I don’t believe in food allergies. Not most anyway. They are overblown, over diagnosed, the result of hypersensitivity and an overabundance of caution. A few kids have a reaction to peanuts and now no one is supposed to give kids peanuts until age two. And don’t get me started on what an unnecessarily bad rap gluten is getting now a days.
My husband and I weren’t going to give in to the hysteria. We weren’t going to create food allergies in our child. I ate peanut butter like it was a (delicious) vaccine during my pregnancy. Neither of us has food allergies, so if we just eat normally and don’t worry about it our baby won’t have allergies either. Right?
Fast forward to two months after our daughter was born. She’s had blood in her stool for over a month and just like that we got our first glimpse into what people mean when they say having a kid changes your perspective. The pediatric gastroenterologist diagnosed her with dairy, soy, and egg allergies and suddenly I’m a believer. Allergies are real. Blood in an infant’s diaper is as real as it gets. But “Don’t worry” says the GI doctor, “she will likely grow out of it by the time she’s one. You just have to eliminate the allergens from your diet while you are breastfeeding.” No cheese for a year?Could I just give up booze again instead? “And there’s always hypoallergenic formula if you aren’t able to breastfeed.”
Until about two weeks ago, I secretly half hoped I would have to stop breastfeeding. That some outside force would make me have to stop because of no fault of my own. A guilt free get out of booby jail free card. Like practically everyone, I found breastfeeding hard and unpleasant for the first month or so. We had a less than ideal birth that negatively affected my milk supply and our daughter’s ability to nurse efficiently early on which forced me to be on the “power pumping” program until I just couldn’t take it anymore. I decided we would have to sink or swim and just start breastfeeding normally without pumping and bottle feeding every time. Since quitting the hour and a half long triple feeding ritual that occurred every three hours like clockwork, I finally understand why mothers say they actually enjoy breastfeeding. The convenience! The bonding! The comfort that instantly quiets a screaming baby! So I finally got my guilt free escape from breastfeeding just as we are finally settling in and getting the hang of it.
So I’m confronted with a difficult choice. The first of millions in our new lives as parents. Do I give up and give the baby formula after we worked so hard to be able to breastfeed or do I give up cheese for a year? A whole year… I was finally beginning to enjoy the unrestricted diet of a non-pregnant adult again. Deli meats. Unpasteurized cheeses. Alcohol. Now I’m facing down the barrel of a much more restrictive diet. Dairy, soy, and egg are in virtually everything and if a food does not directly contain one of those ingredients it most certainly was processed at a facility that handles the allergens.
I love to cook. It’s my creative outlet. But this diet will require me to prepare virtually every meal at home for the next year. With an infant that does not like to be set down for more than 10 minutes at a time, the prospect of that amount of cooking is daunting even for someone who enjoys cooking. But breast is best. And we just got to the sweet spot!
So I will pass on my get out of booby jail free card. For now. I will do my best. I will re-think and re-invent my go-to recipes. I will get creative. I will ditch my dairy cooking crutch. Find new flavors and new ways to make dishes exciting and satisfying. And I will blog about it. Because I have a suspicion that there are other moms out there that can relate.