Trying to understand why your baby is crying is difficult enough but if you find out it might be something to do with what they, or you, are eating adds a whole new level. Today’s guest post is from Cat who discovered her little girl Lara had a cows milk protein intolerance which was aggravated in the early months by the dairy Cat had whilst breastfeeding.
I held my breath as the nurse plunged a needle into Lara’s tiny arm, delivering her first batch of immunisations. As the screaming began I grew aware of the nurse looking at me quizzically.
“You’re handling this very well,” she said. “Most first time mothers can’t stand hearing a pain cry.”
I laughed it off but was flooded with a mix of confusion and relief. I had suspected for some time that everything was not as it should be. This cry was the same cry that I had grown used to hearing every day and night since Lara was born.
What I didn’t know then was that Lara had an intolerance to cow’s milk protein.
The signs were there. Alongside the screaming there was an aura of general unsettledness. Lara was very sicky and the smell of her farts rivalled any grown man’s. She would go for a fortnight without pooing and seemed to have constant stomach pain.
It had always been our long term plan to combi-feed so, when Lara was five weeks old, we decided to give her her first bottle of formula milk. In the morning I awoke to some strange noises. Lara was vomiting blood.
“Probably just caused by the trauma of vomiting,” the GP deduced after a degree of prodding and poking.
He was pleased that she was otherwise gaining weight and sleeping well. He dismissed her other symptoms as a touch of colic which she would grow out of.
At nine weeks post-partum, I signed up to Slimming World. I knew the eating plan could be adapted for breastfeeding mothers; you just got to eat more milk and cheese. Result! but within days Lara’s screaming was even more frequent and her poisonous smelling farts could have been bottled and sold as pest control.
Several people suggested a food intolerance, but apart from a smidge of eczema, there had never been a swelling or rash.
But the idea stuck. After all, hadn’t everything got worse since I increased my dairy intake?
The GP was unsympathetic, adamant that nothing I ate could transfer through my breast milk to affect my daughter. I demanded a second opinion and a second GP was brought in. As I sat there, close to tears, they diagnosed me with post natal depression.
“But I’m not depressed!” I wanted to scream. “My little girl is the one who isn’t happy, I’m just frustrated.” But I just sat there numbly, while they discussed suitable tablets.
“We need to make sure it is safe to take while breastfeeding,” they explained. That was enough to shake me out of my stupor. If the contents of a pill could transfer, why couldn’t the food I ate?
I walked out, without taking their prescription, and booked to see a paediatrician.
Three weeks later, as the paediatrician examined Lara, Nick and I nervously told him everything, aware that this was our last shot at a diagnosis.
He instantly agreed with us.
He explained that cow’s milk protein intolerance (also known as CMPI) was, in his opinion, a very under-diagnosed condition; officially 2-4% of babies are diagnosed, but he believed the figure was closer to 25%. But as most babies grow out of it by the age of 1 or 2 many cases are undiagnosed.
I was told to give up dairy, to see if we could prove an intolerance that way, rather than submitting Lara to blood tests. The daily bottle we were giving was swapped for a CMPI formula milk.
Within days Lara was a different baby. The pain cries stopped, the constipation and poisonous farts stopped and the eczema incredibly cleared up! Never mind that I couldn’t eat any of my favourite foods, she was actually happy!
The hard test came a few weeks later. To truly diagnose the intolerance I needed to eat some dairy and prove a reaction. I have never been as relieved to smell farts and hear screams as I was 24 hours after my swansong camembert.
Now, at 20 months old, Lara is one of the happiest toddlers I know. She still cannot eat uncooked cheese or milk, but can tolerate cooked cheese, yoghurts and chocolate. With a little brother due in the next few months I’m gearing up to come off dairy again as there is a strong likelihood he will have similar reactions.
Since Lara’s diagnosis I’ve met lots of people in similar boats and it has made me realise just how common these allergies are and also how hard many people have to fight to get a diagnosis.
Has anyone else had experiences of intolerances in babies and how did you cope?