1. Food allergies are real.
2. Nobody wants their baby to have food allergies.
3. Correct diagnosis of food allergy can be hard to come by.
4. Undiagnosed babies with food allergies can become very poorly and can develop long-standing feeding problems, which can affect their growth and development.
5. With budgets to maintain, Doctors can be reluctant to prescribe necessary formulas.
6. Parents of babies with food allergies often have to fight for the correct treatment and this can be extremely stressful.
7. Specialised formulas are necessary for babies with allergies. There is safe no alternative that can be obtained at the supermarket for the same cost as normal formulas, as Croydon CCG and Richmond both maintained in their proposals. If only it were that simple!
Anyway, this is...
Emma has two children a boy and a girl. Her eldest did not have his milk allergy picked up for the best part of a year. Despite being very sickly; having blood and mucus in his stools; and being very unsettled, Emma, seeking help for her son, got nowhere. He also cried for hours on end, had raw eczema and wheezed. Then, at the age of eight months, Emma's son had some egg, to which he reacted very badly and they had to call the paramedics. At the follow-up hospital appointment (which didn't take place until he was 10 months old), Emma described how he had been as a baby, and he was finally diagnosed with a milk allergy. She was told, "We're not saying you were fobbed off by the GP/Health Visitor/Midwife etc.. But you were!' He is now also soya free.
Quite understandably, when Emma was pregnant with baby number two, she was worried her new baby would also have food allergies, but again, everyone said she was fine. Again she was told that the symptoms that began to appear were probably just colic. Emma thought different, however, but it was only when her (by now, very unhappy) daughter was 10 weeks old; suffering with blood in her stools, constipation and diarrhea, did Emma manage to get a second opinion from a Doctor.
As a result of this second opinion, Emma and her daughter were referred to hospital, where Emma's suspicion's of a milk allergy was confirmed and her daughter was prescribed Nutramigen. By this stage, Emma's daughter had pretty much stopped feeding, as she now associated milk with pain. She had lost a lot of weight and it took a long time to get her feeding better and her growth up to the second centile.
Once her daughter reached 6 months Emma was advised to switch formula to Nutramigen 2, and, whether it was coincidence or not, her daughter started feeding much more. To her shock, by the eighth day, Emma realised that they were starting their fourth tin and she only had four more. Knowing that it took her Doctor up to 48 hours to issue a prescription and that the pharmacy would have to order it in, which could mean a few days wait, Emma got straight on the case - and asked her Doctor for more milk.
|More than just baby milk, this is vital medicine!|
When Emma rang the surgery the next day to see if her daughter's prescription was ready, the staff at reception told her that the Doctor had left a note to say she was only allowed eight tins a month, and she would have to get an appointment to discuss it further. The next day all the appointments were gone, so Emma arranged an appointment the day after.
In the meantime, Emma's and her husband and calculated how many tins a month my baby would need if she drank 35 oz a day (which is the amount the consultant said she should be drinking at 4 months). The amount she came up with wasn't allowing for any wastage (you can only keep formula for an hour or so, once it has been made, so any left-overs need to be disposed of and fresh milk made up).
Once she was at the appointment, Emma's problems were not over. The Doctor listened to Emma, but said she should be weaning her daughter. He said he was only going by government guidelines, and did she realise it was cost £11 per tin? He also emphasised that she was spending public money, which made Emma feel awful.
Emma tried to remain calm and explained she was only trying to feed her baby and that she actually started trying to wean her daughter at 5 months, because she thought maybe she would be a better eater than drinker, but that so far she was not interested. Reluctantly, the Doctor issued her a 'one-off prescription' for eight tins, but would not issue any more without a letter from the consultant.
The next day, Emma rang the consultant, but he wasn't available and she was told he would have to call her back. Then Emma had an asthma attack, and was so poorly that she was admitted to hospital. At this point, she felt no more strength to keep pursuing the consultant, as she felt the stress was contributing to her being so ill.
Fortunately, the consultant soon called back, and said it was not a problem. He worked out how many tins Emma's baby would need the same way that she had. He did say to keep trying to wean her daughter, as it's quite common for babies with allergies to develop food aversions, but said that she could have thirteen tins in month and that he would write to the Doctor. So finally it was all sorted and the panic was over.
Emma told me:
'I just found it so hard last week, when I felt just like when I knew she was allergic, but couldn't get anyone to listen to me.
I think we have enough to deal with, and enough worries with our allergy babies, without extra stress like this. I would love to have a baby that is not allergic, but that's not the case.
I hope other people manage to get the help they need.'
And those of us with 'allergy babies,' who have struggled to get help, know just how she feels.
If this story has affected you in anyway, please join the Campaign for Milk Prescription Access, which aims to try and prevent prescription changes in the UK, that could make it harder for mum's of babies with allergies to get access to the formula they need. The formula is both incredibly expensive and incredibly necessary. At the moment not all areas are expecting mums to pay for their formula, but in some areas this is already starting to happen.
The Campaign website can be found here. They are also on Face Book and on Twitter at @cmpa_UK.
And you can sign a petition (not started by us, but related to our campaign) by following this link.