Finding out that your child has or might have food allergies is such an overwhelming experience. In some ways you might feel relief – you’re not crazy, there is something wrong, and it’s something you can fix. You probably also feel scared – what does this mean, will he be allergic forever, how will this affect our lives? You might feel worried or unsure – can I still breastfeed, what can I/he eat, how are we going to cope? Take a breath, you’ll find all those answers here.
The good news is that the relief you feel now is only going to increase, because once you’re free from the allergens affecting your little one you will almost definitely have a much happier and healthier child, which is great news for everyone. Yes its scary and overwhelming but it’s absolutely doable, the 3000 mums in my Breastfeeding with CMPA Support Group can tell you that. Once you’ve caught your breath, done some reading of this website and realised there’s a whole world of dairy free chocolate out there you’ll be okay. Every day you carry on is another day of giving your little one the very best, and every day is another step forward to it all feeling a whole lot easier. While you’re starting out things can feel a little tricky, so here are some practical tips for breastfeeding with CMPA.
1. Do Your Own Research
Unfortunately it seems that a lot of health care professionals have very limited knowledge of CMPA, especially breastfeeding with CMPA. Some may tell you that you have to stop feeding (wrong), some may tell you that allergens can’t pass through your milk (wrong again). Some may tell you to give up loads of things at once (bad idea) and some may tell you to try lactose free (ughhhhh).
To survive this you’re going to have to advocate for your child, and for yourself, and start doing a little reading. Gain some basic understanding of what’s going on, and try to do some research for yourself. This is the best way to get your questions answered, and to start feeling more in control of the situation.
As a starting point there is a whole section of this website based on helping mums who are breastfeeding with CMPA. There is a frequently asked questions section which is a great place to get some quick answers, and there’s a post on how to confirm CMPA in a breastfed baby which is the first thing you need to focus on doing. I am always updating these pages and adding new content, so do check back for more information and support.
As well as doing your own research, make sure you share the info with close family and friends. Your partner can support you better if he/she has a better understanding of what’s going on too, so make sure to share links and discuss your findings. Together you can figure it all out!
2. Find Your Tribe
There’s nothing worse than feeling isolated or alone, and there’s no reason you should feel that way when so many of us are walking the same path. Join my Facebook support group, and have a search for a local one to you. Reach out on your local parenting facebook groups too or ask around, I bet you’d be surprised at how many people there are who have been through this. Finding people who get it is really important. You need someone to laugh with you as you celebrate baby’s first normal poo, or cry with you when you mess up and eat the wrong thing. Allergies are a real roller coaster, don’t ride it alone.
3. Figure Out Your Key Alternatives
There are always things that someone loves, and feels devastated about giving up. The truth is that the free from scene has improved so dramatically in the past few years that you don’t actually need to feel like you’re missing out on very much. If the thought of giving up cake has got you feeling awful, take some time right now to find a few safe options. If you could never live without chocolate, find out which safe alternatives are stocked in your local town. If white bread is an essential part of your bacon sarnie then find out which ones you can have. Sometimes ordering online works better, so do that ASAP. That way when you’re feeling sad and missing Dairy Milk you’ve got something yummy to comfort yourself with. Never go without!
My dairy and soya free treat list is packed with alternative ideas and is regularly updated, so save the link to your phone and send it to all your friends too. That way everyone has a huge list of ideas to pick up for you the next time they’re out shopping.
4. Plan Ahead Wherever Possible
Some things are definitely a lot more tricky with allergies, and there does need to be a certain amount of planning ahead if you want to make life as easy as possible. Try to think a few steps ahead. If you’re heading out for the day – will there by safe snacks for you and/or your little one or do you need to pack some in your bag just incase? If you’re going out for lunch or dinner – have you checked the allergen menu online for where you’re planning to go? Can you call ahead and chat through some options? If there’s not much you can have, can you change plans slightly and head somewhere you know you’ll be able to eat at happily? If you’re heading to a party – will there be food and will it be safe? Or can you take your own versions so no one feels as though they are missing out.
By thinking a few steps ahead you’ll avoid any of the awful moments where there’s nothing you can eat, or when you’re forced to watch everyone around you eat something delicious while you munch on an apple. It might feel like a bit more effort but I promise it’ll be worth it.
5. Get Family and Friends on Board
Having a good support network around you is really important, and I can tell you first hand that having unsupportive people around you is one of the hardest things about the allergy journey. Talk to your parents, your siblings and your friends and get them to understand what you’re going through, and how important their support is. Send them the info you’ve found, send them this page, definitely send them the dairy free treats list. Make them understand how important it is to your child’s health that you remain dairy free, let them know that milk is so often in the most unexpected places so you aren’t being crazy asking to check everything, and then ask for their help and support to do this.
Most people who love you will want to support you and help wherever possibly, but they may need you to let them know how they can help. So tell them what would help. If you need them to stop suggesting formula so you can “get a break” then ask them to stop. If you would really appreciate someone putting a load of washing on while you feed the baby then ask for that. If you really would love if they could get some dairy free biscuits in at their house for when you pop over for a cup of tea then let them know. Once they know how they can make your life a little bit easier hopefully they actually will and it’ll be a win win – you’ll feel loved and supported and they’ll be really pleased that they could help.