I Battled the Chaos of the Elimination Diet and I Found Peace
If you're reading this, you may be thinking, "I don't want to hear the word 'elimination' ever again." OR "What on earth is an elimination diet?"
I'll answer the latter question with my story: When my son was about 3 weeks old, he had bloody stools and I was told my breastmilk was the cause. The cure was to either stop nursing and formula feed, or to go on this treacherous elimination diet.
Let me be clear: I was never anti-formula. I mean it when I say "Fed is Best."
My issue was being told the same body that held, carried and birthed this sweet boy was now the cause of his pain. I wasn't willing to simply accept that by following Mother Nature's path I was hurting my baby.
I opted for the elimination diet. Every week, I was to eliminate, with no hints or trace, a part of my diet.
Week 1 - Eliminate dairy - no change - move onto next portion of breastfeeding diet.
Week 2 - Eliminate soy - difficult, as soy is in many items consumed today - no change - move on, without adding in dairy or soy.
Week 3 - Eliminate gluten - no change - move on, again, don't add in previous items yet.
Week 4 - Eliminate nuts - no change - move on, don't add in previous items.
Week 5 - Eliminate meat - no change - move on, don't add in previous items.
So, here I was, 5 weeks into this diet, ravenously hungry and still very hormonal. By this point, I was basically hunting down alternate sources of protein, with select vegetable for every single meal, trying to figure it all out and care for my new baby. I was physically exhausted, which was nothing in comparison to the blow I took during every visit to the pediatrician.
At some point in this 5 week journey, we had an ER visit for an excessively bloody diaper and my son's weight gain was quite slow.
We started seeing a pediatric GI (gastroenterologist) who assured me that I only needed to eliminate 3 things, in this order: Cow's milk protein (cow's milk fat was ok as was any other animal dairy), Soy then Corn.
Finally, my son showed signs of improvement right as the time my diet expanded greatly to allow in many other foods I had stayed away from.
During this time, I researched endlessly. I read up on everything from "Low supply issues" to "breastfeeding diet" to "baby's weight gain" and I wasn't coming up with anything that matched what I was going through. I didn't know of the term "elimination diet." Even if I did, I'm not sure that would have mattered.
What I needed was this: I needed validation and support. My dear friends, who care about me deeply, had no idea what to say to me. On a text chain, they both BEGGED me to stop nursing, saying I was doing this, "all to hold on to an ideal."
"Do what's right by your baby." My response: I'm trying, in a defeated tone.
"Don't do this to him." My response: Do what? Feed my baby?
From my medical team to my well-intended support system, I heard "Your body is what's wrong. You can solve this if you would just give up your selfish desire to nurse."
I needed to hear someone say, "This sounds really tough. You'll get to the bottom of it. You're working hard to take good care of your sweet boy." I needed to hear someone say, "You're doing the right thing."
I finally decided that I was doing the right thing, despite what my world was telling me. None of it lined up with my gut instinct. My son is a happy, healthy, bouncy, light-up-the-room 2 year old and we continue to share a beautiful nursing relationship.
Note: None of what I've written is intended as medical advice, nor could I even purport to possess this kind of knowledge. I am simply sharing my journey through those early, scary days to remind myself that when I drown out the noise and follow my gut, I can achieve peace in motherhood. And that peace allows me to enjoy this precious and sweet boy.