What it is and how to survive it
I am officially 7 months into breastfeeding. I never thought I’d be here. My original goal was to reach 6 months after a significantly challenging—okay hellish—start to breastfeeding. After a few months it got better, and eventually became a breeze. One of the biggest hurdles was something I’d never even heard of before.
A few months into life, my little guy started getting greener and greener poops. They were pretty bright…and loose. Soon I started seeing blood flecks in his diaper. Naturally, I totally freaked out. I went to the doctor and she said it was likely a protein intolerance. What, food allergies at 2 months old?!
Nope. Protein intolerance isn’t a true food allergy. It can occur in infants because their tiny, immature little digestive systems can’t handle complex proteins found in certain foods. Most often, the culprits are soy and dairy, but sometimes, egg, nuts, and wheat can also be the cause. After about a month and multiple more visits to the doctor (and several more blood-flecked poop diapers) we eventually decided to do a full elimination diet, which meant I would stop eating dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, and nuts. What the hell was there left to eat?
It takes about three weeks for things to work out of a mom’s system, and then about 3 weeks after that to flush out of the baby’s system. Needless to say, the breastfeeding elimination diet is a LONG process. I hoped by the end of it I would at least be able to lose the rest of this baby weight.
So what could I actually eat? Well, I had to eat healthy and naturally. I could eat lean meats, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and grains like rice and quinoa. Very healthy, very natural, very boring. Although I had eaten similarly before to lose weight, this time it felt very different, probably because I was being forced into it. I also couldn’t have any cheats, like chocolate or pizza. Sad face crying emoji.
It turns out that I really learned a lot about my eating habits. I ate way more cheese on a weekly basis than I thought. I also ate a lot of wheat-based products, and these processed foods aren’t really all that healthy. The less I ate of all of these products, the better I felt. It was like all my organ systems got a reboot and were finally functioning normally. I have also forgot to mention to you that my baby had pretty decent colic episodes every evening, so I had already cut out gas-inducing foods like beans, broccoli, peppers, tomato sauce, onions, and garlic. Making flavorful food was a challenge! Needless to say, we were eating pretty bland. My saint of a husband ate [almost] everything I ate.
I also learned how much dairy, wheat, and soy were in processed food products. There is an unreal amount of soy and soy protein (soy lecithin) added to food products. I actually found it very scary. I didn’t realize how much garbage was added to our foods. It was definitely a wake-up call.
I was willing to do anything to keep my little guy fed and healthy, and although some people suggested that now might be a good time to quit breastfeeding—and that I had given it a good run—I just couldn’t do it. I had worked so. hard. to breastfeed and I just knew in my heart I couldn’t quit now.
And so I spent the next few months making alternative foods, finding alternative products, slipping up and finding blood flecks return to my baby’s poop. The hardest part was eating at restaurants, which often use soy oil or a soy-blend oil (commonly just called “vegetable oil”), and waitstaff who weren’t thorough, or just didn’t care enough, to ensure that my meals were prepared accordingly. It was a lot easier to eat at home, but it also made it very isolating.
Eventually, I learned what restaurants I could eat at and what food I could eat there, which ones used canola oil only to cook, and how to get creative with the menu so that I could have a full meal that kept both me and my son happy.
I also found a vast array of alternative, albeit more expensive, food products I could cook with. I found rice flour blends, pancake and waffle mix, rice flour noodles, and even chocolate and ice cream made with coconut milk. The company Enjoy Life was a real life saver; they make a ton of products (including cookies and snack bars!) that I could eat. Daiya makes macaroni and cheese and pizza, although how they create the cheese still baffles me. I don’t really care, though. It helps me feel a little more normal to have pizza on Friday nights, and jazzing it up with spices and Italian sausage can make just about anything taste better. Luna and Larry’s coconut milk ice cream, particularly the Chocolate and Peanut Butter flavor, is to die for.
This kind of diet isn’t for the faint of heart, and isn’t for everyone. For some mamas, it may be easier and less stressful for both mom and baby to just make the switch to formula. For me, I am happy with my decision to eliminate things—and some happiness—from my diet. It’s just food right? Eh….
I have tried over the months to reintegrate these food groups into my diet. Every reintroduction I’ve tried has failed horribly. The blood flecks always come back. Even now that my baby eats Gerber Oatmeal cereal that has wheat in it with no problem, I can’t eat wheat. Maybe it is the way my body breaks down the proteins and delivers them through the breastmilk.
Oh well. Once Baby T is off the boob for good, I guess I’ll just have to have a whole cheese pizza and pint of Ben and Jerry’s by myself. What a sad celebration that will be, right? Winky smiling emoji.