As a breastfeeding mom who no longer night feeds, but continues to pump, I have a lot of time to think and reflect on life with an infant with food allergies… at about 2 a.m.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how grateful I am to still be breastfeeding. To be a source of nutrition for my son, Laszlo. Making it to his first birthday was such a relief. I’m so honored to join the 35% of women who make it to the year mark and to be able to do it while working full-time. Now I can almost let myself relax.
Parenting and Allergies
As first-time parents, we’ve also gotten to the point where we’ve spent more time parenting as “allergy parents” than just “parents.” Already, it’s become such an expected part of our lives. It’s almost hard to remember how overwhelming it was initially. Not only was the suspected dairy allergy confirmed, but we added eggs, almonds, peanuts, cats, and dogs to the list.
If I were to assign an overarching theme to my writing, it would be a healthy examination of expectations versus reality. During pregnancy, I often lamented the significant role food had begun to play in my life. So much planning, so time-consuming, so many rules; you get the point. Now, this makes me smirk. Since the initial allergy diagnosis at five months, food seems to play into at least a quarter of the thoughts I have on a daily basis.
I could complain about what I’ve missed out on; how much I miss BernBaum‘s matzo ball soup (immensely, seriously try the soup!) but the sobering facts of our current reality has made it a necessity to focus on the things I can control and to acknowledge the many privileges I still possess.
So without further ado, here are five things I’m thankful for as I navigate allergy life with a young child.
I am constantly humbled by the kindness of others. The generosity of time, support, knowledge, and resources. Allergies are scary and all-consuming, especially as a mom. I am so thankful for Facebook groups; there are so many women willing to share their experiences, help new moms learn the ropes, and share in small victories as they arise. My family has also been amazing. Despite my frequent insistence on not planning around our diet, they’ve kept me fed and given me confidence that my son is safe in their care.
Breastfeeding a Baby with A Food Allergy
Yes, breastmilk is a superfood that I’m thankful to produce but being Laszlo’s source of food has better equipped me to support his allergy journey. As a no-fuss Midwesterner, it’s pretty daunting to talk through allergy ordering with a server. My goal is that my son will never remember a time where I uncomfortably stumbled through it. Reading labels is now habitual and I’m developing more go-to recipes all the time.
I am frequently in awe of how little I need eggs and milk to bake. I’ve discovered so many, easy, recipes that are so good (thank you, Pinterest!). I doubt anyone would be able to tell that there’s anything different about it. I honestly wish I’d have discovered egg and dairy substitutes years ago. It’s so convenient to not have to worry about whether or not I have enough eggs around and most recipes I make don’t have any more ingredients than the original recipe. If you need a little nudge to try vegan baking, these waffles are the perfect place to start!
I am so thankful to be starting this journey when there are so many resources out there! Food allergies in particular still have many spontaneous factors. It’s so helpful to have websites like FARE (Food Allergy Reaction Education) available to know where to start and their webinars are full of more detailed information. With Laszlo directly, his education in keeping himself safe is already underway. As early as possible, he needs to understand how to ask questions and decline unsafe foods. I already have a plan in the works, using constructive play, to help teach him the skills that he will need to keep himself safe.
In general, I try to be low maintenance. I’ve gotten a lot of practice in asking detailed questions and speaking up. This has already grown my confidence as a parent. Whether it’s asking for medical referrals or tough conversations with daycare, I feel confident that I can navigate the situations to best support my child’s needs. And I have realized that sometimes it’s okay to need a little more support and be higher maintenance to do what’s best for your child.
If you’re reading this because you’re just getting started: it really does get easier. I promise you’ll find your groove and confidence will come. Make sure you have at least one set of epinephrine auto-injectors (often Epi-Pen Junior) and know the signs of anaphylaxis.
If you’re just someone wanting to learn more about allergy life or support a friend or family member: ask questions. Reactions do not always manifest in the same way they have in the past. Allergy life is exhausting. Your care to create a safe and inclusive environment is appreciated more than you will ever know.