October 24, 2013

dairy and soy free: the short version

I've never mentioned this on the blog but Alden has pretty bad eczema. He also has a chronic runny nose, trouble sleeping, a chronic "rash" in his diaper area, puffy eyes and very sensitive skin (like, break out in a rash immediately after coming into contact with a new product). If you're the least bit familiar with allergies (both environmental and food) in babies, you'll recognize most of these as potential allergy symptoms. We have, thankfully, never had any type of anaphylactic reaction to a food or environmental trigger but we have seen these other things creep up over time (in addition to a few skin reactions he's had immediately after exposure to new products). But, there was enough reason (after a few months of watching and trying various things) for his pediatrician to recommend a dairy and soy elimination diet for both of us (since Alden is still breastfeeding) to see if these symptoms are a reaction to a potential dairy/soy allergy, the most common allergy in infants.

you can see his puffy eyes here

you can kind of see the redness/puffiness in his eyes here, plus the pink, runny nose

We started the elimination diet on October 1 and it generally takes about a month to really see results if there are going to be any. Dairy and soy proteins take about two weeks to be completely eliminated from an adult's body, and then it's another two weeks for them to be eliminated from the baby's body after the Mama's body is "clean". So that makes us on Day 24 of a dairy/soy-free diet and, overall, it's not that bad. (Don't get me wrong, I am really missin' me some CHEESE, but in the grand scheme of things- I can deal) 

That whole story is going to come a little later, with things like resources and tips. For now, I'm going to talk about how we got to this point (mostly because it will be helpful for us in the future if we do end up being "allergy parents" to have this all written down, but maybe it will help someone else who may be wondering about these things in their own baby).

We planned for the sensitive skin- I have temperamental skin as well so we stocked up on Aveeno products before Alden was born (Aveeno has always worked well for me and it's dermatologist-recommended) and we also changed laundry detergents to a no frills, nothing added, just plain soap brand (that I LOVE!) called Charlie's Soap. Since I wanted to get something new to use on our cloth diapers anyway, we figured it couldn't hurt to cut down on the additives for the rest of our clothing/towels/linens in case Alden's skin turned out to be sensitive to things like fragrance, etc. This ended up being a great decision!

What we didn't plan for was the chronic rash, eczema, etc. and we have been on a months-long journey to conquer all of the little issues that Alden has, one thing at a time. In a stroke of good luck, he has never seemed bothered by any of his symptoms but it still breaks my heart to hear him stuffy every day and see his soft, perfect baby skin turn scaly and dry.

The first "allergy" symptom was probably the runny nose but since babies, especially babies in daycare, get runny noses like it's their job, it didn't set off any red flags with us or his pediatrician. He was always otherwise healthy, growing well, alert, and happy so allergies didn't even hit our radar for a while. The chronic "diaper rash" has been around for at least 4 months and I put it in quotes because it's not really a true diaper rash. It's usually flat (not raised bumps), not present in the skin folds (which can point to yeast) and has a diffuse, slightly red presentation. We began treatment for a yeast rash when it first showed up and, lo and behold, Alden reacted to the medication and ended up with a horrific allergic reaction on his skin that took forever to completely heal. We're still not really sure if it was ever a yeast infection or not because once his skin began reacting to the medication, we couldn't really see what was going on with the original rash. We added fleece liners to his diapers on the suggestion of a fellow parent who sees similar skin reactions in her son and saw some mild, occasional improvement. We now know that it is exacerbated, if not completely caused, by heat and wetness so he gets a fleece liner in every diaper and we try to change him as often as possible so his skin can stay dry. sidenote: back when we first started seeing this diaper-area rash, I wondered about dairy since I had read that one of the first signs in a dairy-allergic baby could be a "milk rash" in their diaper and around their mouths. now, I'm even more curious if my gut was right...

Trouble sleeping has always been present, too, but since Alden is such an alert baby who wants to be in on all the action, we attributed most of his reluctance to sleep to him just wanting to be awake. Now that he's older and is at the age where we would expect to see him sleeping for much longer stretches of time, we're seeing that he is probably not sleeping as well as he could be. I have heard that this can be a sign of allergies as well...then, the eczema started. I have psoriatic arthritis (which comes with psoriasis of the skin) and I worked as a medical assistant for a dermatologist so I am familiar with what psoriasis and eczema look like. I knew what it was from the very beginning (when it was just a couple small patches on Alden's back) but also knew that infant eczema is very common so we just started with some home remedies to try and keep his skin moisturized and get rid of the eczema patches. We tried Aveeno lotion, coconut oil, my nipple balm, putting nothing on it for a while, etc. Turns out, the coconut oil recently seems to work well on the rash in his diaper area (as does Boudreaux's when it gets really bad), but nothing would touch the eczema. Lotion would help to keep it from being scaly and dry but it didn't make it go away and nothing we tried kept it from spreading. It took a while but after a few weeks the eczema patches began to spread pretty quickly and that was when we took all the information back to the pediatrician. She said, "elimination diet". We chose to also eliminate all traces of oat in his diet and his products since I had thought we saw an exacerbation of the eczema after introducing oatmeal. That meant we put all of the Aveeno products on the shelf and have been using an all natural Johnson's baby wash this month instead. We also cut out his oatmeal cereal and will reintroduce oat after we get the eczema under control and can really monitor his reaction.

this is when the eczema really started to spread. you can see it on his shoulder & back

here you can see the patches on his back, side and legs. my poor baby :( 
So here we are. I have had no dairy or soy for 24 days so it should be completely out of my system and we are getting close to the one month mark where we may be able to make some judgement calls about Alden's reaction to the diet. Hopefully we'll be able to make some decisions about how to move forward at Alden's 9 month appointment in a couple of weeks. **Knock on wood** I think his eczema is better, still there but definitely not as irritated and red and the rash in his diaper area is essentially gone. The runny nose is still going with a vengeance but there are so many things that can contribute to a runny nose that I'm not sure whether this is something we can count on to monitor. Also, he's been sleeping pretty well lately- seems like we're getting more consistent longer stretches of sleep at night. However, he's started spitting up/vomiting more than usual lately and if he was having reflux due to allergies, we would expect that to be going away...so that's another question. All in all, something is causing his eczema (and potentially other symptoms as well) and even if it turns out not to be dairy or soy, we need to find out the cause so we can avoid it until his body can tolerate it. I'm almost hoping that what we've already done will prove to be the solution because the thought of having to keep searching, trying, and wondering is daunting and sad.

Cheers to the science experiment that is baby allergies! :/

much love, L&N


  1. Ah allergies- I really hope he grows out of it! Just a thought, because this happened to B- make sure your new shampoo doesn't have any soy ingredients in it- we were using Burt's Bees on a diaper rash for B when he was younger, and it had soy in it and his skin got super red and irritated. We use this shampoo now (found at Target) and it works great: http://www.californiababy.com/super-sensitive-shampoo-bodywash-8-5-oz.html Sneaky sneaky soy!
    And in regards to spit up- our GI dr said that some babies will temporarily start spitting up more when they become more mobile, around 8ish months, so that *might* be what's happening with Alden. I wouldn't worry too much about it IF he's not in pain while doing the spitting up.

    1. I'll have to check our new shampoos and stuff, I know I looked at all of the ingredients when we bought them but now I can't remember! The temporary spitting up things makes me feel so much better! He doesn't seem to be in pain when it happens (no crying, back arching, etc.) so maybe it's because of the new mobility :)