Tag Archives: allergies

She Says… Food Allergies x2

Remember the months I spent entrenched in The Great Allergy Experiment in 2011 trying to figure out what was causing Owen’s eczema cheeks? Sadly we seem to be back there again. Different kid this time, but the cheeks are just the same. And Emmett has some little patches of itchy, dry eczema on the insides of his elbows and on the center of his stomach as well.


At least this time around I noticed it THE DAY it started, knew exactly what it was and was prepared to treat it and begin the investigation much earlier than I did with Owen.

Let me back up a minute, though. Because I’m not sure I ever actually wrote the blog post I promised you about Emmett’s possible allergies that led to me having to stop breastfeeding and starting him on hypoallergenic baby formula. Here’s the very short story.

  • When Emmett was between 2 and 3 months I began to realized that his poop was super mucus-y. In the very beginning I couldn’t tell the difference between “normal for a newborn” and “troublesome mucus”, so I waited with a watchful eye. Around 3 months I googled for some pictures (yes, of other peoples’ baby poop… don’t judge) and was slammed with pictures that looked EXACTLY like Emmett’s (stringy, mucus-filled, watery, abnormally green/dark before starting solids, etc.) and every one linked to a website about identifying food allergies, specifically cow’s milk protein allergy.
  • At his 3 month doctor’s visit I showed our pedi. He immediately confirmed that was “not normal” and that I should go on a strict milk and soy-free diet. He also indicated that Emmett was dropping in the weight charts and didn’t seem to be gaining weight appropriately. I had already started this diet per my own research, but I tightened up and eliminated anything that could even possibly include milk/soy and did not “cheat”. I saw little improvements here and there.
  • A couple weeks later when I hadn’t seen any real improvement overall, I also eliminated chocolate (I had been having some dairy-free chocolate, but some breastfeeding mothers noted on discussion boards that chocolate upset their babies’ tummies, so I figured it was worth a shot).
  • A  week after that, shortly before his 4 months appointment, I also eliminated eggs (as one of the top 8 allergens and also something I noticed flare-ups after eating). No dairy, soy, chocolate or eggs for 8 weeks — it’s no wonder I found it so easy to return to my pre-pregnancy weight!
  • Given that our family has had a lot of experience with celiac disease and maintaining a STRICTLY gluten free lifestyle for Benjamin and Owen, I am quite good at the “are you sure you’re REALLY eliminating these things entirely” game. I asked my doctor if I should also avoid wheat/gluten, given the family history, but he assured me (and some other research has supported this) that gluten does not pass through breastmilk and this isn’t necessary. Especially given that I had already eliminated so many foods, I think he was also trying to help me from going crazy. In retrospect I question this decision, but hindsight is always 20/20, eh?
  • At Emmett’s 4 month doctor’s visit I asked the doctor to test his mucus-filled diaper for blood. Test immediately turned positive. I also noted that he had started arching, crying and fussing more while eating, and I was seeing a lot more spit-up than previously. Ahem. ALL THE SAME THINGS I saw with Owen at the exact same age. Doctor noted that Emmett had actually lost weight since his 3 month appointment. I always told myself that with Baby #2 I would not pressure myself about breastfeeding like I did with Owen, and the minute the child stops gaining weight appropriately I would do whatever it takes to get them eating again.
  • We decided to take breastmilk out of the equation, despite my elimination diet, and do a test of 5 days of hypoallergenic formula (Nutramigen) only. I pumped during this time thinking I was still going to return to breastfeeding once we figured out the culprit.
  • By Day 3 on the formula I saw a huge improvement in his attitude and stomach comfort. By Day 5 his poop had NEW, VISIBLE BLOOD (!!!), but no more mucus. (We have since confirmed that the visible blood was the tail end of the allergens getting out of his system, but that shit is scary!). On Day 6, relieved and able to see the light at the end of the long tunnel, I stopped breastfeeding. Tummy discomfort went away, poop became normal, Emmett seemed happier and more full. He started gaining steadily, hence the deliciously chubby cheeks you see today.

Oh… you wanted the short story? Sorry. Once I started I figured that I might as well get this out there so others who are in the midst of this hell hole can learn from my experiences.

So all was well after we started the hypoallergenic formula at 4 months. Until we started solid food.

Started with avocado. Then added homemade sweet potato. Green beans. Peas. Apples. After his 3rd or 4th time eating apples with a smidgen of rice cereal (WHEAT FREE rice cereal), though, I noticed a little bit of prickly red dots on his cheeks. Just like with Owen, people said to me, “Oh, it’s just from drool.” or “Oh, it’s just the cold”. But I knew better. I could feel it in my gut. I stopped the rice cereal. When it happened again, I stopped the apples. From what I can tell, an apple allergy is pretty rare, and it’s more likely that I’m seeing a reaction to something else, but in the absence of that answer, I’m willing to put apples on hold for the moment.

Then we added broccoli. Butternut squash. Pears. After eating pears for 2 days I noticed the same red cheeks. No more pears until I figure this out.

I’m currently investigating a “Birch Pollen Allergy”. This is interesting because Benjamin has oral allergy syndrome, which means his mouth gets itchy when he eats apples. It’s not anaphylactic and isn’t something that gets worse the more times you challenge it, so he just eats apples rarely and deals with a little itchiness. I know peeling and cooking foods in the birch pollen allergy family can help, but both the apples and the pears that Emmett ate were organic, and peeled and steamed at home.

So I don’t know. I’m trying not to let it overwhelm me. We’re going slowly now adding new foods and I’m keeping notes of what is eaten when so I can maybe shed some light onto the issue. Going to discuss in depth with our pedi on Monday.

Two days ago at school his teacher called me and said that, all of a sudden in the middle of the afternoon, Emmett’s face blew up with a red rash. She said it didn’t seem to bother him, and seemed to happen without warning. He hadn’t eaten solid food since the morning, he’d only had his normal bottles. I asked if maybe someone had a new perfume or ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch or anything, but she really couldn’t think of what could have caused it. She sent me this picture.


An hour later when I picked him up, it was mostly gone. I put some lotion on at bedtime and by morning his skin was clear again.

Has anyone had this happen or know what this might be? I hesitate to think food-related because it came on suddenly outside of anything he had eaten… but I really don’t know.

Welcome to The Great Allergy Experiment x2.


She Says… Four Months


My sweet baby boy,

This month whizzed by. It flew. You started daycare and I started back at work in the beginning of November and BAM! it’s Thanksgiving already. And judging by the state of our family calendar, it will be Christmas before we know it. The transition back to work could have been devastating. It could have been rough. It could have been rocky. It’s been busy (and still is), for sure, but thanks to you, my little darling, it has been as painless as possible.


You, sir, rock. You rock at daycare. You rock at sleeping there. You rock at chugging every drop of all of your bottles. You rock at smiling and charming every one of your teachers. You rock at staying pretty calm in the evenings even after super long days so that we can have dinner as a family. You rock at smiling and splashing and making bathtime my favorite time of the whole day. You rock at snuggling into me while I nurse you at bedtime, holding your tiny, pudgy little fingers and wondering how we made such a perfect little dude.


I’m beginning to worry that you’re going to grow up thinking your name is “cutie pie”. Because that’s what you hear all day long. I’m sure there’s a lot more to you than just your looks, but it’s the truth. You are DAMN cute. People stop me on the street to say one of three things about you:

  1. You have the most perfect, round head. (I had no idea this was a thing people commented on, but it’s true. You do.)
  2. You are SO smiley. (Mmm hmm, that too. Not stingy with the grins!)
  3. You have the most beautiful eyes. (Sparkly. Dancing. Deep blue like the ocean.)

I may be biased, but I wholeheartedly believe that all 3 things are true.

Emmett4Months-4 Emmett4Months-5

This month, unfortunately, I’ve discovered something that’s not so easy breezy about you. As much as I tried to avoid going down the road of thinking you have some sort of food allergy/intolerance like your brother and your Daddy, I’m pretty sure you do. At least for now. This past month has been a roller coaster of hypoallergenic formula and me avoiding certain foods to see what the culprit is. Though you’re far from figured out, my best guess and working hypothesis at the moment is that your tummy does not tolerate when I eat milk or eggs. We’ve got a pretty good thing going while I’m off both of those things as far as I can tell, and although it’s hard for me to avoid yummy things like cheese, yogurt and chocolate (and pretty much anything baked now that eggs are off limits), it is worth it for the time being to heal you. Last night was the worst night I’ve seen — arching, crying, poop issues. Nothing helped. You couldn’t sleep and you couldn’t eat, which just left you awake and paralyzed by your own sadness. Which meant I was too. Daddy and I took turns trying to comfort you but all you really wanted was to rock with me, half-nursing, half-pacifying.

We got through it. We’ll get through this patch and we’ll get through the next one and we’ll get through the one after that. I’ll always be here to hold your hand and help you through, whatever comes. I already ache for the day that you come home with a problem I can’t fix, like a broken heart. But trust me, we’ll get through that too.


Emmett, you fit like a snug little puzzle piece into our family. Daddy and I fight over who gets to hold you and make you smile. Schnitzel is protective of you and bathes you in kisses. Owen, in the midst his totally-age-appropriate-but-nonetheless-incredibly-frustrating 3 year old ‘tude, is totally enamored with you. His normally wild body becomes calm around you. He dotes on you. Sings to you. Contorts your body in hilarious ways that make us all laugh. Sweetly and softly pats your cheek when you’re crying. Gives me the play-by-play of what you’re doing in the car (“He’s sleeping! No! He’s awake! He’s pukin’ up! He’s looking at his toy!”). Though I know there will be times, likely in our not too distant future, when he’s not so kind to you, you must always know that everything he does comes from a place of love.


Brothers are like that.


Owen’s new favorite game is to get the whole family under a blanket on the couch and pretend to sleep. He calls it a “love cage” and no one can get out. Guess who he ALWAYS wants in his love cage? You. So far you’re surprisingly tolerant of being smooshed into a pigpile with all of us and covered with a quilt. You’re pretty easygoing about most of the silly games we play with you. You’re the best baby doll.


I love you, my beautiful boy. We all do. Even in the middle of the night it melts me to see your bright eyes and kicking legs in the dim light. You are one special little guy.


Couldn’t love you any more if I tried,


She Says… Gluten Free and Fabulous

As I’m sure you all know, Owen has food allergy issues. Pretty much his whole life he we have struggled with trying to figure out the cause of his eczema. Finally, after much trial and error, I figured out it was oats. But even though his 9-month bloodwork came back clean of a wheat allergy, I have noticed that his eczema flares when he eats anything made with flour (goldfish were the latest culprit). And frankly blood tests done so young can’t really be trusted. So, again, after much trial and error, I figured out that if I take BOTH oats and wheat out of his diet, his skin is totally clear.

It is SO satisfying to have figured out something that is working for now. I feel like Sherlock Holmes.

Since there has been such an increase in awareness about celiac disease in the last few years, it’s not terribly hard to find gluten-free stuff to give him. See, I’m not really sure what it is about the wheat that bothers Owen. Is he allergic to WHEAT or GLUTEN? Unclear. But I do know that keeping him oat- and gluten-free makes him a lot happier and healthier! And FINALLY I can stop obsessing about what he’s eating and what is/was causing those poor little red cheeks.

Anyway, though it may be relatively easy to find gluten-free varieties of things like flour blends and crackers and breads and cake mixes… it can be somewhat challenging to find GOOD flour blends and crackers and breads and cake mixes. So far my attempt at homemade gluten free things are pretty tasty, but crumbly. I haven’t had the time to fiddle with recipes and/or try all of the different combos of gluten-free flours and other foreign ingredients like xantham gum and potato starch.

Udi’s Gluten Free Foods to the rescue!!!

Look at what I found at my door last week.

And guess what was inside?

A lovely selection of Udi’s goodies for Owen!

Owen recently started eating hummus (thank goodness for no sesame allergies… I’m hoping it’s all grains, and that it’s temporary!), so the first thing I did was whip out a slice of the Udi’s sandwich bread and top it with a bit of hummus. Owen GOBBLED it. The child was in heaven.

Since then we’ve tried the blueberry muffins too, and the pizza dough and the other loaf of bread are in the freezer for safe keeping. The muffins were tasty. A different texture than bakery muffins, for sure, but still mighty tasty and a pretty good subsitute for gluten-filled ones. And… bonus… I didn’t have to bake them! AND I believe in all of their ingredients, which is a big deal for someone who generally prefers to bake their own bread.

Support Udi’s! “Like” them on Facebook. Heck, if I could “Love” them on Facebook, I would. Owen too.

What other gluten-free brands do you like?

She Says… Oh, Cheerios

So as you know, our new daycare rocks. Yesterday when I arrived to drop Owen off in the morning there was a petting zoo set up on the front lawn. A petting zoo! Complete with miniature ponies and chickens and bunnies. The warm air smelled of sun-warmed poop. There was a class full of toddlers running around with the chickens, reaching their pudgy hands out to try to catch them (unsuccessfully). I turned the corner to park my car and there were sprinklers set up with children running through them, one by one, under the careful observation of teachers who were laughing and running around with them. It was like a picture perfect summer day (poop and all!). Love this place.

On the first day when I came to pick Owen up, I saw a similarly picture perfect scene. Owen and another baby, side by side in high chairs, happily picking up Cheerios one by one and holding them between their tiny fingers before clumsily smooshing them into their mouths. Cheerios. The quintessential toddler snack.

Except for one thing.

Owen is allergic to oats.

And even without reading the label, I can pretty much guarantee you that there are oats in Cheerios.

*Upon further inspection (thank you, Google!), “whole grain oats” are the number one ingredient.

When I dropped Owen off at the new daycare I had submitted some forms that I had written his allergies on, but I didn’t remember to tell anyone about his allergy specifically because at our old daycare they only feed the children what you pack for them. I totally forgot that this new daycare supplies a healthy snack for the kids every day. That day the healthy snack included Cheerios.

I came in the room and my first reaction upon seeing Owen and his little buddy was pure joy. What’s more adorable than babies eating Cheerios together? Until I realized that I have kept this child eczema free for the last few months by having him avoid oats, wheat and gluten (even though oats are the only allergy confirmed by blood test, I’ve been avoiding wheat and gluten since a weird reaction he had to homemade bread awhile ago). MONTHS. He’s had some rough skin come and go during that time, but nothing like the red eczema cheeks he had prior to that. I calmly explained to the teacher that we generally avoid oats and wheat/gluten, but that this could be a test of if his allergy has gone away (subtext: OMG DON’T FEED MY KID SNACKS I DIDN’T APPROVE). It was my fault for not making sure they were aware when I dropped him off. But I didn’t think they were going to feed my baby! Mommy fail.

For the next day, his cheeks were fine. I thought, “Hooray! Allergies are gone! Oats are fine!”. Then slowly, ever so slowly, the eczema began to return. The third day after exposure I felt the raised bumps on his cheeks and saw the redness creeping back on the sides of his face. Sad baby. Then he started itching his face and ears like the good ‘ol days. It’s not a wonder it took me so long to figure out what the culprit was, since it takes 3-4 days for symptoms to appear. Sheesh.

At least this time I knew how to nip it in the bud. Two nights of hydrocortisone later and slathering his cheeks in lotion multiple times a day, his clear skin is back, and no more itching.

That was a close one. I feel very fortunate that his allergy is only eczema, and not anaphylactic or something more life-threatening. And I’m glad I was there to see him eating snack or I might not have known what caused the recurrence. But… problem solved! And at least now I know that (a) his allergy is real, and (b) it still exists.

Seeing how easy it is to identify the allergy is actually a wonderful thing, and I think I’m ready to try wheat/gluten and see if we can expand into a world of homemade breads and wheat-only crackers and things. Goldfish crackers! Saltines! Pretzels! The possibilities are endless. Fingers crossed those red cheeks stay away.

Oh, Cheerios. How I wish my baby could eat you.

She Says… Deja Vu

Biiiig sigh. We’re back at the doctor’s again. And not for a well visit.

Remember this day, when I said that we would try to make it to our 9 month well visit without another doctor’s appointment? Well, we did it. By the skin of our teeth. At our well visit on Monday the doctor heard Owen’s [persistent and ubiquitous] cough. She said, “Oh, is he sick?” and I said, “Nah, he’s had that cough since he started daycare in January. It doesn’t bother him and it hasn’t gotten better or worse.” She listened to his breathing and said, “Well, if he starts wheezing, let me know.” Got it, doc. Haven’t heard a wheeze since his bout with pneumonia.

Cue the wheezing Wednesday morning… a mere 48 hours after leaving the doctor’s office.

I heard a slight wheeze Wednesday morning, but he didn’t have a fever and was in great spirits, so I waited and listened before calling the doc. Didn’t want to rush to the doctor for no good reason. Also, I was beginning to feel so sick I could barely see straight. A sore throat had morphed into an all-consuming illness with high fever, chills, horrendous body aches and a feeling like a knife was slicing through my throat every time I swallowed. After an urgent trip to the doctor myself, turned out I have strep throat. Man, strep is NASTY when you get it as an adult!

By Thursday Owen’s wheeze was louder and he was running a fever, so we made the call and got a late afternoon doc appointment. Deja vu. Oh how many times we’ve been there recently!

I have had a work event yesterday and today, so Benjamin was on doctor duty, as I couldn’t get away. Which I hate. I want to be the one holding the sick baby and asking the questions and giving the rundown of all the little symptoms I noticed that led up to the appointment. It’s not that I don’t trust Benjamin; far from it. He is wonderfully sweet with Owen and knows just what to do. But I’m the one who likes to hear the diagnosis from the doctor’s mouth, and to be the one explaining what’s going on. I notice little things about Owen that sometimes Benjamin doesn’t, and in the past some of those little things have really helped us identify underlying issues.

But alas, duty called this time, and I felt the sting of being a mother who works outside the house and had a responsibility to stay at work this time. I’ll be honest… a few tears were shed while I waited impatiently for phone calls from Benjamin updating me on the appointment and the diagnosis.

Bottom line: Owen has an upper respiratory infection and is wheezing again. We’re back doing the albuterol nebulizer breathing treatments every 4 hours that we did when he had pneumonia, and are also using a long-term inhaled steroid (pulmicort) daily to keep his asthma under control. The unfortunate part about this is that since it’s the 2nd time we’ve seen this asthmatic breathing, we may need to have some larger discussions about Owen being “an asthmatic child”, rather than just dealing with each instance discreetly. I have another appointment with our regular pediatrician in a week or two to have this discussion. The idea of Owen having asthma for the rest of his life scares the crap out of me, but it may not be as bad as my brain is making it out to be. Plenty of kids have childhood asthma and they grow out of it and into perfectly healthy little people.

But apparently eczema, allergies and asthma all go together in a sad little triad. And Owen demonstrates all 3.

Wah. How did two perfectly healthy people have a baby plagued with so many issues?! I know that doesn’t really have much to do with it, and we’re doing everything we can to treat each of these issues, but it still makes me sad.

Anyone out there dealt with childhood asthma? Tell me happy stories!

She Says… Of All Things

Owen’s allergy blood tests came back today. I haven’t had a chance to debrief with our doctor yet, but I accessed the test results online and then commenced a furious Google search.

Milk: No
Egg whites: No
Egg yolks: No
Wheat: No
Casein: No
Oats: YES

Wha? That’s definitely not what I thought was going to happen. Leave it to my little medical mystery baby to throw us another curveball. Oats. Of all things.

I say “of all things”, because you should see the amount of oats that pass through this house. They are the one thing in our pantry I am sure NEVER to run out of. Benjamin and I eat them every morning. I use them in almost all of my baking. They were the first or second grain Owen ever ate. Heck, they are one of the first foods most babies eat! Oats. Who knew. I wasn’t even going to check for them, but just before getting Owen’s blood sample, the doctor said, “Is there ANYTHING else you can think of that you’d like to test him for?”. I replied, “I don’t know, what other grains might he be allergic to? Oats, maybe?”. Oats indeed.

Here’s the thing about oat allergies: They are relatively uncommon. That’s why parents are told that baby oatmeal is a perfect first food. It also explains why Owen’s eczema started showing up a few weeks after we started solid food, despite introducing one new fruit/veggie at a time and watching for a reaction. I guess I thought oats and rice cereal were a given. The eczema reaction (slow and gradual as it was) was to the oatmeal that I had been mixing with those other foods, little by little, to get the right consistency.

Although I am sad for my baby to be diagnosed with an allergy, I think this is a really positive outcome. Oats, as far as I know, should be pretty easy to avoid. I don’t think they are often hidden in other ingredients under different names like milk and wheat often are (though correct me if I’m wrong!). From what I’ve read, though, it sounds like inhaled oat dust can actually cause an allergic reaction like the persistent cough and runny nose that Owen has had since January. I have been blaming that on daycare germs, but I wonder, now, if eliminating oat dust in our house could also eliminate the extra boogers and hacking cough we’ve grown so used to dealing with. That means no more morning oats at the table with Owen. But it’s a price we’re more than happy to pay.

And unfortunately it sounds like oat dust can sometimes be present in other grains like wheat flour due to cross-contamination in processing. That’s a huge bummer; that we can’t be sure of exactly what we’re getting even if the package says “wheat flour”. The good news is that in the grand scheme of things, Owen’s allergic reaction is pretty mild (eczema just on his cheeks), so if he’s unknowingly exposed it’s not an issue of life or death.

The best news? Several websites I read stated that children diagnosed with this allergy often spontaneously get over it. Owen’s IgE level was .39 instead of the normal <.35, which I believe is pretty low. So that gives me hope that this is a minor thing that won’t plague him for the rest of his life.

Off to de-oat dust-ify our kitchen…

Do you have any experience with an allergy to oats or other grains? Anything else I should be avoiding while we give Owen’s little system time to recover?

She Says… 9 Month Checkup

Yesterday we headed to the pediatrician’s office for Owen’s 9 month well visit.


  • Height: 29″ (76th %ile)
  • Weight: 18lb 12oz (22nd %ile)
  • Head circumference: 44cm (16th %ile)

Long and lean, as usual, growing perfectly and keeping within the percentiles he was born with. He’ll never be a bruiser rocking the 22nd percentile for weight, but that’s just fine with me! For his sake, I hope he continues this “tall and thin-but-strong” body type into adulthood. When we found out we were having a boy I remember hoping and praying that he wouldn’t get my height (I clock in at a whopping 5’1″). His Daddy isn’t exactly a basketball player either (sorry honey!), so I’m kind of hoping Owen surpasses both of us in 17 years or so.

Whoa. In 17 years my little baby could be taller than his Dad, driving a car, falling in love and well into all kinds of trouble I don’t want to think about right now. Let’s just forget I ever mentioned that. Moving right along.

The appointment went by in a flash since my answers to all of the questions of “Do you have concerns about X” were “Nope!”. Our pedi did mention that we’d had quite an exciting few months since she last saw us at the 6 month well visit (she is part of a practice, so every time we made an emergency appointment… you know, the millions of emergency appointments we had over the last three months… we saw whoever was available and on call). Since Owen is my first baby, I had no idea what normal is, but apparently an ear infection, mysterious eczema, pneumonia, an emergency room visit, a weird viral rash, 2 teeth and a constant runny nose/cough in 3 months is a bit above average. Where’s my gold star?

After the general checkup all I really wanted to discuss was allergies. Getting bloodwork done is a normal part of the 9 month visit, so since Owen was already going to the lab to get stuck with a needle, we decided to add on a blood test for wheat, milk, casein, eggs, oats and soy. Yikes. That list makes my heart palpitate thinking of having a child allergic to all/some/most/any of those things. She said (and many of you wise readers have said as well) the results from these tests are NOT anywhere near the final answer to my Great Allergy Experiment, but they will give me some guidance on what not to try to reintroduce for awhile. She seemed to think, though, that since Owen’s reaction to whatever it is that he’s allergic to was just eczema on the face (not anaphylactic or head-to-toe or acute hives), that he has a very good chance of outgrowing this issue, and his tests might even come back negative. That’s what I like to hear!

The bad news: We should keep him on the stupidly expensive formula until we tease out what exactly he’s allergic to, since it seems to be helping. The good news about that: If the allergy test comes back positive for milk, our insurance may be willing to pitch in for the cost of formula. Woo hoo! Though I’m still hoping for a negative result on the allergy test.

So now we wait for the allergy test results. Should get them tomorrow or the next day, and then we do a consult with the pedi to discuss. I’m looking forward to having some answers (if anything comes back positive), or at least feeling proud of myself that I figured out the culprit using my Spidey Mommy sense.

In other news, I was awake half the night with a super duper sore throat and now I’m feeling cold and sore. Could be yesterday’s workout (the body soreness, not the sore throat, or the chills), but I’m beginning to think otherwise…

She Says… The Great Allergy Experiment = Success!

Like I said in my update last week, the results from The Great Allergy Experiment were far from an overnight success; it took a solid 2 weeks for the transition to take hold. BUT, after 14 days of a cow’s milk protein-free, soy-free, wheat-free diet, I officially declare Owen eczema free. His sweet, soft cheeks are back, and I haven’t even noticed him itching his ears the way he used to.

The weather is getting a little warmer, but not dramatically, so I’m happy that we squeezed this experiment in before it begins to feel like spring so I can believe with some certainty that the clear cheeks are a result of our dietary changes and not the weather.

So, where does that leave us? 1) wondering which of the two things was actually causing the eczema (cow’s milk proteins or wheat) and
2) a little unsure of how to add them back into his diet to test my theory (try regular formula again? Or little bits of cheese/yogurt? Experiment with soy, since I’m not sure I ever witnessed a reaction to soy, but rather eliminated it since it’s closely tied to a cow’s milk protein allergy?). Frankly, unsure of if I should be adding them back in at all at this point. Thankfully we have Owen’s 9 month well visit on Monday so I can check in with my pediatrician on these questions. We’re also going to do a blood test for antibodies to milk and wheat to identify which of these (or both? neither?) are the culprit. My money’s on milk, but I’m kind of hoping it’s wheat. I think that’s easier to avoid.

I’m so relieved that my sweet baby has his soft skin back and that he’s not plagued with an itchy face and ears anymore. I’m thrilled that my detective work (finally) seems to have paid off with some sort of an “answer”, even if it’s vague at this point. But I’m also sad that I have to restrict so many fun foods from him at this point. Hopefully the blood test will give me some answers about what he’s REALLY allergic to, and we can introduce more foods from there. I guess the best possible outcome of this would be that it is just an intolerance, something he’ll grow out of, and that he can have all of these foods in moderation, or something like that. Who knows.

Check out these before and after pics to show you what a difference the experiment has had on his little face.

At its worst:

And this week (taken with my phone… don’t judge my photography skillz):


Cutie pie.

Very much looking forward to the doc appointment on Monday!

She Says… The Great Allergy Experiment Update

It’s been 9 full days since we started The Great Allergy Experiment, removing all dairy and wheat from Owen’s diet. The impatient side of me wanted immediate results. I wanted those cheeks to clear in two days so I had my magic bullet answer. BAM.

As anyone who has ever done an elimination diet or a similar test on their own body knows, that’s not how it happens.

It is slow. And painstaking. And so gradual you might not even notice it at first. However, I have slowly but surely seen an improvement in Owen’s eczema. In fact, this morning the skin on his cheeks even felt smoother and almost all of the red bumps were gone. He scratched his face last night so he had a little scab, but other than that, his cheeks were wholly clear. CLEAR. The change has been so gradual that it was almost hard to recognize, but when I look back at these pictures of his cheeks from several weeks ago,  it’s obvious just how far we’ve come.

I really think I’ve figured it out. And although we’ve eliminated both milk and wheat, I have a strong feeling that the issue here is milk. Cow’s milk proteins to be more exact, not lactose. People often confuse a cow’s milk protein allergy with lactose intolerance, when really, they are completely separate issues that bother completely different parts of the baby’s body. While the idea of an allergy to cow’s milk proteins makes me sad for Owen (a life with no cheese! no milk! no butter! no baked goods with milk or butter!), I read a statistic that keeps me optimistic. Of the 3% of babies who are allergic to milk, most outgrow this allergy by age 3.

Three is really not that far away. I can handle keeping him milk-free until then. Obviously if he’s one of the unlucky ones who is allergic for the rest of his life, we’ll deal with it, and, as a reader suggested a few posts ago, learn to see it as an opportunity to try new things.

In the meantime, we’re going to keep him on the (expensive and yucky smelling) Nutramigen formula and do a blood test for milk and wheat allergies at his 9 month well visit. Even though this isn’t the diagnosis I was hoping for, it is exciting to have a possible plausible answer to why Owen’s poor cheeks have been covered in a rash for the last 4 months.

I’m still not putting all my eggs in one basket, though.

She Says… The Great Allergy Experiment

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.