Infant Eczema + Allergies and Why I'm Not Just Your Average Food Snob

Lately I've been having a ton of conversations about food.  And although it seems appropriate, this being the season of indulgences, these chats {read: RANTS} have lately been about allergies, what not to eat, and why it's important to research what you/me/we are eating.  This past year has really gotten me in a tizzy, this new-found knowledge, and instead of judging me and writing me off as some kind of food snob, I thought I'd share our story and maybe you'll understand why.

I'll start at the beginning.  Beckett's beginning, actually.  Our little guy was born at a very healthy weight of 8lbs 3oz and I was adamant about exclusively breastfeeding.  And while it is totally natural for babies to lose weight in those first few days our little guy just kept losing.  The nurses began to gently approach the idea of supplementing but I was so determined to exclusively breastfeed that I refused. And burst into tears.  I think they got the message.

We left the hospital with lactation appointments lined up and strict instructions to visit our pediatrician ASAP.  And that's when the weigh-ins started.  Beck just could not regain the weight.  Ya'll he was so tiny.  I gave birth to a very healthy, squishy boy and within weeks we could see his spine.


And then he fell into the 2nd percentile and there was talk of Failure to Thrive.  AHHHHH!!!! What was happening?  I knew he was latching on and I had breastfed Paley so I knew the drill. We also knew that breastfeeding was working because we often did lactation weigh-ins {the kind where they weigh your naked baby, then you feed them, then they weigh them again to see how much milk they drank}. It was so confusing, frustrating, scary.

Then one day {at about 4 months old, still exclusively breastfed} he presented with two red marks on his face.  I liken them to what it might look like to press the pad of your thumb against pale skin {that's about the size of the marks and they were not dry or scaly, just slightly raised}. One was on his upper cheek, the other along his jaw line.  I didn't think much of them until they spread.

Within a week or so our little guy's face looked like it had a severe sunburn from his jaw to right above his eye.  During a flare up sometimes his eyes would swell.

Our pediatrician diagnosed him with "classic eczema" (with no signs of eczema in any "classic locations").

Well, neither Chris nor I have any experience with eczema so I began obsessively researching.  The first time I typed in "Baby eczema" google completed my search by adding "allergies".  And I was on to something.

I was amazed at how many moms dealt with their children's eczema with diet.  I was also amazed at how many doctors and nurses turned up their noses when I mentioned it.  {So annoying.} I dove in anyway and began an elimination diet.  Because Beck was still exclusively breastfed, it was up to me to do all of the eliminating and within the first 24 hours of nixing gluten, he had his first "normal" poop of his life. Finally my baby had "peanut butter poop"!

I continued a very strict diet of no gluten, and each week eliminated one more suspected allergen {dairy, soy, nuts} but nothing made any noticeable difference compared to what happened when I stopped eating gluten.

Soon it was time for another weigh in.  I was nervous but felt such peace that I was actively pursuing a fix.  Our pediatrician was so excited.  Beck had shot from the 2nd percentile to the 25 percentile in two months.  It felt like I had just won the Nobel Peace Prize.  I was that excited.  Our doctor finally agreed that it was perhaps food related {remember, he had NO eczema in the "classic" spots at all} and we were sent to a pediatric dermatology allergist.  They did a full panel prick test and 30 minutes later, my son exhibited no signs of reaction at all.  So, he's not allergic, right?


Because he had negative results (meaning no noticeable reaction with the prick test), I let up on my elimination diet. This was also around the time that Beck was beginning solid foods and, although we typically don't eat a ton of gluten in our family anyway, I did allow him some from time to time. I mean, who was I to not let my little one try a Goldfish?! Isn't this some kind of rite of passage?

Well, to my dismay/frustration the eczema just kept flaring. Two months later we went in for our next weigh in and Beck had again plummeted to the 13th percentile.  I WAS SO HEARTBROKEN.  His growth chart was nothing but a bunch of peaks and valleys.  We were sent to yet another pediatric dermatologist whom I finally allowed to prescribe cortisone just to get the eczema under control because now he was old enough to scratch it and he was so uncomfortable.  But there was NO WAY I was going to continue to use a steroid on my baby's face for long. (If you don't know about the side effects of cortisone, please do your research)

The cortisone helped but his weight was still an issue. So I did the only thing I knew to do in order to get it back up.  I cut gluten.  We became rigorous about it.

And within six weeks Beckett weighed in FOUR POUNDS HEAVIER.

So Beck is gluten free.  Always.  He has not had even the tiniest bit of eczema since and just thrills our pediatrician with his progress.  If he gets gluten, his face will usually tell you first (red blotches, swollen eyes).  Then his tummy will let you know (I won't go into detail - it's never pretty).

We won't know for awhile if he has Celiac Disease.  They will test him when his immune system is more fully developed in a couple of years. Until then our pediatrician is now convinced that Beck has a definite sensitivity to gluten and we are all hopeful that he might someday outgrow it. But I can't un-know what I've read.  For our family, I still try to keep the rest us mostly gluten free but we're certainly not perfect.  The idea is to be aware.  Arm yourself with information.  Be brave about how you treat your body.  It's ok to believe that modern medicine is just a band-aid for something you actually have control over.

Finally, I really, truly believe that everyone should be armed with information (here's my favorite article introducing why gluten sucks).  But please do your own research about the things that you eat.  I think you'll be amazed at the mess we've created in our agricultural system and probably (hopefully) think twice about calling me a food snob.


Update: The West Linn House is DONE-ZO

So many of you have asked recently for an update on the West Linn house and we are happy to report that the new renters moved in this week!  Yay!  Of course, we're still working through a few hiccups but we are so very happy to {hopefully} have our weekends/evenings/life back.

I am happy to report that we survived the renovation with only a mild case of overwhelm, despite adding a complete bath redo and absolute kitchen overhaul {both of which were NOT on our original to do list}.  We also ended up having the exterior of the house painted.  And.... I basically failed miserably when it came to painting {aka. my only real "job" at the house} so we ended up having that hired out as well.

I did, however, keep both kids alive and happy.  So.  There's that.

Chris... well... I just can't say enough about him.  He just work, and worked, and worked.  And never complained.  Like, not even ONCE.  He took on everything and just amazed me every day.  I know this seems impossible - unless you know him, and then you know it's true.  He is superhuman and definitely my hero.

Here's a peek at the house right before the final touches were made.  {Pardon the random upload of the images... and the stuff in the kitchen sink}

Remember how awful it was?