I talked with our pediatrician yesterday about Owen’s possible wheat allergy and asked for her opinion on seeing an allergist this early in Owen’s life. She confirmed my instinctual reservations about involving an allergist at this point. Babies at this age have lots of intolerances and allergies and issues with various foods because their guts are not mature. Going to an allergist right now could result in false positives, false negatives, and a general sense of frustration if we came home with a list a mile long of things that he tested positive for. Even with that list in hand, we still wouldn’t know which were “real” or which he would grow out of, or which were potentially dangerous or not a big deal at all. She encouraged me to keep a detailed list of things I think he has a reaction to, and at our 9 month appointment when they already draw blood for some other tests, she could run a blood allergy test for those specific things. I’m happy with this plan.
But although that appointment is only a few weeks away, I’m not satisfied with just sitting and waiting until then. No, not me. That would be too easy. And wouldn’t satisfy the voice inside my head that asks every day, “WHY is Owen’s eczema still here? What can I do to make it better? What might be causing it? How can I test this?“.
My pediatrician pointed out that it wasn’t necessarily the wheat that he reacted to. There were a few other ingredients in there he had never had before also. Milk. Or molasses. Or baking soda. It was a super simple bread, thankfully, and I made it myself so I know exactly what went in it.
As we talked, one word kept ringing in my ear. MILK.
The idea of a cow’s milk protein allergy has come up many, many, many times in the last 8 months. When Owen was having reflux and breastfeeding issues, I went on a strict milk and soy-free diet to test this theory. While I thought I saw some improvement in his eating behaviors about a week into the elimination diet, we were still having other physical challenges (due to his tongue tie and my nipple issues), so it was impossible to tease out what was helping and what was still problematic. Once his eczema started in November, he was eating regular formula so beautifully that I didn’t even consider it as a possible culprit because I was so thrilled to have a baby who ate comfortably and happily. We blamed the cold weather, the dry air from the heat in our house, the wind. Since he was doing solids around the time the eczema started, I eliminated each thing he had eaten, one by one, to rule them out. The eczema never budged, so after discussing with my pedi, we decided food wasn’t to blame, and to just keep treating the eczema symptoms. Fingers were crossed it would go away in the spring.
At Owen’s 6 month appointment we were encouraged to add yogurt to his diet, and recently we also added cheese. I guess I figured that if he was allergic to milk proteins, that something more dramatic would happen when we gave him more and more milk-based products. But nothing did. So in my head I pushed the possibility of a milk allergy farther and farther away.
When his cheeks flamed red after eating that bread last week and I saw “contains wheat” on his baby oatmeal, I thought I had figured it out. I really did. I thought that as soon as we stop the oats-with-wheat and wheat, his face would clear and we’d have our answer. And maybe it will; we’ve only eliminated those things for 4 days so far and it takes 10-14 to clear his system.
But yesterday his cheeks were worse than ever. Before we left for daycare that morning and I was packing Owen’s food into his backpack, I said to Benjamin, “Wow, Owen’s eating a lot of dairy today!”. He had yogurt and fruit and rice cereal for breakfast, broccoli, butternut squash and ricotta for lunch, and cheese cubes for a “chewing” snack. When I picked him up from daycare, his cheeks were riddled with raised, red bumps.
Finally, something clicked.
I think I may have been avoiding testing one of the most common allergens. One of the most common causes for eczema. The “food” that he has been eating since day 0, since I practically lived on them during my pregnancy. Milk proteins.
New plan: We’re going back to basics with everything Owen puts in his mouth. Starting with formula. Benjamin ran out last night (at midnight!) to get hypoallergenic formula for Owen. For the next two weeks, until April 20th, we’re eliminating all dairy AND wheat from Owen’s diet. No new foods allowed. Only fruits and veggies that he has eaten previously. Please, please, please let this test tell us something. Even if nothing changes, I guess that tells us something too.
The weather is still cold, so honestly I can’t rule out the possibility of the eczema being caused by dry air from heat. The eczema has never spread beyond his little cheeks, so it’s not like it is a whole body issue. It doesn’t seem to itch him like it did a few months ago, and he’s no longer scratching his cheeks and ears until they bleed. I thought it was getting better. But it’s not. It’s staying the same.
The Great Allergy Experiment begins NOW.