My firstborn baby Alex was quite the noise maker. It didn't matter whether I fed him expressed breast milk or formula. Gas seemed to bubble inside of him.
He would cry and make grunting sounds until the air was released. Because breastfed babies can be sensitive to the foods their mothers eat, Alex's doctor suggested that I cut out gas-causing foods including certain vegetables, beans, citrus fruits, and dairy products. Despite my best efforts to adhere to this diet, Alex's gassiness and fussiness worsened.
I could tell that my family and friends thought that I was being an overly-anxious new mom. But Alex's behavior seemed extreme. My baby boy would cry in hunger, and then arch his back and move his face away from the bottle when I tried to feed him. He never slept for longer than three hours. When he was awake, he fussed and cried—a lot. In addition to gas, Alex also had lots of spit-up and diarrhea. He developed a painful-looking red rash on his face and buttocks. As if all of this wasn't bad enough, at six weeks, Alex became colicky. He wailed for four to five hours every evening. Nothing I did could console him. I felt like a failure as a mom.
I saw my pediatrician numerous times during these very difficult first few months. Because Alex struggled to breastfeed, I eventually stopped. My doctor recommended a formula suitable for someone with lactose intolerance and reflux medication, yet Alex's behaviors persisted. Things started to improve when Alex was 10 weeks old. That's when my doctor suggested an extensively hydrolyzed, hypoallergenic formula that is specially formulated for infants with cow's milk allergy. To my amazement, Alex's colic, gassiness, and fussiness greatly diminished within 2 days of the formula change. I started referring to the hypoallergenic formula formula as hope in a bottle. I thought the formula formula smelled odd, yet Alex eagerly devoured it. Two weeks after this switch to the hypoallergenic formula, the rash on Alex's face and bottom faded. He was less gassy, less grunty and less fussy. He slept better, too. After a mere four weeks on the hypoallergenic formula, Alex was a completely different baby. Finally, my baby was happy—and so was I.
When I think back to those very trying days in Alex's infancy, I get frustrated all over again. I knew something was wrong with my baby. I just didn't know what. Even with my doctor's expertise, it took a while to pinpoint the cause of Alex's distressing behavior. At the time, I had never heard of cow's milk allergy. I now know that it is the most common childhood food allergy affecting up to 240,000 babies in the United States every year.1 It was a relief to learn that that I wasn't the only mom caring for a baby with cow's milk allergy.
I also know from first-hand experience that cow's milk allergy isn't a lifelong affliction. After a year of hypoallergenic formula feedings, my doctor recommended introducing dairy products into Alex's diet. I was concerned that his problems would return. They didn't. Today, Alex enjoys all kinds of milk products like ice cream and cheese pizza. When I gave birth to Alex's baby sister a few years later and she developed gas, constipation and a skin rash that looked just like that of her brother. I immediately started her on hypoallergenic formula. Like her big brother, Chloe thrived and now shows no signs of ever having cow's milk allergy.
There really is something to be said about trusting your mother's intuition. If you think your baby is in distress, don't stop talking to your baby's doctor until you learn the cause and have a solution. Once I knew how to manage my babies' allergic reactions to cow's milk with extensively hydrolyzed, hypoallergenic formula, I was able to relax and enjoy being their mom.
‑ Alex's Mom
*LGG is a registered trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S.
- http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/births.htm/ (3,999,386 births in 2010, the most recent data available; 6 percent of 3,999,386 = 239,936, which was rounded up to 240,000; 6 percent figure comes from: A parent's guide to cow's milk allergy: Could my baby have CMA? (p. 3)