Jaleen Vickerson is a fellow Brand Ambassador for Wrapsody. I have offered her a guest post on my blog to discuss her parenting struggles to a baby with allergies and eczema. I haven’t posted about it yet, but over the past 6 months I have been struggling with suspected allergies with Jack. It is nice to hear from another mom going through it as well.
My youngest son, Carlos, has been an alert and active baby since day one. But over time, his sunny disposition started changing for the worse. At 2 weeks old, I noticed his cheeks were becoming mottled and red. At week 6, I realized that, instead of clearing up, his skin irritation was only becoming more serious, and—worst of all—it was affecting his mood.
He was screaming more than cooing. He was frowning more than smiling. My friends would joke with me that he looked like the famous painting “The Scream.” This was not the easy, contented little dude I had met in the delivery room!
We knew that dairy was part of the issue, but even after cutting all lactose out of my diet, his skin problems persisted. At 6 months of age, he was finally old enough to be tested for more than one allergen at a time.
I was surprised to learn that, not only did he react to milk, he is also allergic to:
The strangest discovery was that chicken and beef were irritants to his system; I had never heard of anyone having an allergy to either of these foods!
As we all know, parenting is not one-size-fits-all. For myself and my child, I believe strongly in the developmental benefits to be gained from breastfeeding. As a personal choice, I had already decided that I want to continue to breastfeed until my son detaches on his own.
With this in mind, Carlos’ dietary limitations have become mine.
The diet Carlos and I are now restricted to be largely a vegan one. Being Puerto Rican, veganism and vegetarianism are not practices I am used to in my life (until now, there have been no “Meatless Mondays” in my home, for example). The one big exception is that I still can eat fish and shellfish, as he is not allergic to them (little wins!).
During our visit, his allergist went on and on about how important is to moisturize his skin to help fight his eczema—but that, until I change my diet, we won’t see any significant progress with his skin. His allergies are so serious, I was told, that he will need to have an EpiPen on him at all times by the time he turns 1.
While trying to take in the flood of information from his doctor, reality sets in.
For the first time since his birth, I consider ending my breastfeeding journey. And yet, as the doctor is giving me all of these instructions, Carlos is latched on to me, just feeding and feeding and feeding. I take a step back, and realize that going the route of formula feeding is not right for us.
Though it was a lot to take in, my feeling is—this needs to change for my son’s sake, and it needs to change now. I don’t have time to be emotional about it. So I do what I do best: make a list!
A list is something I can work with. It’s factual, I can follow it step by step, and if I forget (because I will!) I can always check my iPhone, where I keep my amazing lists (phew!). Without an organized plan of attack, I know I will get overwhelmed and emotional. I think to myself, I can focus on this list and it will help me deal.
So. The first step I take on is to review my entire food intake. Since we were already dairy-free at this point, I try to pick out the other irritants to Carlos that I have unknowingly been exposing him to. Looking through my food diary, I realize that nearly every time I sat down to a meal, I was taking in something that was basically poisoning my child. I feel responsible. I become hard on myself. This is not an easy thing to wrap my head around.
If I think about the next few years it seems like too much to handle. I feel like my normal lifestyle is about to be turned upside down, but I also know that being a good parent is about doing what is best for your kids, not what is convenient for you.
On the way home from the doctor, I stop and get some fish and some salad ingredients, and we start with just that: simple. One meal at a time. One step at a time.
Until…the next list!