Let me preface this post and say that this is not intended to be a debate on breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. I support BOTH breastfeeding and formula feeding moms. I have been fortunate enough to have breastfed both of my children; however, there came a point in our journey that I felt it was necessary to stop breastfeeding and switch my daughter over to formula. I am sharing our story about life with a child with food allergies. My hope is that it will give others comfort in knowing that they are not alone in this sometimes very difficult journey. Below is the continuation of our food allergy story.
Last week I shared more about London’s milk protein allergy diagnosis, and today I wanted to share more about our journey of choosing a hypoallergenic formula for her. Since I was exclusively breastfeeding London at the time of her diagnosis, I immediately went on a dairy-free diet. As I mentioned in my last post, I was having some milk supply issues, and my reasoning for giving her the formula was in the event that I would have to start supplementing. I am no stranger to supplementing, as I had to do the same thing with my oldest as well. To be totally honest, I believe that the stress of London’s first few months of life played a huge role in my milk supply issues.
If you have gone through a dairy-elimination diet, then you know that it can take up to 2 weeks for dairy to be completely removed from your system, and an additional 2 weeks to be completely removed from baby’s system. We waited patiently for her symptoms to improve. After the initial hive reaction went away, London developed a widespread rash all over her body. This rash was in addition to all of her GI symptoms and colic-like behavior she had been suffering from since birth. As the weeks went on, London still wasn’t improving, so we headed off to the pediatrician yet again. I’ll skip all of the mundane details, but after A LOT of thought and many conversations with London’s pediatrician, I made the very difficult decision to stop breastfeeding and switch her over exclusively to formula.
Little did we know that finding a formula that London’s little system could handle would prove to be an even greater challenge.
We first began with a trial of soy formula. I was not very keen on the idea of soy formula due to the high amounts of estrogen, but our pediatrician recommended we at least give it a try. The trial was short lived. After her very 1st bottle of soy, she broke out in hives. Turns out she also had a soy allergy, which is likely the reason London did not improve after I removed all dairy from my diet. In case you aren’t aware, soy is in almost everything. So, we were back to the drawing board.
Our second formula that we tried was Similiac’s Alimentum, an extensively-hydrolyzed hypoallergenic formula for babies with a protein sensitivity. Most experts say that approximately 90% of babies with a cow’s milk protein allergy can safely tolerate this type of formula. Unfortunately, that was not the case for London. While London didn’t immediately break out in hives from it, she absolutely could NOT drink it. Every feeding was a nightmare just to get the liquid into her. She would constantly spit it out, and what she did take in caused horrible gas and tummy cramps. After trying our best to stick with it for several days, it was clear this formula was not going to work for her.
Next up, we tried a similar formula called Nutramigen (from Enfamil). London wasn’t a huge fan of the taste of this one either, but she drank it MUCH better than the Alimentum. We went into this formula trial feeling pretty optimistic. We had read that some babies just prefer the taste of one of these formulas more than the other and that some babies’ tummies can even handle one better than the other. We kept her on his formula for several weeks, and while she did seem to improve somewhat, it definitely wasn’t a total cure for her symptoms.
All the while this was going on, London was also diagnosed with acid-reflux. We tried Zantac at first with no real improvement. Since London’s case was fairly severe, we ended up putting her on Prilosec, which ended up working pretty well! London still had a few reflux episodes here and there, but they were fewer and farther between, which we were incredibly thankful for.
Once we realized the Nutramigen formula wasn’t working out, I knew it was time to make the leap to an amino acid-based formula. An amino acid-based formula, also known as an elemental formula, is a hypoallergenic formula made from individual amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. These proteins are in their simplest form, which means there is virtually no risk that they will cause an allergic reaction. These types of formulas are typically reserved for the ~10% of children who still cannot handle an extensively-hydrolyzed formula, like Alimentum or Nutramigen.
There are several amino acid-based formulas on the market, and after much research, we decided to try EleCare. After several days of being on EleCare, we saw a huge improvement in London’s demeanor. After a few weeks, her tummy cramps and crying fits completely stopped. Her widespread rash finally cleared up, too! And even her reflux further improved as well! We finally had the answer we had been looking for. And the best part ever? Our happy baby’s personality finally emerged! (The photo below is a bit grainy, but it’s one of my favorites of her and is when we finally began to see our sweet girl’s personality)
London remained on EleCare until shortly after she turned one. From there, we made the switch to a combination of coconut milk and hemp milk. Luckily, the process of switching from EleCare to a dairy-alternative milk was a relatively painless process.
London is now 16 months old, and while we are still dealing with her dairy and soy allergies, her allergist is optimistic that she will someday outgrow them. We are learning to adapt to her allergies and now have an epi-pen that we carry with us, in case a severe allergic reaction should occur. Next week I’ll be sharing what a young toddler with multiple food allergies eats on a daily basis, including our favorite allergy-friendly products!
I share our story in the hopes that if you are going through a similar situation with your baby, that you know you are most definitely NOT alone. I can’t tell you what will work for your baby, but I do know what it’s like to spend hours upon hours researching into the early morning trying to find the answers you are looking for. It may take some time to find the feeding solution that is best for you and your baby, but I promise that if you follow your gut, you will end up on the right path. And whatever decision you make, whether that is to continue breastfeeding on an elimination diet or switch over to a hypoallergenic formula, don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad for your decision. They have not walked in your shoes, and only you, mama, know what is best for you and your baby.
Do you have a child with food allergies? I’d love to connect with you and hear your story! Please feel free to leave your story in the comment section below.
Please note: I am NOT a medical professional. If you think your baby may need a hypoallergenic formula, please contact your health care provider.