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Alice and Oliver

It is a distant memory now, as I watch my cheeky, happy 18 month old toddle around the lounge, but Oliver did not have the easy start I had envisaged…

Desperate to get home after a hospital birth in the middle of a pandemic, I’m not really sure when I started to suspect something wasn’t quite right. The early days were a blur of sick and sleeplessness.

Everything was covered in sick, all the time. I had sick in my hair, sick in my bra. I couldn’t change and wash mine or Oliver’s clothes fast enough for us to both be ‘sick-free’ at the same time. When he wasn’t being sick, he’d nurse. Constantly. It felt like he only stopped nursing so he could throw it up again.

And the nappies! I’d had good intentions of using cloth nappies. But the poos were so horrendous that we couldn’t keep up with that either.

So here we were, covered in sick and baby poo, constantly feeding and hoping that it would get better soon. I joked and said it was a good job it was lockdown, no one would want to see us like this anyway!

We eventually messaged the doctor. It was still lockdown, no one would see us in person. Desperate for the doctor to believe me, I poured out everything that had been happening. “Anxious mum” he said. We put the phone down and continued to feed and mop up sick. If Oliver wasn’t feeding, he was crying.

We tried again, this time the doctor conceded: Oliver might have reflux. I asked about CMPA, but was again dismissed. Instead, he offered me reflux medication. I accepted, desperate for anything that might help.

If anything, the medication made it worse. And on top of this constant feeding, puking, screaming baby, I was now trying to pump so I could give him the medication mixed with my milk as the doctor had told me.

It was January 2021, lockdown again. I told myself I wasn’t urgent enough to need in-person support. I attended virtual baby cafes with LWBS and felt reassured that there was lots I was doing right. We discussed lots of ideas and things to try to help, including discussing latch and fast letdown. It sounds strange to write it now, in hindsight I’m questioning why I didn’t just go with my gut, but after insistence from the doctor that this was not an allergy, I think I was looking for permission to try a dairy-free diet. LWBS helped me to rule out other likely problems, but supported me with an elimination diet.

After only a couple of days dairy-free, I thought I’d noticed an improvement. It took another week before I was sure, but a month later I was certain. By the end of January, Oliver was actually keeping down most of his feeds. I doubted myself again though, the doctor said the reflux would just improve and go away on its own… if I had persevered would it have gone away on its own? Again, I discussed this with Kaya and I tried cow’s milk on my own cereal one morning. It confirmed what I’d needed to know and I now had the evidence and confidence that I needed to address this with the doctor again. Finally, they agreed to refer us to allergy clinic. Aged 6 months, Oliver was seen and confirmed as having a non-IgE dairy allergy.

After that, it has been better, not necessarily easy, but I know what to avoid and I have confidence in myself that I am doing the right thing.

Under medical advice, we started the milk ladder (a controlled way to reintroduce small amounts of dairy) just after Oliver’s first birthday. He has currently failed ‘step one’ twice but the second time his symptoms were less severe so we’re hopeful that he will eventually be able to tolerate small amounts of dairy or perhaps outgrow it altogether.

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