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Breastfeeding Saved My Highly Allergic Baby

Karmen Mlinar
Kamnik, Slovenia
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 3, May-June 2000, pp. 87-88

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

I live in Kamnik, a little town under the Alps in the small country of Slovenia in Europe. I work at a big hospital in our capital city Ljubljana as a computer engineer, and I am also a mother of two: son Luka (he'll be 4 in May) and daughter Naja (14 months). I breastfed Luka for 13 months, until the time he lost interest. I had many problems at the beginning of breastfeeding. He slept a lot and was a poor eater. At 14 days of age, he got his first bottle of formula and at the age of one month, he was about 90 percent bottlefed. I desperately wanted to breastfeed him, but I couldn't find any help, since at that time there was no LLL in Slovenia. At my first postpartum exam, I told my gynecologist about my disappointment with breastfeeding and she helped me to start on an upward path. I always offered Luka my breast first and then I pumped my milk and gave it to him in the bottle. At the age of two months, he was completely breastfed again! We needed no more bottles.

By the time my daughter was born, the first LLL Group had formed in Slovenia and I immediately joined. Soon I decided that I'd like to help new mothers with problems because I knew very well how hard it is if there's nobody who can help you.

I'd like to tell you how breastfeeding saved my little girl. Almost immediately after birth we found out that Naja was highly allergic. She suffered a lot, her skin was full of lesions, and she was very itchy. At the age of two months, she was in such bad condition that we had to go to the hospital. Fortunately, in Slovenia a breastfeeding mother can stay with her child in the hospital. At that time they found out that Naja was highly allergic to cow's milk and eggs.

The doctor told me that I should stop breastfeeding and give my baby a special formula. I didn't agree because I have always been convinced that mother's milk was the best for the baby, so I decided to put myself on a rigorous diet. I stopped consuming all milk products, eggs, red meat, chocolate, canned food and food with additives and preservatives, cocoa, nuts, many kinds of fruit, and fish. I read many books about nutrition and I called my vegetarian friends to find out how to replace the food I was avoiding with other healthful foods. At that time, I lost 16 kg. of weight, and I was still successfully breastfeeding my little girl. It was never hard for me to completely change my eating habits. When I saw my little girl suffer, I was convinced of what I needed to do. At first, her skin became better but then her condition worsened. The doctor again tried to persuade me to stop breastfeeding, but I requested new allergy tests. Those showed that she's highly allergic to flowers and grass pollen (it was May) and dust mites. But her skin condition was still very bad. At that time, my doctor again accused me of not supporting my daughter's treatment because I wouldn't stop breastfeeding. I told her that she must prove to me that my milk was not good for my girl. I gave her a copy of the LLLI BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK and tried to convince her that breastfeeding is best for the allergic child.

In June, Naja and I were in the hospital again. I made a list of the foods I ate (there weren't a lot of them) and some new allergy tests were done. The doctor was very surprised when the tests showed that my little girl was highly allergic to wheat, soy, beef, potatoes, and bananas. I stopped eating these foods and Naja was 99 percent better by the first week of July. Then my doctor told me how good it was that I insisted on breastfeeding, because my baby could not have tolerated any supplementary formula and that she'd have been on intravenous feeding in the hospital if I weren't breastfeeding her. I couldn't have been with her then, because mothers who don't breastfeed can't stay with their babies in the hospital. The doctor promised me that she'll never again pressure mothers of her allergic patients to stop breastfeeding if they are careful about their own diets.

I became an expert in cooking and baking without eggs, milk, wheat, potatoes, red meat, bananas, and soy. I lost another 9 kg. (altogether 25), and I now look like a model. I have read many books about allergies and nutrition, so I became an "expert" about that. My LLL Leader usually gives my phone number to mothers who call about this problem, so I can share my personal experience with other breastfeeding mothers of allergic children on how to deal with the nutrition changes. I have written down my own recipes and I send them to the interested mothers.

Naja is now 14 months old, and she began eating solids at 13 months. Before that, she strictly declined all food except her mother's milk. My pediatrician reassured me that my daughter probably knows best what is good for her and that I needn't worry, because she gained well on only my milk, even though I was on a strict diet. Of course I put new food in our meals now, especially legumes, brown rice, lots of vegetables, and sesame seeds. Once I went to my doctor and asked for blood tests to see if I had some nutritional deficiencies. I found out I am in excellent health and so is Naja.

I am hoping I will soon realize my dream of becoming an LLL Leader to help mothers with breastfeeding. I also want to form a support group for parents of allergic children, to exchange information and support.

So Naja's illness was good in one way. Our experience taught me how to eat well and that good communication can save a breastfeeding relationship, the baby's health and sometimes even the life of an allergic baby.

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