Photo courtesy of Christine Hernandez

How An Elimination Diet Saved Breastfeeding For Me

Ad failed to load

If you would have told me two years ago that in the future I would be breastfeeding a 15-month-old, I would have told you to get the eff out of here. Before becoming a parent, I thought breastfeeding past infancy was weird and creepy and couldn’t fathom why anyone would be doing it. Then I became a mom and found myself trying an elimination diet to keep breastfeeding my son.

I was up all night with a newborn, could not have any coffee, and was surviving on ground turkey, potatoes and zucchini.

My son came into this world a shriveled little purple ball of tears and the only thing that seemed to calm him was being close to me. I wore him all day in a sling and if I dared try to put him down he would scream until picked him back up. Sometimes I would be trapped on the couch for hours while he slept and nursed on and off for what seemed like forever. I honestly did not even understand how one tiny human could even consume so much. Those first few months were so overwhelming and all-consuming. We found out he had a tongue tie and lip tie that needed correcting, and after that he started to show symptoms of reflux and a food allergy/intolerance.

Ad failed to load

After visiting our pediatrician, then a gastroenterologist, and consulting with a few different lactation consultants, I went on an elimination diet.

Photo courtesy of Christine Hernandez

I basically eliminated everything that could potentially be irritating his little belly. Coffee, chocolate, dairy, soy, wheat — you name it, I didn’t eat it. I could have eliminated one food at a time, but I felt like that would have taken too long and I was desperate to have my son feel better. At the peak of the elimination diet I was not eating: dairy, soy, wheat, gluten, beef, nuts, eggs and legumes. So, I was up all night with a newborn, could not have any coffee, and was surviving on ground turkey, potatoes and zucchini. I kept telling myself that things would get better, that I just needed to stick it out.

Ad failed to load
It exacerbated the sense of loneliness that new moms can feel, because I couldn’t even share a meal with friends and family.

Although it sounds insane, you don’t give up all these things forever. On an elimination diet, you remove whatever allergens you think are affecting your baby until their symptoms subside (usually six to eight weeks) and then you slowly add them back in one at a time and monitor your baby’s reactions. The most common foods that cause issues for babies are dairy and soy, but many babies react to eggs, wheat, and other foods.

The first few weeks were really tough. I was hungry all the time and I felt like I lost a connection with the social aspect of food. It exacerbated the sense of loneliness that new moms can feel, because I couldn’t even share a meal with friends and family. I started this process just before Thanksgiving, so watching everyone else eat was a tad bit torturous, but my husband was super supportive and tried his best to make me something yummy.

Ad failed to load

To complicate matters, formula wasn’t really an option for us because the only formula my little guy could tolerate costs $50 a can and our insurance wouldn’t cover it so I felt like an elimination diet was my only option. Three months came and then I told myself to make it to six months. When my son was five months old, after two months of an elimination diet, I added wheat back into my diet. After wheat I added in eggs and I kept adding foods back in from there, one at time for a week or so and monitored for reactions. I found that dairy and soy still caused my son to experience some unpleasant symptoms, so I still avoid those things.

At 15 months, I have managed to add back back in all the food groups I originally eliminated, except dairy and soy.

We got into a groove and, even with a restricted diet, life (and breastfeeding) became a lot easier. At 15 months, I have managed to add back back in all the food groups I originally eliminated, except dairy and soy. I have learned so much about our food system and reading labels from this journey. It can be overwhelming and seem so daunting, but after a while it becomes second nature. I can now drink copious amounts of coffee and regularly eat a pint of dairy free ice cream in one sitting.

Ad failed to load

It was really important to me to continue to breastfeed my son, despite all the obstacles we faced. Not only did it seem like the most natural choice, but it beats heating up a bottle in the middle of the night. Plus, those snoozy newborn nursing cuddles are some of my fondest memories of our first few weeks together.

Courtesy of Christine Hernandez

Any parent knows that life both seems to stand still and at the same time fly by once you have a child. Before I knew it my son was a year old — the time when many parents who are still nursing choose to wean. The thing is, I have been home with my son, he never really drank from a bottle except for a few times here or there — so I was not going to just suddenly start giving him a bottle at age one. He still cannot have any dairy products and I had tried every kind of almond milk on the market, but he just was not having any of it. He also wasn’t drinking much water, so we just kept on nursing. I felt good about the fact that since his diet is limited, he at least had breastmilk to fill in the gaps nutritionally, and his pediatrician agreed. Additionally, the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding “up to age two and beyond” so I can’t be that far off base here.

Ad failed to load

There is so much pressure put on moms today to breastfeed. I saw the catch phrase “breast is best” on a formula website of all places — I found my way there on one of those days when I wanted to throw in the breastfeeding towel. What nobody tells you is that once your baby becomes a toddler, people suddenly start being less supportive about breastfeeding. They start asking you questions about when you will be “done.” You start to get weird looks while your toddler signs “milk” and hops into your lap in the middle of the museum. Suddenly it’s as though after a year what was once “best” is now just weird.

Like so many issues in parenting, this one is not so black and white.

The truth is, it’s not as simple as just being “done.” Maybe for some people it is, — but for us, it’s not. Nursing not only serves as a nutritional insurance policy for my son right now, but it is also his comfort, his tantrum tamer and the only thing he knows. Would I love to stop breastfeeding? Absolutely. Would I like to be able to order and consume an entire Pizza Hut pizza and side of breadsticks entirely by myself? Of course! Would I love wearing a shirt that isn’t a v-neck or button down or some other variation that allows an instant boob whip out? You bet. But, like so many issues in parenting, this one is not so black and white. Eventually my son will find comfort outside of me, eventually I will be away from him for longer periods of time and he won’t have unlimited access to me and my boobs anymore. Eventually I will get to wear whatever I want, eat whatever I want, and have my body back to myself. But for now, this is our life. We are the ones living it and as messy and overwhelming as it can be, I would not change a thing.

Ad failed to load

At the end of the day, all parents are doing what they think is best for their child and their family and this is what worked for us. Whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle feed, you need to do what feels best for you and what works for your family. There is so much judgment out there surrounding breastmilk versus formula. Rather than judging someone else’s choices we need to support one another because this shit is hard, and making someone feel bad about their parenting choices does not make it any easier. So, moms out there making it work however you see fit for you and your littles, I see you, and I support you.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Ad failed to load

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills