Thursday, 19 July 2012

How to have an allergy free baby

Well, I got asked THE question the other day, the one for which I've  had to wait some time, and which I've been dreading. Some people have skirted around the question, perhaps not wanting to appear nosy, perhaps checking to see if I'll tell them that the reason my tummy is bulging is because there is another one on the way (to which the answer would be, 'Err, no!') rather than because I've just not managed to ping back to my original size. The question was, of course, the: 'Isn't it time to have another one?'

I dread this question because, being an honest person, I would feel obliged to tell them the truth, i.e. 'I really don't fancy going through all of that again,' and actually, more pertinently, 'I'm not sure that I can, because I'm not sure that my body would be up to it.' 

The thing is, I'm the wrong side of forty now (just) and I had at least one miscarriage before Baby was conceived and at least one early miscarriage or 'natural abortion' since. Then there was pregnancy - I was very tired for at least the first half of the pregnancy (falling asleep on the sofa after dinner each night), appeared at one  point as though I might be going to miscarry the pregnancy again, was terrified of catching some flu, contracted a condition that made me itchy all over, had very swollen ankles, and then to cap it all H.E.L.P syndrome (my liver'd had enough) which meant that once the doctors had worked out that it wasn't just a tummy bug (that took them a week, during which I barely ate) I had to go into hospital and have Baby induced. And, apparently, if you've had H.E.L.P syndrome once... it could happen again.

I won't even go into my birth story. 

After the birth, there was Baby's jaundice (for which we were readmitted into hospital, almost as soon as we'd left), a month of not knowing what was wrong with baby before she was diagnosed, three months of painful breastfeeding (due to contracting an infection, which none of the medical professionals seemed to be able to solve) plus, I had to give up milk (and along with it, almost all my favourite food)! And to cap it all, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the antibiotics that I had to take to overcome the breast infection, upset the flora in my gut, leaving me with the problems that I now face. Have another? You must be joking!!

Dairy Free Baby as a newborn
Don't get me wrong - I think Dairy Free Baby is gorgeous as she is, but I have often wistfully thought about how different and much more smooth life would be, if she wasn't allergic... 

And yet, a tiny part of me is tempted! You see, it would be so nice for Baby to have a playmate. However, I would want a cast iron guarantee that my next one wouldn't also have any food allergies, but as far as I can tell there's no such thing!

I have been keeping my eye on the research that has come out about children and food allergies, to try and work out why it happened, to us, in the first place, and it turns out I was doing it all wrong! I only wish I'd known. If you want a non-allergic baby, here's what you must avoid:

1. Family History 
The parents must not suffer from hay fever, or indeed any food allergies. If you do, then the chances of your children having food allergies (not necessarily the same as you) are greater. Oh dear! Bit of a risk factor here for us! Both The Hub and I have been known to be affected by the pollens and as for food allergies... where do I begin? Oh, and another thing you mustn't be Caucasian. If, like me, you are, then apparently we are more at risk - which puzzles me somewhat. I am, The Hub isn't. He's of Chinese descent! So where does that leave us? Now, although a lot of South East Asians are supposed to be allergic to milk, not one of The Hub's family is at all milk allergic and they find the whole thing very odd!

2. Location
Where you live is important. If you live in a city, you are more likely to have problems with allergies, whereas, if you were reared on a farm, you are less likely to be allergic. Apparently, just visiting a farm, or even living near one, is not enough! Well that's just unfortunate for us then!

3. Hygiene
If you are hygiene conscious (like me) then this one would be a nightmare for you. It seems that everyone really does need (just as the famous idiom declares) 'to eat a little bit of dirt'!  Antibacterial chemicals, such as Triclosan, which is in many toothpastes (including mine) have been linked to increased incidence of food allergies. Whoops! And there was me using medicated wipes and being handed cans of Dettol to use in my classroom, whilst I was pregnant - to ward off the swine flu, which was a very real concern at the time I was pregnant!

4. Nutrition
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to allergy (although the thinking on this seems to keep see-sawing back and forth, according to continuing studies)! There is, would you believe, not so much incidence of food allergy near the equator? This is one of the reasons that pregnant mums need to be taking supplements. I must admit, when I was pregnant, my Vitamin D levels can't have been too good. I spent half the summer inside, avoiding encounters with pollen, and the other half inside trying to empty my classroom and sort out the nursery (which was full of stuff commonly known as 'junk').

5. Nuts
I was interested to see this one doing the rounds again, just this week. I was told by the midwives that as I had suffered from hay fever, for most of my life, I should avoid eating nuts when pregnant to avoid a risk of Baby developing food allergies. More recently, research appeared that suggested the opposite. As a result of which, the NHS recommends including nuts as part of a varied diet whilst pregnant

Like Vitamin D deficiency, the thinking on this keeps changing with each new study. Recently, it appeared (according to one study) that one should avoid nuts again and not just during pregnancy but also breastfeeding. Doh! I just couldn't help reaching for that packet of M & Ms, when I was pregnant - I was craving them so badly! However, I'm not going to beat myself up about that one. More research seems to point in the other direction. 

Moreover, I was interested to read reactions of a number mothers, to this research. More than one parent of twins (having either eaten nuts or abstained) had interestingly enough, one child born with severe allergies to food, whilst their twin had nothing at all to worry about!

6. Primogeniture
Just thought I'd throw that term in, to confuse you! What I mean by that, is the order in which you were born. If you're the first born child in a family, you are apparently more likely to be the one who suffers. It's thought that after having her first, and indeed with each child that follows, a woman's immunity improves, so decreasing the risk of developing allergies. There's one glimmer of light for us then!

7. Autumnal Birth
This is the one that I've not seen mooted for some time, so they may have discounted it again by now. But, not long after baby was born and we discovered her cow's milk protein intolerance, I came across an article which seemed to suggest that researchers had made a link between babies born in November/December time and allergies. It was (ahem) in the Daily Mail (and so, of course, The Hub was sceptical) but the thinking behind it was that  such babies are in the crucial early stages of foetal development during the pollen season, and that this had some bearing on their immunity to allergens. Other researchers link the findings to Vitamin D deficiency (again). 

Regarding our recent family history, that kind of made sense to me. Both Baby and I were born in that period - as a teacher, I saw children who were born in the summer who found school work more difficult (it doesn't always follow) so I specifically wanted and planned an autumn baby. None of my siblings were - they were all born between March to June and none of them are allergic to hay or food, or much else for that matter! However, my parents, both born in November, have no problems and so kind of turns that theory on its head! 

A Conclusion (of sorts)
Following all this research, I have come to some kind of conclusion - that all the research becomes somewhat bewildering and confusing after a while. It leaves you not really knowing who to believe, which way to turn, or what to do. Especially as one thing I have discovered is that research teams can sometimes be funded by some company or organisation with some sort of axe to grind - which leads one to doubt the purity of their motives as well as the conclusions that they reach. Maybe, the best thing to do, is ignore it and carry on regardless and take whatever comes your way. 

If I do decide to have another (they say you should never say never) there's nothing I can do anything about my family history or location, but... I will try to reduce my dependency on anti-bacterials and other chemicals like parabens - less chemicals is better for us anyway. I will continue to take Vitamin D - there are plenty of health benefits associated with taking Vitamin D. I will plan to have a baby in September or October (or failing that February, March or April, as I'm still a teacher at heart) and will continue to eat  nuts - my diet is limited enough already and I'm just not convinced by the evidence!

Now, throw me some of your thoughts...

Similar Posts:


  1. I love this. We are clearly 'on the same page' even if no-one else is with us. Much of it makes sense, and I have to confess me and my Dairy Free Boy tick most of these boxes. But my hunch is bigger than this.

    I believe something or several things got into the food chain - probably in the 70's and 80's and this is the legacy. It sounds like you are the same age as me. How many of your school friends do you remember having allergies and intolerances? How many of your friends babies and children have them? When I did a quick poll amongst my friends it was staggering and scary.

    I am sure you have read all the recent stuff about 'battery dairy farming'. Perhaps this is the link?

    My hunch is that the 'milk' changed when we were kids. Once upon a time, milk had cream in it and went off after a couple of days. Now it lives forever! Apparently cows are not fed on grass anymore and we all remember the BSE thing. What if this is all part of that? Too scary to think of.

    The other thing is that 'milk protein' gets on everything and I am a believer in the 'overexposure' theory. We have been unwittingly consuming 'dairy' on non dairy foods for far too long and perhaps this is nature kicking back.

    My other thought is that this really is nature kicking back. Everyone reacted to that pic of the woman breastfeeding her toddler but what if we published a picture of a child suckling a cow! And why do people pull a face at the thought of sheeps or goats milk but find the idea of consuming 'cow juice' acceptable!

    How is it different? Surely if we were meant to rear our young on 'animal milk' wouldn't it be better to feed them 'ape' milk? Just a thought.

    It sounds like you and I have a lot in common. Bringing up a dairy free baby is quite a challenge. There is no support out there and zero interest from the medics.

    Did you see the article about the possible 'coeliac like' condition that dairy allergic people suffer with? Surely we can raise some awareness and get our dairy free babies some food and drink on prescription and most importantly get their conditions properly assessed and dare I say it, treated?

    I am planning to start campaigning soon. Would you like to join me? Everyone is all over the gluten free guys, but let's wave a flag for the dairy free folk?

    My blog is
    If you get a chance, please take a look and see what you think. Would love to hear from you.

    Best wishes and keep up the good work,


    1. Hi Nicola!

      Thank you so much, for your supportive and encouraging comments.

      Just to let you know, I have read your blog post already, as it happens. I share your frustration about dealing with how to feed an allergic child. It can be so hard - so much of life revolves around food and it is possible to feel so isolated, when others around you are able to make food choices without having to think about it.

      I really want to get back to you about all of this - it raises so many things in my mind - but we are due to go out today. Hope to get back to you soon!


    2. Hi Nicola, I’m back again! Hope you don’t mind - you’ve raised so many interesting points, I really wanted to take time to consider them and respond properly.
      I also share your concerns about what is happening to our milk along with the rest of our food chain - all done in the name of productivity. I worry that decisions that certain practices are 'safe' are made based on what is really fairly short term research, which will only be found out to be 'unsafe,' many years down the line - with the benefit of hindsight and too late for our children. It's why we buy organic, where we can, although it is more expensive. We started this before Baby came along, but who knows how many chemicals were built up in my body before I got pregnant?

    3. It is interesting to note that allergy experts have noted a real rise in cases over the last ten years. So it must be something fairly recent that has affected our food chain or environment as a whole. Some people point to GM food. I worry that it may be that the changes that are needed to prevent a rise in allergies are so momentous that Governments will be reluctant to take on the challenge and so we will never get the answers that we need. Who knows? It's one of the reasons that I read up on recent developments, about allergies, I must admit I’m unsure how much to believe anyone’s ideas (such as the advice about nuts that came out of Australia, just this week) until they can be absolutely proven.
      I agree it can be difficult to get the help that you need from the medical profession. We certainly struggled at the beginning. In the case of milk allergy, I think that it is often ignored, because so many cases ‘resolve’ themselves during childhood. So it is not seen as being so serious. Also, cow’s milk protein intolerance (Baby’s condition) is quite a mouthful to say. It’s not quite the same as milk allergy and doesn’t have the same ring about it, as does the ‘coeliac’ label, which is successfully being campaigned for, by notable personalities such as Dr Chris Steele and Phil Vickery. We obviously need a milk allergy/intolerance figurehead!
      As regards food allergies/intolerances as a whole, my personal view is that I think the apparent lack of help is partly due to lack of knowledge, partly to lack of funding and partly to lack of understanding - the kind of understanding you can only get from going through it yourself. I don’t know if you saw it, but I was interested to read a blog, just this week that covered this point. It was by an allergist in the US who struggled to cope when she ended up having children with the kind of allergies that she had been treating in others. It makes me realise that if someone like her can struggle, then it’s no wonder if we do. What an extraordinary job we are doing - in bringing up our children safely!
      As for campaigning, well the purpose of this blog is more to provide support for others in the daily challenges of life, by blogging what I learn. However, I am all for raising the awareness of the problems that milk allergic children face particularly among food manufacturers and restaurateurs. It is encouraging to realise that there does seem to be much more awareness than there used to be - of which I am reminded by a friend who has been milk intolerant for years (before it ever knocked at my door). I was particularly pleased this week, to find out that ready salted Pom Bears have changed their recipe (although some old packets may still be in circulation). So progress is being made - it is just frustratingly slow!

      One of the things I struggle with in life, is the ability to remain positive in negative situations. I was therefore delighted this week, when I came to the realisation that although I would much rather be able to take things easy, the one good thing that has come out of it is that I am cooking/baking much more. With all the tampering that goes on in our food chain, baking my own food, can only be good for us as a family!
      Whoops! I’ve just realised that this has turned into a bit of an essay. All good discussion though.
      Best Wishes


  2. very interesting post, I had the itch thing too (but only with my first) Things ("expert opinion" has changed so much in my almost fifteen years of being a mum - weaning at 11 weeks was usual then and now six months as an example. I go with the be chilled and see what happens approach - however I haven't had such allergy troubles as you and would be different I am sure if I had xxx

    1. Hey Grace! Can't believe your oldest is fifteen! I'm suddenly feeling old! I think before Baby came along, the thing I was most worried about was giving birth (I'd heard too many of my mother's birth stories) but having a child with an allergy has definitely changed my priorities!! Now, my worry is not so much about giving birth (although that was an experience in itself)as once it is over it IS over. It seems to me that having a baby is challenging enough, as it is (can't believe you've had six!!!) however, having an allergic baby thing adds a whole new layer of stress, that you can really do without - especially if you don't get the help you need. That said, other people have other problems to deal with, that I also wouldn't want - like your little one's eye problem. I guess we just have to 'deal with the hand we're given,' so to speak, and do the best we can!! However, if people are 'at risk' of having an allergic baby (due to allergies) I can't help wondering why there isn't a little bit more medical advice out there (as there is for other medical conditions) so that if there are any sensible precautions to take (such as taking Vitamin D)then one can be warned and do something about it. I take the view that if I can do something about it, and it seems sensible, then I will! However, as with breastfeeding and weaning, medical advice seems to change so often, that it is difficult to know what to believe. Maybe I should just chill :) xxx

  3. Hi, what an interesting post. Although me and my other half have some allergies and a touch of hayfever, our son seems to be well over that scale. We found out about his dairy allergy when he was a baby and many more as we started to wean him and really got very little help diet wise from the health 'professionals'. We can't help thinking that there must be some other factors behind his problems as we know alot of people from all different backgrounds, some with no allergies themselves who have allergic children. It does make you think!
    Great blog by the way : )

  4. Thank you, I'm glad you like the blog :) It's interesting to hear how people who have been unaffected, by allergies, so far, are having children with allergies too. It certainly seems to be something that is escalating - like an epidemic. Let's hope someone finds us some answers soon!

  5. Hi

    Have just stumbled upon your blog via Pudology on Facebook. My 11 year old has severe multiple food allergy to dairy, egg, wheat, nuts, fish, pulses, mustard and kiwi fruit so I can empathise with your situation.

    I breastfed for over a year but a no point was told to modify my diet and it has no adverse effect on her. I have a nut allergy, so did not eat nuts during pregnancy anyway. After much thought and consideration, daughter no. 2 was born six years later, and shows no sign of any allergy, although avoids nuts because of the effect it could have on her sister and me. I did nothing different for either pregnancy, so please don't feel guilty or responsible for your daughter's allergy....I strongly believe it is how the gene cocktail mixes up to create each unique individual!

    The stress I feel regarding my eldest child is far higher than that for my younger one. The anxiety is still great, but it does change over time as your daughter gets older she will understand and start to take greater responsibility for her allergy herself (if she doesn't grow out of it sooner). The knowledge and understanding surrounding food allergy is far better than when I started out eleven years ago, and the choices of food are more widely available too.

    Ultimately, you adapt and realize that you cannot wrap them in cotton wool forever. Communicating about your child's allergy is vital, but I always try and focus on what they can have, rather than what they can' helps to be positive.

    Eating out remains a difficulty because of the wide range of allergies my daughter has, but restaurants are improving and most have detailed food bibles now. If you have a negative experience, speak to head office or restaurant is the only way to move things forward. Our favourite place to eat is Nandos, as the staff are always so helpful and never make as feel awkward about cleaning down the grill before they cook for us. Zizzi's is also helpful, and Ask are getting better. McDonald's are also surprisingly accommodating....this is worth knowing as Happy Meals will be popular at children's parties when they get older.

    Hope this helps!

    Rebecca x

    1. Hi Rebecca!

      Glad you found us! Thanks for your lovely comments - you're very encouraging.

      I don't blame myself so much. I kind of take the opinion that you make your decisions based on the best advice that is available, but sometimes that advice can be incomplete or just wrong! It's amazing to think (for example) that George VI was advised to smoke for his health, but lung cancer killed him!

      I do find it very interesting, though, that your second daughter has no allergies whatsoever. Maybe that backs up the idea about the first born child? Who knows?

      Must admit I think the staff in Nando's are helpful too, unfortunately after a recent visit I came to the conclusion that their food is too spicy for my stomach to cope with, at the mo (and I love spicy food too). Haven't tried Zizzi's, or Ask, but would like to give them a go, so thanks for that recommendation! MCDonald's - well Baby already loves their fries :)

      Thanks for getting in touch,