Last week pushed me to the mama limits and I grew even stronger because of it. We found out Ollie has a bunch of food allergies and other non-food allergies. This was a huge blow to me because I eat almost everything he’s allergic to. All of the hundreds of ounces of milk I’ve pumped and frozen for him will need to be donated. There is no way to test every bag of frozen milk to see what allergen is in them (did I eat XYZ that day?), so all of the milk has to go to a new baby.
That’s not all.
My allergist handed me prescription formula and said, “This is what Ollie will need to eat from now on.”
WAIT A SECOND. I’ve been nursing this child since day one and now I have to stop?! I thought to myself. Instead, I nodded my head and said, “Okay.”
The first thing I did when he handed me the can of formula was flip it over to read the ingredients…the first of which was corn syrup solids.
No way was that going to be his main source of nutrition if I could avoid it. (I’m not shaming the moms who use this, I think formula is a great option when breastfeeding is not an option–this was just not what I imagined for our family). In the matter of two minutes, I had been told to donate or discard all of my frozen milk, stop breastfeeding him because I eat all the foods Ollie is allergic to, and give him a formula with the first ingredient being corn syrup solids.
I wish this post was black and white, but it’s so very not. I have to admit, when the doctor said it was time to put Ollie on formula, I was heartbroken and relieved. It was definitely was not the ceremonial wrap-party I imagined for myself when Ollie concluded his nursing. (I imagine myself on a beach in the Bahamas all day or wearing a fabulous high neck dress without buttons down the chest.) But, putting Ollie on formula meant I could be “free”er.
After sharing the one image of Ollie’s pricked back on my IG story the other day, there’s so many things I want to share with you all. So many answers I have to your questions. I hope by including our journey semi-publicly (I am not disclosing his allergies for now), and sharing a glimpse into the lifestyle and decisions I have made for our family might be the wind in your sails during your challenging time–especially if your baby has allergies.
After the allergist’s appointment, I did buy formula. Not the prescription kind, but an organic one from Germany with cow’s milk as the first ingredient (Ollie is not allergic to dairy). I followed up by texting my lactation consultant, “Emergency. Had an appointment with Ollie’s allergist and our plan needs to change. Can you talk asap?” Then, I texted my girlfriend who has her son on formula with all the questions. She was so sweet and helpful. I guess this was the end of out nursing journey. So not the Bahamas! I even asked my Mom to snap a photo of me nursing Ollie since it was one of our last times and I wanted to remember it. Nursing has been the biggest commitment of my life, ever, and the most rewarding journey, despite the incredible challenges.
I texted another girlfriend of mine and world-renown Registered Dietician, Deanna Conte Busteed, who I worked closely with when we were trying to get pregnant. I told her about my situation and asked her to help me research the best formula for Ollie. Deanna did something brave that I hope I can do for you. She supported me on the journey I envisioned for our family.
Deanna said she’d help me find a pediatric nutritionist that could help me find a top-notch formula. She also said she would/could help me meal plan and eliminate all of the allergens from my diet so Ollie could keep nursing. Gosh, she was the wind in my sails in a time when I felt absolutely deflated, “You’re in the home stretch! You only have three or four more months left (of nursing). Do you think you can eliminate the foods from your diet?”
Her bravery and question took me by surprise. Ollie is so allergic to so many things. How would I possibly eliminate them all? I was so focused on what we couldn’t have that I couldn’t wrap my head around what we could have. This was an opportunity to rise to a challenge. And if you know me, you know I love a challenge.
I love to cook with fresh produce. Making creative meals is a fun, theraputic exercise for me. So I thought to myself, “I’m going to eliminate all of his allergens from my diet. If that’s not sustainable for me, I’ll switch him over to formula. But at least I can say I tried.” And maybe the Bahamas and a high neck dress or top without buttons was still in the picture after all. 🙂
Over the course of one weekend, I have made a significant amount of changes to our lifestyle. There are no more allergens in our house. My cooking game is going to level up–and already has. (I made an incredible hummus dip without Tahini! I’ll share the recipe on a seperate blog post). I’m embracing the last leg of this marathon and leaning in to the challenge because I believe we can do it. Might it be easier to switch him over to formula? Probably. Would that make me feel relieved to wean Ollie prematurely? Probably. But can I finish this marathon that I’ve set out on? Absolutely. I can do this.
I really wanted to share this message with you all because so many of you wrote me saying you were also dealing with baby allergies. I want you to share how we’re navigating this incredible challenge. If you envision nursing your child until he is weaned, you can do it, though it involves significant sacrifice and commitment. You can also switch to formula if it feels right in your mama gut. There is no right decision. Just what feels right to you.
The most important message I want to leave you with is that I want to be the wind in your sails. If you’re in a time of your life when you’re feeling deflated, defeated, and like you must reach for a “magic pill” because the commitment and sacrifice feels too great, know that I believe in you. I believe you can do it. And deep down, I know you do, too.
Seek out experts’ second opinions. Find a support system that can be the wind in your sails. Have back up plans. Be forgiving to yourself. Allow yourself to try something new if you think it might help. Forget the judgement from the outside world. This is your life and you’re the only one who knows you (and your baby) best. Face the challenge. Rise to meet it. And know that most sacrifices come with great rewards.
I know you can do it.
Lots of love.