Photos taken in collaboration with Ang Wei Ming
Less than two weeks into our little one’s arrival into this world, we found blood in his stool. It was a sight that no parent would want to see.
After seeing the paediatrician, we were informed that it was likely that our son had an allergy to cow’s milk protein. To manage this, I had to omit dairy from my diet. And what filled me with most dread was the paediatrician’s view that if it didn’t work, she said that I would have to stop breastfeeding entirely.
I wasn’t sure how to take this news. I had hoped to give my son breastmilk until the age of one, and I was sad at the prospect of not being able to give him the related benefits.
As we navigated the next few months, we had several highs and lows. Every diaper change was filled with trepidation – would there be blood this time? It was truly taxing on me mentally. The lowest point was when the bleeding increased and my son ended up being hospitalised.
Thankfully, today, we have a much better handle on managing my son's allergy, and I am glad to have been able to continue breastfeeding my son.
1. Seek a second opinion
While our first paediatrician was very good, she was not a specialist in gastrointestinal issues. After seeing her several times regarding the allergy, we decided to seek a second opinion to find out what else could be done to manage it.
The specialist had seen many such cases and understood my concern over breastfeeding. She provided us with a practical, manageable way to manage the allergy while taking into consideration my desire to breastfeed.
2. Get professional help if needed
Despite my best efforts to cut dairy, I still unknowingly consumed items that contained dairy. And each time I saw blood in my son’s diaper, my heart sank.
What was I doing wrong? I had triple checked but somehow still ended up having dairy in my diet. That was when I decided to seek profession help. Consulting with a dietician helped me identify more clearly the items that could have dairy in it.
Seeing a dietician was also helpful when I was starting my son on solids. She gave guidance on what I should not feed him and the ingredients to watch out for.
3. Don't be afraid to be an "inconvenience" to others
At the start, I was hesitant to eat out as it was difficult to ascertain what was in the food. However, eating similar things at home for long periods of time was wearing me down. I missed food that I used to have and was craving for it.
I started by eating at places that would indicate if there was dairy in the food. I also made sure that I informed the restaurant early that I could not take dairy in my diet, so that they took note of this ahead of time.
4. Take care of your own health
Being a mum is stressful and tiring enough. Being a mum of a child with an allergy adds more pressure and worry.
I learnt the hard way that I needed to take care of myself, or I would be useless to everybody, including my son. I felt so defeated each time I saw blood in his stool and would beat myself up over it. I had to remind myself that I was new to this too and to give myself time to see results.
Today, my son is eight months old, and I am hopeful that he will outgrow this allergy. And if not, I have every confidence that we will be able to continue managing it.