfeeding journey with Baby George; it was a challenging and rewarding journey for me because it required dietary sacrifices (namely dairy and soy) on my part. Since the time that Georgie has weaned and has begun tolerating these foods well, I have had a few friends who have embarked upon their own dairy-free breastfeeding journeys and have come to me for advice, encouragement, and tips. Since the first week of August is World Breastfeeding Week, it seemed appropriate to me to prepare a post that summarizes our journey, the benefits that George and I both derived from the decision I made, and ways that we can potentially help other moms that are going through similar situations.
From the beginning, my husband and I knew that something just wasn't right with George. Even from his very first night he was incredibly stuffed with mucus, so much so that we worried about him sleeping at night and slid textbooks under one end of his crib mattress to elevate his head. This was accompanied by difficulty sleeping and eventually followed by fussiness and diaper rash. Within just a few short weeks, our Georgie was nearly constantly covered in a hideous-looking rash. We worked closely with the pediatrician on skin-protection regimens and he was administered topical steroids several times; each time the cream would clear him up, but as soon as we stopped administering it that nasty old rash would rear its ugly head again.
When George was two months old, a friend of mine who is a lactation consultant suggested that his problem might be a food allergy. I honestly hadn't even considered this possibility! She suggested that I cut out dairy and continue to nurse George. I began wondering if perhaps her suggestion was plausible, and over the next ten days I watched George's skin closely as I ate different types of foods; I noticed no patterns, but, then again, the rash was consistent and terrible. I began doing internet research on dairy allergies and found that, sure enough, George's profile seemed to be consistent with some frequently-reported symptoms (facial and body rashes, diaper rash, excessive spitting up, and other gastro-intestinal issues). Finally, I woke up one morning when he was about ten weeks old and said, "Enough is enough." I knew that day was the day that I would begin cutting dairy out of my diet to see if it made a difference for him. Little did I know that this was only the beginning...
Like most people that go dairy-free for a period of time, I made a ton of rookie mistakes in that first week! I knew I would be giving up obvious cow-milk foods such as butter, cheese, sour cream, and ice cream. Bye bye pizza. However, I had absolutely no clue that milk is in so many food items! I had naively assumed that if I went to Chick Fil A and ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with no cheese and specifically requested no butter on the bun, I would be in the clear. EEEH! WRONG! To use Chick Fil A as an example, there is milk as an ingredient in the bun itself, the chicken (both the grilled and fried varieties) undergoes a milk wash, and the fries are also NOT dairy-free! Okay then, big mess-up. A closer look at the ingredient labels led me to realize that so many food items, from spaghetti sauces to dinner rolls to many breakfast cereals to Doritos to Toaster Strudels all contain either milk, milkfat, whey, casein, sodium caseinate, lactoglobulins, or other various no-nos. I began spending a couple of hours a day researching the exact limitations of a dairy-free diet, finding restaurants that offered options for me to eat, and brainstorming dairy-free meal ideas for our home. I had the complete support of my husband, who also ate dairy-free meals with me (he was allowed to eat pizza and cheeseburgers at work, as long as he didn't tell me about it!), and I can't tell you how crucial it was for me to have a partner who knew my goals and worked to support my endeavors. Within five days, George's skin was absolutely flawless and his congestion was absent. We knew that we had found our answer. A little tweaking with my ingredient intake led us to the conclusion that George also struggled with soy, so I eliminated soy from my diet as well. *A word on this in a moment!
All in all, I remained on a strict dairy- and soy-free diet with George for nearly eight months. When he was just over ten months old, our pediatrician told me to reintroduce the allergens in a tiny amount to see how George would respond, as many babies begin outgrowing their allergies at around nine months old. Lucky for me, George responded very well to my long-awaited chips and queso! Hooray! Along the journey, there were days when eating no dairy was very easy for me and I hardly had to think twice about it; near the end, however, I feel like I almost became obsessed with thinking about the foods I couldn't have. During those months I found myself missing cheese quite a bit, with pizza being the penultimate dream, followed shortly by one of the newly-introduced Doritos Locos tacos from Taco Bell. I can't help but smile wryly as I think about those cravings and how funny our stubborn taste-buds can be!
When people ask me if the dairy-free diet was worth it, I answer with a resounding YES. Yes, yes, yes, it was worth it! There were so many reasons why I needed to do what I did even though it was hard, and I will always be glad for that decision! Here are some of the top reasons why I have encouraged breastfeeding friends whose babies have potential food allergies to give this sacrifice a try:
1. The obvious first reason is how much better your baby will feel if it really is a dairy allergy, and you successfully remove all traces of the allergen from your diet (and therefore your baby's system). George was happier and seemed better in every way within just a short time, and this sustained my motivation over eight long months.
2. You'll probably lose all of your pregnancy weight...plus some! I couldn't keep the weight on, really and truly. The pounds just seemed to melt off, even though I let myself eat as much as I wanted and whatever I wanted that was dairy- and soy-free. Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate morsels? Yeah, I threw them back by the handful several times a day (they're the only delicious dairy-free chocolate morsel that I ever found, by the way). I ate two whole bags a week! Second and third helpings at dinner? Bring it! Between George's birth and the day I went dairy-free I lost 30 pounds; after I went dairy-free I lost 35 more and ended up 25 pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight. Cutting out all of those dairy-filled processed foods, plus engaging in some low-key jogging, had its benefits!
3. The bonding with my baby was intense. It's probably in part due to some psychological defense mechanism ("I tell myself this is worth it because it's hard"), but my feelings for George intensified many times over during that first year. I felt as though it was him and me against the world, dairy-free buddies taking it by storm! He and I were a team, and a darn good one at that! I loved him all the more for the sacrifices that I made.
4. If your baby cannot tolerate dairy or soy, then choosing to cut the allergens out of your own diet will be far cheaper than relying upon alimentum formula, which typically runs about $30 for a 16-ounce can. Welcome savings!
5. And finally, my fifth motivating factor was ultimately the one factor why many people say it isn't worth the sacrifice in the first place: I just love dairy so much. I love ice cream and cheese and pizza and Mexican food; I love it all so much, in fact, that I can't imagine not eating this food with my children. I knew from my pediatrician that if I gave up my son's allergens and breastfed him rather than put him on alimentum formula, his chances of overcoming this allergy would be better and sooner; I SO wanted this for George. I craved the very idea of eating pizza and ice cream cake with him at his birthday parties and watching his face light up as he eats delicious foods that I love. I craved the idea so much that I gave up the food itself, so that my daydream had a better chance of becoming a reality.
Please learn from my mistakes along the way! I made months' worth of dairy-free recipes, researched milk substitutes (because I love to cook and bake), and learned the in's and out's of what I could eat when I was out on the road. Some restaurants were extremely accommodating to my needs (one kind server even let me scour ingredients on labels back in the kitchen with her!) and others were not (nasty stare from food-prep gentleman as I timidly pointed out the shredded cheese that was strewn all about the salsa I wanted on my burrito at a build-your-own burrito chain). These are some important things I found along the way:
1. Know your dairy ingredient names so you can find them easily on food labels! This website was particularly helpful for me in memorizing these: http://www.thefussybabysite.
2. Find out what you CAN eat from grocery stores and focus on using those ingredients as building blocks. Try to see it in terms of what you are allowed to eat, rather than what you are not. This website helped me with this:http://www.beanmom.com/nomilk.
3. Yes, eating out is going to be hard, but with some education and some creativity, you can do it! For instance, nope, you can't eat the buns at Five Guys Burgers...but you CAN get your delicious hamburger wrapped in lettuce with all of the fixings minus cheese, plus their french fries are dairy-free (most french fries at places aren't)! Here is a guide that we used for choosing restaurants: http://www.godairyfree.org/
4. You can find ways to have your delicious treats!
Here is a separate post with this cookie recipe. In the fall I made a delicious pumpkin pie that was dairy- and soy- free (okay, many times I made this pumpkin pie because I'm a pumpkin pie fiend), and friends and family swore they couldn't tell the difference! The pie is the creation of Alisa Fleming, who ingeniously thought to be substitute Silk coconut milk for the traditionally called-for evaporated milk. After hours of drumming my fingers and running out of options for my favorite dessert of all, Alisa came to the rescue! http://www.godairyfree.org/ask-alisa/ask-alisa-do-you-have-a-good-pumpkin-pie-recipe-that-is-milk-free-and-soy-free
5. Sweets aren't the only foods to get creative with! We tweaked existing recipes and developed a running inventory of dairy- and soy-free meals that we could reliably prepare and love. Take for instance "Mexican Mashup:" cook some brown rice (I cook it in chicken stock instead of water for extra flavor) and smother it with a heated mixture of drained canned black beans and a salsa of your choosing. Then add chunks of avocado and shredded cabbage (I use bagged cole-slaw starter which can be found by the mixed greens in the grocery store) and scarf it up with tortilla chips. All of these foods are perfectly safe! You can create your own meals or you can contact me for more ideas....I have several.
6. Soy-free diet does not mean you have to give up ALL soy! I began crying when I realized that I needed to give up soy and saw that it is basically an ingredient in everything--that is, until I researched it more thoroughly and came to understand that soy lecithin and refined soybean oil are considered safe enough that manufacturers aren't even required to put it on their labels. Best I understood, these two ingredients, which comprise the soy in many foods, are safe to eat by nearly everyone, with the exception of perhaps people who are allergic enough that they could die if they consume soy. This rules back in a ton of foods, including basics like peanut butter.
Visit NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center for more breastfeeding resources and WBW Carnival details!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today's participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:
(This list will be updated by afternoon August 3 with all the carnival links.)
- Breastfeeding and NIP: A Primer — Rachel Rainbolt of Sage Parenting, featured today at NursingFreedom.org, uses her informative and candid voice to share with you everything you need to know to breastfeed successfully in public, from the practical how-to's to handling the social stigma.
- Lactivist Ryan Gosling — Breastfeeding mamas, the time is long overdue for a Lactivist Ryan Gosling. Fortunately, Dionna of Code Name: Mama has created some for your viewing pleasure.
- In Defense of Formula — Amy of Mom2Mom KMC, guest blogging for Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, asserts that formula is a medical tool rather than a food. She examines how this perspective supports breastfeeding as normal and eliminates the negative tensions between breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers.
- World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - Breastfeeding Tips & Tricks — Throughout her breastfeeding journey (since March 2009), Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy has shared countless tips and tricks on the topic of breastfeeding.
- Nursing in the Wild — Meredith at Thank You Ma'am posts about how seeing other moms nurse can make all of us more comfortable with nursing in public.
- Normalizing Breastfeeding — Sara Stepford of The Stepford Sisters confronts the social stigma vs. the reality of breastfeeding and opens up about the steps she takes to make herself and others more comfortable with the process.
- Breastfeeding Alrik at two years old — This is where Lauren at Hobo Mama and her second-born are at in their nursing relationship, two years in.
- Perfectly Normal — Stephanie from Urban Hippie writes about the way she and her family have done their part to try and normalize breastfeeding in a society that doesn't get to see breastfeeding as often as they should.
- Diagnosis: Excess Lipase — Learn about excess lipase and how to test if your expressed milk has it. That Mama Gretchen shares her own experience.
- Redefining Normal — Diana at Munchkin's Mommy reflects on how we can normalize breastfeeding in our society.
- Nursing Openly and Honestly — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work feels that the most socially responsible thing she can do as a mother is to nurse and nurture her children openly, honestly, and with pride.
- Wet-nursing, Cross-nursing and Milk-sharing: Outdated? — Jamie Grumet of I Am Not the Babysitter shares a response to the Wendy Williams quote about milk sharing being akin to slavery, by giving a brief history of the wet nurse.
- Tackling Mastitis with an Older Nursling — Much of the advice available for supporting recovery from mastitis seems to be aimed at mamas with younger nurslings. Juliet of Twisting Vines, posting at Natural Parents Network shares tips for dealing with mastitis while breastfeeding a toddler.
- Milk in the eye — Gena from Nutrition Basics discusses how breastmilk cured her 3 year old's case of pink eye.
- Boobie Biter — Rachel Rainbolt at Sage Parenting offers guidance on how to survive and thrive a boobie biter with your breastfeeding relationship intact.
- My take on breastfeeding advice — Diana at Munchkin's Mommy shares her insights on nursing for both new moms and new dads.
- My Top Five Breastfeeding Tips for Delivery Day: Think "A-B-C-D-E" — Mothernova shares how her continued success at breastfeeding with her second child rests on a foundation of five key things she did to prepare for baby's arrival, along with things she did when she and baby first met. Easily enough, these tips can be categorized as "A-B-C-D-E": Access to lactation consultant, Baby-friendly hospital, Communicate your plan to breastfeed exclusively, Demand, and Expect to room in.
- Breastfeeding Buddies: Twin Brothers Nurse while Living in the NICU — Twintrospectives at How Do You Do It? shares her 5 tips for learning to breastfeed multiples while in the NICU.
- Breastfeeding on a Dairy-Free Diet: Our Journey and Our Tips — Finding herself nursing a baby with food allergies, Jenny at Spinning Jenny embarked upon a dairy-free journey with her son for eight months. Here she relates her reasons for making the decision to give up dairy in her diet, why it was worth it, and tips for moms on the same path.
- Normalizing Breastfeeding in my Home — Shannah at The Touch of Life shares how she plans to help keep breastfeeding normal for her own children, even when her breastfeeding years are over.
- A Year With My Nursling — The more you see and hear, the more normal it becomes, so That Mama Gretchen is sharing her heart on the last year of breastfeeding - the ups and downs, but mostly the joy of her priceless relationship with her son.
- From Covered to Confident — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births shares her personal NIP evolution: she started by covering up from neck to ankle while nursing in public. Eight years later, she has gained confidence and the ability to nurse without stressing about flashing a little skin. She shares her views on normalizing breastfeeding - what influenced her and how she hopes to help others.
- Normalizing Breastfeeding for Older Kids — Sadia at How Do You Do It? hopes that openly discussing breastfeeding with her (now weaned) daughters will help her children feel comfortable with breastfeeding and their bodies in general as they grow.
- Nursing in Public — Listen up, mammas. Those other people around . . . they don’t matter. It’s not about them. It’s about you and that beautiful baby. Nurse on, says The Swaddled Sprout!
- How to Nurse a Teenager — Sarah at The Touch of Life declares: the purpose is to help normalize breastfeeding a toddler.