Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The house at poo corner - tales of the food intolerant kind

Not that great a subject, is it? But, nevertheless, one which (like the yucky stuff) needs dealing with. I don't know about you, but I'm not good with wee, poo, sick or snot - one of the reasons why I decided against becoming an infant teacher. When you deal with small children, these bodily substances tend to come with the territory. Ironic then, that having a little one with a milk allergy, I've had to deal with what I consider more than my fair share of the yucky stuff! 

'Oh no! It's a dodgy poo!' 

Something my poor husband has heard all too frequently. He (preferring not to mention bodily functions aloud) almost winces whenever I yelp the above phrase. Unfortunately for him, if something distressing happens to me I tend to let it out - to get it off my chest. Now we have Baby, anything unpleasant that happens to her affects me quite deeply - the sight of a dodgy nappy gets me going like nothing else. This particular post has been inspired by another such nappy - just the other morning.

Why can't I just get on with it quietly?

It's just a dirty nappy, isn't it? All babies have them, don't they? Normally dirty nappies don't bother me, in fact I do most of the nappy changing in our household. However, the kind I'm talking about DO bother me, because they tend to involve diarrhoea (not to be confused with a slightly looser bowel movement - I know the difference). The ones that I'm talking about mean one of two things: either a tummy upset, or a reaction to something she's eaten. Either way, I have a miserable baby on my hands and it's going to mean a whole lot of washing for me to sort out - these nappies tend to leak!!

What if it's a tummy bug?

My least preferred option, because Baby's had a few of these (even though I try to be careful with hand washing and hygiene). It's horrid seeing her miserable and feel that there's nothing we can do about it. They last between 5-10 days and she doesn't usually want to eat anything. I hate the fact that I daren't go anywhere as I don't want to spread it around to others. In some ways I prefer to be at home because it's easier to change her nappies/clothing etc. (and wash my hands properly in hot soapy water afterwards) but the pair of us usually end up with a bad case of cabin fever as a result.

What if it's a reaction to food?

Having had a few of these, I think this scenario is easier to deal with - we now know we can do something about it. In the early days (before she was diagnosed and we cut the dairy out of my diet) it was harder because we had no clue as to what was causing Baby's discomfort, distress and diarrhoea. It was heart-breaking seeing her writhing in pain both before the nappy, because her tummy hurt, and then after, because her skin was so sore. We tried to keep her as clean as possible and be incredibly gentle, when cleaning up the mess, but otherwise the Hub and I just felt so powerless to do anything about the cause. 

Who needs more washing?
The episodes were pretty much constant and so therefore was the discomfort too. Added to this, many of her lovely early baby clothes were completely ruined by the yellowy brown tell-tale stains from leaky nappies - even when we used Napisan for extra stain-busting power. 

These days we don't get lots of nappies if there's a reaction to food. Usually there's one or two, several hours apart. They tend to come swiftly and unexpectedly - which is one reason why (although I know I can't leave it too long) I've held back from potty training. I know from my own experiences with food intolerance that when the body has decided to reject the food it doesn't want, you lose an element of control over your body which is distressing and can be embarrassing too, if you're caught out away from home.

However, the good thing about one of 'Baby's' reactions is that the symptoms don't seem to last longer than 24 hours (so long as we've eliminated the source from either her diet or mine) which means we're back to normal quite quickly. They're are usually because her strictly dairy free diet has been breached in some way. 

It's fairly easy to spot (now that we know what to look for) in that she is more clingy than usual (I'm guessing that's because her tummy is feeling uncomfortable). She may also pass an unusual amount of wind, from the gases which build up in her stomach. Also, 'Baby' will want her nappy to be changed (normally nappy changes result in a battle of wills) and her botty will be quite sore from the poo - it's like a burn. Thankfully, once we've cleaned her up with plain water, the soreness usually clears quite quickly, unless it's a bad reaction. If this is the case, once we've cleaned her up, we slather her botty with vaseline to protect her skin, from contact with the acid in any further unwanted episodes.

Once we've established it's likely to be a dietary breach, it's just a case of identifying the cause.

Identifying the cause
We've got pretty good at this by now, we just have to consider the following:

1. I've eaten something with dairy in it. 
As I'm still breastfeeding this is still possible. This possibility usually has me racking my brains; thinking back over the last 24 hours and re-examining labels on food packets, to see if I've unwittingly eaten something that may have contained milk. More recently, however (completely by accident) we've established that I've eaten a few things that would definitely have caused a reaction in the past, that haven't - such as a biscuit made with milk. This is a definite improvement on what used to be, but I just need to work out the limits, so I don't overstep the mark.

When 'Baby' was three months old, I ate a packet of salt and vinegar crisps - completely unaware that dried milk powder had been used in the flavouring. The result was a miserable baby and a disastrous nappy within the hour! It was only when I saw the nappy that I realised the cause of her distress and checked the labels on the packets of everything I had eaten. It was this incident that surprised the pediatrician - he decided that as the milk in the flavouring would have been minimal, her sensitivity must be quite strong and that there was no point in us returning to see him until she was at least one!

Once you suspect there may have been a breach of the diet, you have to be really vigilant and suspect anything - even Free From food stuffs are not immune. Once I couldn't pin the blame on anything but some Free From chocolate mints that came from one of the major supermarkets. I only knew this for sure, when I visited one of their stores and saw a sign recalling the product - within certain dates - which matched the packet I had at home.

One further possible source that may go under the radar is medication! I always ask the Doctor to check that there is no milk, whatsoever, in any medication that he prescribes for me (or baby). I also check the labels on vitamins, although these seem to be aware of dietary needs.

2. 'Baby' has eaten something with dairy in it. 
Now that 'Baby' has been weaned onto solid food (apart from the milk she has from me) this is a distinct possibility. Once we ate at a carvery and the dodgy nappy she had later that day confirmed my suspicions - they must have put butter on the veggies. Baby, being quite a bit older than before, and presumably more tolerant by this stage, didn't actually have the dodgy nappy until the evening. She had another the next morning, but it was less severe - possibly because I ate the same as her and it took a bit longer for the milk protein to pass through my milk and into her.

3. Either 'Baby' or myself have eaten something else to which she is sensitive. 
We were warned, when weaning 'Baby' that she may be sensitive to other foods also. This meant that we had to be exceptionally careful - adding one new thing to her diet at a time, for four/five days, before trying something new. This is because a reaction to a food may not become evident, until after you've eaten something several times. However, sometimes it can take even longer to cause a reaction, as we were to discover. 

It was 'Baby's' Vitamin D drops, which caused the problem. We had been advised to give her these from the age of six months (this is standard advice for mothers who continue to breastfeed beyond the first six months, as breast milk does not contains much Vitamin D). It wasn't until about six months later that we realised we had a problem, when 'Baby' came down with what I thought was a stomach bug. 

When the 'bug' didn't go away, I kept a strict food diary, and eliminated different foods from her diet (one at a time) to try and find a pattern. This took about three weeks. Eventually there was nothing else to eliminate but the vitamin drops. When I stopped them, hey presto, the dodgy nappies 'miraculously' stopped! When I reintroduced the drops, they began again, so there could be no doubt - the vitamin drops were the cause!

So back to her most recent nappy...

The nappy the other morning was not as bad as in the early days - so hopefully one day there will be no reaction whatsoever. She hasn't been writhing around in the day but was rather restless overnight.The poo wasn't runny, like it used to be - just a bit more yellowy and much softer than normal but the skin on her botty was an angry red colour. Unusually it has stayed that way for a few days. 

Thinking back over the last few days, I can't think that we have given her anything with cow's milk in it, so maybe it's something else that's causing the problem. Maybe it's because I've just started having coconut milk recently, and the proteins from that are coming through my milk and affecting her. Or, maybe it's because we've upped the amount of soya milk she's having and she's developing a sensitivity to that. Perhaps it's some ingredient in the new type of Free From biscuits she ate on Sunday. Who knows at this stage? We'll just have to take all the foods that are under suspicion out of her diet and then (once her skin has cleared up) add them all back in again, one by one, until we find the culprit!! 

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