The way my mum tells it, I cried non-stop for the first 12 months of my life.
I say cry but she describes it as more of a series of never ending ear-splitting screams – to the point where I gave myself a hernia and spent my first birthday in hospital having it repaired.
It seems everyone tried to comfort me but to no avail and so they went into survival mode. My dad still talks of turning up the radio to drown me out while there is also a story of me being wheeled in my pram to the end of the, admittedly not very long, garden and being left to wail on my own – though neither of them will admit to being the one who did this.
When they used to tell me those stories, long before I had my daughter, I would roll my eyes at their obvious exaggeration. How bad could it really have been? I thought to myself.
And then I had a baby who screamed all day and all night – though thankfully not for 12 months (maybe just the first nine).
While my mum has never actually said “I told you so” we have locked eyes over my unhappy child and her look has said it all. She now thinks that I, like my daughter, either had a cows’ milk protein allergy or intolerance (CMPA/I) and reflux, which can be as a result of the allergy or a stand alone condition, but, she says: “We didn’t know about such things in those days. There was one type of milk, one type of bottle and that was it.”
I was simply left to grow out of it (I love milk now) and my poor mum and dad had to find ways to stay sane.
These days it doesn’t have to be that way but it sometimes still is.
This month is Moovember – where the spotlight is turned on CMPA – so I thought I would do my bit and write about it.
CMPA is one of the most common food allergies, affecting up to 1 in 20 children under three – although, thankfully, the majority of them grow out of it by the time they are five.
According to Allergy UK:
“Food allergies happen when the body’s immune system becomes confused and reacts to what, for most people, are harmless proteins in foods, such as those found in cows’ milk. It is the release of the chemical histamine during this reaction which causes the typical symptoms that we recognise as allergy, such as swelling, itching, hives, vomiting and wheezing.”
Apparently, if there is a history of allergies in your family then there is a higher risk of it being passed on. In our case as well as my suspected milk issue my husband also suffers with allergies. However, I was the one who went to our GP, on one of many visits, and suggested she could have CMPA.
Freya had dropped from the 98th centile (I know!) to the 25th before someone finally took notice. After months of tears (hers and mine), bottle refusal, sick, horrible nappies, trials of different milks (she sadly became breast averse very early) and medicines, she was diagnosed as intolerant. I know other babies have stronger, more dangerous reactions so we were lucky in some ways.
She is currently on Neocate, an amino acid, hypo-allergic formula and, in consultation with the dietician, is being weaned on a dairy free diet. We were hoping to start challenging the intolerance when she turned one but she’s still unsettled by something (possibly other food intolerances) at night so it was decided to leave it a while longer.
Clearly, there are far, far worse things for a child to have but, believe me, the road to a CMPA/I diagnosis is not always an easy one (I will be doing a separate post about that).
My hope is that in the future if Freya wants, and is lucky enough to have, children and they also turn out to have CMPA, the support will be there instantly and they won’t have to suffer for 12 months or even nine.
Here are some useful websites with more information:
Moovember is run by a great charity, Children’s Allergy Foundation , which runs valuable support groups on this issue.
For blogs and other resources please see my infant reflux page.