What if my allergy is genetic? How I got over my fears while nursing

(Photo: Unsplash, JV Garcia)

This post is sponsored by The Breastfeeding Shop.

Stories of my infancy are legendary in my house. I don’t remember a time when my parents didn’t have at least one “when Meggie could projectile vomit across a room” story to share at a party.

Even without actually recalling those days because I was–well, a baby–I can easily imagine what it must have been like: Two brand-new parents with a tiny baby who will not stop vomiting. Nothing stays down. Not formula, not breast milk. Any slight jostling after eating would lead to eruption.

My parents literally laid plastic tarps down around my baby bouncer seat. There were strict instructions not to move me, at all, for at least 45 minutes after eating. My mother, bless her soul, would gingerly carry me to the car still in her bathrobe so that I wouldn’t puke all over her work clothes.

It took over six months and one hernia operation, to finally get a severe dairy allergy diagnosis. To this day, eating milk products is extremely dangerous and possibly life-threatening. I carry EpiPens and Benadryl with me everywhere, just in case.

When I was a brand-new mom, all of those stories came rushing back to me. Every little spit-up was anxiety-inducing.

My hours-old baby threw up everywhere at the hospital. Immediately, my mind went into overdrive. I was convinced that I had eaten something that caused the spit-up situation. I knew it wasn’t dairy, but what if it was the peanut butter on my toast?

Until the doctor arrived, I was a ball of nerves and anxiety. He reassured me that all babies spit up, sometimes very forcefully. New babies also spit up more because they might have amniotic fluid in their bellies. He reviewed my meal choices and checked my new daughter over for any other signs of reaction. By the time he left, I was so much more relaxed.

Even with the doctor’s reassurance, those fears never truly left me. For a few months, my daughter would forcefully spit up at least once a day. Every time, I would question my judgement. Had I eaten too much peanut butter? Did I touch something of hers with seafood on my hands? Or was it all the soy-based products I was eating in place of dairy?

Just in the nick of time, my mother arrived. I had been telling her all about my fears over the phone. The first time she saw my baby spit-up, she chuckled a little bit. My child had only managed to spray the next couch cushion. Apparently, I could literally launch my lunch across the room.

My fears and worries had caused me to hype up normal baby spit-up. I mean, it still wasn’t fun, and I constantly smelled like spoiled milk. But at least my infant wasn’t painting the walls with her last feeding. So that was something. I could relax just a little bit.

Until it came time to introduce solids. Every food was carefully and slowly introduced. I checked for rashes constantly. I was just waiting for that first really bad reaction.

Finally, I saw an allergist. After confirming my own dairy allergy, the doctor reassured me that it would be very rare to pass a food allergy genetically. Basically, I was most likely in the clear but should still proceed with necessary caution.

Even though my daughter is not allergic to anything, I still felt these same fears with my son. I watch him, and her, like a hawk with new foods. The dread of that what-if scenario hangs over my head.

I was terrified that my child would be allergic to my breast milk. It was scary to think that something so natural could potentially kill her. My own retold experiences as an infant testified to this possibility.

Having caring doctors on my side to reassure and guide me made such a difference. Knowing I could go to them in the event of an adverse reaction gave me confidence. Getting that reality check from my mom helped, too. I was doing everything right and my children were–and are–just fine. Plus, I already knew the best tarp-layering tricks if the worst should happen!

The Breastfeeding Shop provides name-brand, high-quality breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies. Catering to the military community, the Breastfeeding Shop’s quick and easy service ensures that TRICARE beneficiaries can receive breast pumps and supplies at no-cost to them.

By Meg Flanagan