Navigating Your Baby’s Food Allergies

Many babies have food allergies or sensitivities that can be tricky for parents to navigate. What are the most common types of reactions to watch out for? When should parents seek help? And what do nursing mothers need to know when breastmilk is making their baby sick?

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Featured Expert

Episode Transcript

Natalie Gross 0:10
For many moms, breastfeeding can be hard. If you have a baby with food allergies can make things even harder. If you're a mom wondering what to do if your baby is showing signs of being allergic or sensitive to certain foods in your diet, you are not alone. On today's show, we're talking with moms who have gone through this before you and an expert who helps nursing mothers navigate this issue every day. This is Newbies.

Natalie Gross 1:05
Welcome to newbies your online on the go support group guiding new mothers through their baby's first year. I'm Natalie Gross, mom to a three year old boy and a baby girl. We've got a great show today talking about what to do when your baby has food allergies. Now if you haven't already, be sure to visit our website it's new mommy And subscribe to our weekly newsletter, which keeps you updated on all the episodes we released each week. Another great way to stay updated is to hit that subscribe button in your podcast app wherever you're listening. And if you're looking for a way to get even more involved with our show, then you can check out our membership club called Mighty Moms. That's where we chat more about the topics discussed here on the show. And it's also an easy way to learn about our recordings so that you can join us live. Today I'd like to introduce our panel of guests, we have Dr. Trill Paullin with Free to Feed. She is our featured expert today. And we also have moms Jill Aitoro and Jen Judson here to share their perspectives on this topic as well. Thank you all so much for being here. Dr. Trill, do you want to kick us off by telling us a little bit about you and your family and personal experiences with this topic today? We'll definitely talk more about your professional work a little bit later on in the show. But let's have the listeners get to know you a little bit.

Trill Paullin 2:19
Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me today. It is an honor and a pleasure to speak with you. I am a molecular biologist by trade. And I am the mommy to two beautiful little girls who both struggled with infant food allergies and the first weeks and then that months of life. I personally have food allergies as well. So can talk to this topic from both perspectives, and excited to dive in with you guys.

Natalie Gross 2:47
Great, thanks so much for being here. Jill, what about you?

Jill Aitoro 2:50
Yes, also, thank you so much for having me. This is an honor and a pleasure. I am a journalist by trade. But I also am a mother of two a son and a daughter, my son is 12 years old. And he is has allergies that I actually did not discover until he was about two years old can go into that a little bit more later. I will say when he was a baby, we struggled with nursing and I did ultimately end up throwing in the towel, whether that was tied to the allergies that emerge later, I do not know. But it was at about two is when he actually got diagnosed. And we learned more and then kind of evolved over years to get a better handle on how to how to move, move through that whole transition.

Natalie Gross 3:44
Go ahead, Jen.

Jen Judson Vastola 3:46
I'm Jen Judson. And I am also a mother of two I have a son who is almost four and six days and another little boy who is two and a half. Both of them have had food allergies, presented in different ways. And I'll get more into that as we as we talk a little bit further but one allergic to egg another allergic to dairy. It seems like it's in everything. So it's been tough to navigate. But I've learned a lot in the process. And it's it really does amaze me how much I'm seeing in terms of kids that do have allergies now didn't seem to be as big of a deal on her little so I feel like, you know, this is an important chance to talk about this. And I'm sure lots of moms are going through the same thing.

Natalie Gross 4:28
For sure. That's actually something that I'm going to talk about with Dr. Trill a little bit later as how we do seem to be hearing about this more and more. But first of all, we're all moms of two what are the chances? I noticed that as everyone was talking. Well, moms, how did each of you first discover that your baby had food food allergies, or sensitivities and shat process did you go through to get that diagnosed? Whoever wants to start?

Jen Judson Vastola 4:53
I can kick it off. Um, this is Jen. So I had my first experience with food allergy Two years with my oldest son, I do not have any food allergies. My husband is allergic to tree nuts except for almonds. Nothing too serious if he consumed something I think he gets kind of an itchy mouth and a stomachache but has never been short of breath or anything. So we have not really experienced serious food allergies in the house. didn't really expect for my kids to have food allergies. I never really had much of a thought about it growing up aside from the occasional kid with, you know, a peanut allergy or something at school. But my first we went to feed him his very first solid food past just baby oatmeal. And it was egg and I probably gave him about a tiny like couscous screen size of egg. And it like went into his mouth and then like rolled out of his mouth down his neck. And like probably a minute later, he was just like breaking out in hives all over his neck. And then was covered in this blotchy red rash from like head to toe. All in the course of maybe five to seven minutes. So we raised him to the pediatricians and you know, it was very clear that was the only food he consumed. So the pediatrician was pretty sure that he had an allergy to AG. Fortunately, he didn't vomit or have any other issues besides the rash. And he wasn't short of breath. Nothing too serious. So we treated with Benadryl. We were given an EpiPen in this case, actually an AVI Q, because there was an EpiPen shortage on this happen, but then ended up with a pediatric allergist who did a panel of food allergy testing, just peanut egg and some environmental tests. And we determined through that that he was indeed allergic to egg, my second son, very different reaction. And this was around four months of age when I was struggling with breastfeeding, not because of how he was reacting to my breast milk. But just because I was slowly drying up I think due to stress and some other issues and needed to supplement with formula. And so I gave him a couple of ounces of formula just to see how he would tolerate it. And four hours or so later he was he vomited so much he turned gray and passed out. And so we call it an ambulance and ended up in a pediatric ER for the night. At that time. They did not even suggest to me that it could be a food allergy of any kind. But I kept saying you know this is strange. This is the first time I've given this baby formula. They thought it might be acid reflux that kept him overnight, he was fine. But he always seemed to struggle a little bit with the formula. And so then I fed him Greek yogurt at about six months when we were trying different foods. And four hours later, he vomited all over the place. Again, unfortunately, the reaction wasn't as severe he didn't faint. This time, it just you know, vomiting. And then he kind of recovered from that. But we took him to the same allergist. He did tests for he had also reacted to oat in the same way to test for oat and for dairy allergies. And we thought it was going to be f pies, which I always forget what it stands for. But it's some kind of intolerance of food that babies have and not a full blown food allergy. But he tested positive for dairy, not positive for Oat. So we have been treating him like he is allergic to dairy ever since. So that's my experience in terms of discovering that there was something up and getting them that diagnosed.

Natalie Gross 8:35
Wow, that's scary, Jen.

Jen Judson Vastola 8:36
Yeah, very. I'm always afraid to feed them anything new now. Yeah.

Jill Aitoro 8:41
My experience I had mentioned with my my oldest, my son really kind of kicked off not until he was two and we gave him it was back at the time where you did not give them peanut butter until they were two. We gave him peanut butter for the first time very small amount. And within gosh, I want to say 20 minutes or so. He got very lethargic and curled up on the floor and lay down very out of character and really wasn't, you know, easy to get response if he didn't pass out or anything but extremely lethargic. So we took him immediately to the pediatrician who sent us on actually to the hospital. And they did at that point say that they suspected it was indeed peanuts, because we had just obviously given him peanut butter for the first time they gave him a dose of Benadryl that helped him recover and kept him kept him there for a while. We did ultimately then take him to analoge allergist who did also get the panel and tested positive for peanuts. What was interesting about it is he was going he got a little older and was going to a daycare center that was peanut free. Entry net free actually I'm because he did. They also advise that he could develop treatment allergies. So to avoid them that has also evolved a bit and I spent years, he did end up developing a Trina allergy. But before we came to discover that he was reacting really badly at a state care where they provided not free food, and we couldn't figure it out, they were looking at ingredients if it said factory related or anything, and it did not. So we took them back to the allergist, and it ended up being sesame. So he had a sesame allergy that was causing him to get covered in hives and again, get very lethargic. So in a year sense that we're having an interesting experience with allergists and this is not to say one is better than the other. But our first allergist was much more of an alarmist, I would say it not that that's a bad thing in a lot of cases. But like I mentioned with the the tree nut situation, she was very cautious. So she advised us to not go near tree nuts when he had a peanut allergy. She also advised us interestingly, he tested positive for garlic also. And she said to not let him have any food with garlic in it, which is in everything. As you can imagine our pediatrician question that said that she had never heard of anyone having an extreme reaction to garlic. So we ended up actually switching allergists and I will say for us personally, I think everybody has their own their own preference. But I adore our the allergist we ended up finding afterwards because she she did test boundaries within a comfort and safe level. And since going to her he didn't have growing out of sesame. But we did do a lot of trials with tree nuts that we did this for years. And he tested his tolerance over the years. And he finally really only a couple years ago that was able to tolerate tree nuts where he now is considered okay to have items that have tree nuts in them. In fact, he's encouraged to eat tree nuts at this point in time to up his tolerance even more, not something you could do for peanuts. Needless to say, if he still has an epi pen for peanuts, we're very cognizant he tests very high for his allergy to peanuts. But the nature of the peanut allergy is such that you really have to be cautious and careful of how you test the boundaries there. So we're very, very careful in that regard, both in terms of obviously not giving them anything with peanuts, but also being cognizant of items that are in a factory with peanuts is something we always have to keep an eye on. But he has come to be very responsible. And he's even I mean, I give him a snack. And he says, Does this have peanuts in it like I am your mother. But and I remember I will say like in the last note on that that's what my pediatrician had said I was had so much anxiety as a mom when he was a baby. And she said what you have to understand is this is going to be a way of life for him. And he is going to be the one that is checking everything and it's going to be second nature. So that did come to pass, I would say.

Natalie Gross 13:14
Yeah, my five year old niece is allergic to peanuts. And she's very aware and ask questions like that, too. So yeah, yeah. Wow. Well, Dr. Trill your girls' allergies presented even before they started solid foods, right?

Trill Paullin 13:27
That's correct. So with both of my journeys, my children first started presenting with symptoms very, very early. And so with my oldest daughter, who is now seven, we started our breastfeeding journey. And really early on just a few days old, she was inconsolable. And what I mean by that is she would cry for hours and hours on end, that she was either asleep, breastfeeding or crying. Those were like the options and I took her in and said you know, I I don't know what is wrong, but I feel very strongly that something is wrong. She's inconsolable, can you please help me and at that stage, I was told that she had colic and that there wasn't anything I could do that babies cry and really dismissed and sent home. And that was disheartening later to wake up a few weeks into our feeding journey to find her completely covered and eczema from head to toe with one massive bloody diaper. And I at that stage was absolutely terrified. My husband has ulcerative colitis. So I immediately went to like worst case scenario took a picture of it, sent it to him because he was already at work and said she has ulcerative colitis. You know, she has a irritable bowel disease and it's, you know, the end of the world is really what it felt like and took her back to our medical care. lighter, and said, Okay, yep, definitely something's wrong now, I feel very strongly about the fact that her continuous crying was leading up to the symptoms that then presented themselves. What do I do now. And even then, even with this little tiny human who was bleeding, and covered in a rash, I was still largely dismissed and told, you know, some babies have food reactivity to things in your diet, maybe consider removing cow's milk protein or switch to a hypoallergenic formula. And to kind of set the stage at this exact time. I was in my last year of graduate school, getting a PhD in cellular and molecular biology, with a specialty in proteomics, which is a fancy name for protein analysis. So to have someone tell me that something that I put into my mouth, could give my daughter a massively bloody stools and a rash like this was just completely dumbfounding. I had no idea that that was an option. And so, at that moment, I said, Okay, well, I really love cheese, I will admit that. But I really don't want to continue my breastfeeding journey, I was told to remove cow's milk protein, so I'm going to do that. And she spiraled, she got worse very quickly from there as I adjusted my diet. And I think that eventually, it was a gastroenterologist that we were referred to, who just took pity on the shell of a human that I was at that stage, because all that was coming out of her little body was blood. And her skin had gotten so bad that it was weeping and infected. And this woman admitted us to the hospital. And I remember being at the hospital and getting into our room and contacting my husband to come meet us at the hospital. And she was hungry. And so I did what a lot of breastfeeding mommies would do in a hospital room, I whipped out my boob and started feeding my baby. And a medical provider walked in and literally gasped and said, I can't believe you would poison your baby like that. And I was devastated that someone would say that to me, especially after I'd struggled through so many other aspects and facets of our lactation journey. And from there, they said that we would have to put her on a 24 hour starvation diet where they would not feed her anything. And that is really hard on you if you are literally the food. So I remember having to pump in the stairwell of the hospital because they didn't have another location for me. Because if I pumped in my room, it upset her. Which makes sense, right? If someone tells you you can't eat, and then they start frying up a steak in your room, that's not kind. And I remember just bawling in the stairwell and pumping. And on the other side of this 24 hours, they said yep, since she got better, a little bit better in the 24 hours that we didn't feed her, the rash got a tiny bit better, the stool got a little bit better, if she does, in fact have a food allergy. Unfortunately, we can't test her to tell you what her food allergy is, too. So here's your hypoallergenic formula. And while at that stage, I would have literally said her the bus dust bunnies that were under the hospital bed if I could, because please just feed my little baby. The downside being that in that moment, I found out that I wouldn't be able to afford the formula that she needed that she required. So I went from feeding my baby, something that like literally was hurting her to feeling like I couldn't afford to feed her at all. And the formula that she needed was about $50 Okay, and it would only last a few days. And we didn't qualify for any kind of assistance. I tried my best. And so in that moment, as I'm discovering all of these different things I started asking the questions of, okay, if you can make a hypoallergenic formula that my baby can tolerate, can I make some kind of concoction with my body that my baby can tolerate? And the answer was a hesitant maybe, but we don't really know how to help you navigate that. So here's a laundry list of things to remove from your diet. Good luck, and that was the amount of assistance I was given. I went on a really strict elimination diet for a year and breastfed her successfully successful for her less successful for me, and the reactions ceased. And on the other side of it as we brought these foods back, we found that she had outgrown these food allergies which is rare really common for infants with the type of reaction that she specifically had. And so I don't know to this day, what exactly was causing her reactions through my breast milk. She does today have sensitive skin or reactivity to latex and latex foods. When my second daughter was born, she also started presenting with issues very, very early within a few weeks. And this time, it was more upper GI. So a vomiting response, really bad reflux, really struggled to sleep. And we eventually found out that she did have F pies which have to Jen's point, food protein induced enter colitis syndrome, here for that it is a non IGE mediated food allergy. And she did have a surprise to oats and a few other triggers. And it was in that moment in that first kind of month postpartum with her. And knowing that I was kind of like buckling up for journey. Number two, breastfeeding another child with this type of food reactivity, that I found it Free to Feed because I literally in that moment said, I don't know if I'll survive this, this type of round. It was so hard. There's got to be research and resources and people that can help me. And when I didn't find any of those things, what I did find was lots of other families. And that was the birth of a company as it were.

Natalie Gross 21:29
Awesome. Well, we are definitely going to talk more about free to feed and what families need to know about feeding babies with food allergies when we come back.

Natalie Gross 21:45
Today on Newbies, we're talking about babies with food allergies, you've already met our expert, Dr. Trill, the founder and CEO of Free to Feed. She is a molecular biologist with a PhD and initially started her company to create a place for parents to find answers to their questions about infant food we activity and empower them to reach their feeding goals. Dr. Trill, how common is it for babies to have food allergies or sensitivities?

Trill Paullin 22:09
You know, this is a interesting question because as we are learning more and more about the food reactivity that specifically infants more often suffer from, we're seeing that this is a lot more prevalent than we originally thought. And so I think what's important first is for me to break down the two main categories of food allergies, and then tell you sort of you know what the prevalence is. So on one side, when we think of a food allergy, stereotypically we think of, you know, a child who is exposed to certain foods like a pea that goes into an anaphylactic shock style reaction needs and epi pen, for example, and has to go to the hospital, right? These are life threatening, very scary reactions. And that stereotypically, what we think of when we say a food allergy. Now, what's interesting is that that is one category of food allergy. And that category is called an IGE mediated food allergy. And that just identifies what pathway in the body it's going, it's going through IGE is, whereas there was an entire other category called non IGE mediated food allergies, which I'm not super helpful, it just means all the other pathways, which there are lots and these non IGE mediated food allergies, is what most infants are suffering from. And when we look at non IGE mediated food allergies, the most common symptoms there are things like diarrhea, constipation, excessively mucousy, stool, bloody stool, eczema, rashes, reflux, vomiting, and then all of the other secondary issues that can come from those primary symptoms, like colic or sleep disturbances. And so when we look at prevalence, typically, when scientists are speaking to families in the most recent years, they're seeing prevalence of parents being able to not only state that their baby had food reactivity, but also identify specifically what the food was. And the prevalence of those families is anywhere from 19 to 35% of families are reporting that and what's interesting is that yes, a lot of those symptoms that I just named, can be due to other problems, right? Excessively mucousy stool can be from a lactation issue, for example. And so when they dig a little bit deeper, and look to see again, are there other things that could be a part of this prevalence in this high high number, it gets eventually dwindle down and narrow down if you will, to about 25%, which is one in four babies. That's an insane number to me. That's a million babies in the US alone. Only cheer. And the discrepancy then, is that that's not how many babies are typically diagnosed with a food allergy because a diagnosis typically requires a test that can diagnose a food allergy. And there are no tests for these non IGE mediated food allergies. All of the tests that we currently have on the market, skin prick tests, blood tests, are specific to identifying IGE mediated food allergies only. So the actual diagnosis of infant food allergies is about two to 8%. Whereas the parental reporting, even when narrowed down and identified for other causes, is still about 25% of infants.

Natalie Gross 25:48
Well, like we've already talked about, it seems like there's been such a dramatic increase in these types of issues, you know, from our grandparents' generation, and you sometimes hear the older generation say, well, that, you know, there weren't these problems in my day. Why is that?

Trill Paullin 26:00
Yeah, that's a super common complaint that we hear from our families that say, like, you know, my, my parents don't believe that my baby's issues are, in fact, true. Things like that, when where like the discrepancy is there. I think, first and foremost, the biggest reason for what seems like this increase is awareness. And part of that is shown very much so in the medical community. Because these non IGE mediated food allergies, things like F pies that we mentioned, or allergic to cleitus. They actually didn't get a diagnostic code until 2016 and 17. Can you believe that? Even though we have research on Aspies all the way back to like the 50s, and 60s, these things didn't actually get an official diagnostic code until very, very recently. So not only are we certainly increasing the awareness behind these types of food allergies, because of publications, and because now there's a diagnostic code for them, they're officially listed. The other prevalent theories, there's a handful of theories behind why we're seeing an increase. One of them has to do with a sanitation theory, essentially saying that as we have led more and more clean, if you will, a life's that we have impacted significantly, our microbiome, which then has led to an increase in food reactivity. And so as you think about, especially in the coming this most recent years, as we're, you know, wearing masks and or insight, a lot things like that changing the different microbes that were exposed to will impact our gastrointestinal health. And our gastrointestinal health, as we know, is directly correlated to our immune system to the second big theory is around food quality. So how varied is our diet? And how well is the food that we're consuming, actually high in nutrients. So once we have gone through high processing, are we actually getting in all of the nutrients that we need. And that kind of leads into the third biggest theory, which is micronutrient deficiencies. So being deficient in vitamin D being deficient, and other nutrients that we need in our bodies, that is kind of always you can see sort of combined. And these are all basically just theories that scientists have laid out to say, you know, we think that there's something in here. And it's likely a combination of all of these problems leading now to this, like what feels like massive spike, and food reactivity.

Natalie Gross 28:51
Hmm. Very, very interesting. Thank you for explaining that. Well, I'm curious how the science of all of this works, and especially, you know, with allergens passing through breast milk, because I know, you know, like Jen and Jill had said, their kids started having these allergic reactions when they were on solid foods. And I've known kids who were not allergic to anything while breastfeeding, but very allergic to it in solid form, and vice versa. So how does that work?

Trill Paullin 29:12
That is my favorite thing to talk about. So very excited to dive into the science behind transferability. Because that's what I really focus my research on today is once we consume a food, how is a transferring to the breast, and why are certain infants reactive through the breast while others aren't? And so what we find is that after you consume a food like a peanut, for example, let's say you eat a handful of peanuts, and it travels through the gastrointestinal system, and it's largely stuck there as your gastric acids and enzymes and the microbiome, break those peanuts down. And what we know is that small portions of those peanut proteins will transfer through Let your gastrointestinal system into your circulatory system. And this is supposed to happen. This is a naturally occurring thing, we're supposed to absorb nutrients and absorb proteins and others through our gastrointestinal system. That's how we utilize the food that we eat. So when these portions of peanut proteins, think of them like a little fragment of a, of a specific protein that makes up a peanut, when it transfers into the circulatory system, what's fascinating is that breast milk is made out of blood. And so anything that's in our circulatory system can wind up in our breasts, we don't have any special filtration device between those two things. So then as that particular portion of the protein transfers into our breast milk, our infant will then be exposed to that protein, and will consume it as they are nursing. And this is a good thing, we're supposed to do this, this is a biologically natural normal phenomenon that happens in our body, we're supposed to transfer foods that we consume and expose our baby to them. Now, the problem comes when that portion of that protein happens to be the portion that that baby is actually allergic to. So when we think of a food allergy, typically, the food allergic response is occurring when the immune system is seeing a specific portion of a specific protein of a specific food. So we're really like narrowing it down there. And it sees it as a threat. It says, Hey, you're a thing I don't like it sees it as a threat, just like it would see bacteria, or a virus or a parasite. And it's going to respond accordingly, I must get that that's a bad thing. And it's a threat to my existence. And so it responds accordingly. Now, what is fascinating in the research that we've done, is that we find that most individuals who are lactating will transfer the same portion of the protein to their breast. So the four of us talking here today, if we were all to donate some breast milk to a research study, would all likely transfer the same portions of peanut protein to our breast after we consume them. So if our baby is reactive to that portion of the protein, then we will likely have an allergic response elicited through the breast. However, if our baby is allergic to another part of the protein, let's say just a little bit to the left or the right, but not the specific piece that we all are transferring, will never see a reaction through the breast. And that is the reason why some won't find out that their baby has any kind of issue until they start solids, right? Mom's eating cheese all day every day. And I'm super jealous. And they have no idea until they start solids or do a formula introduction, as mentioned that they see this first reaction. Whereas others, like myself, do see a reaction right out of the gate as they're in the midst of their breastfeeding journey. And what's also important to know is that because in the first year of life, the immune system is continuously developing. Oftentimes, it's most common that the symptoms will present themselves a little bit later, meaning around week, eight to week 12 is most common. So everything will feel like are going great. Breastfeeding is wonderful. I finally got like a handle on it, this latch thing and all that stuff. And then boom, we run into the wall that is food reactivity. And we're confused because I didn't change anything in my diet or eating the same stuff. What gives? And that's because now the immune system is seeing that portion of the protein as a threat, or it didn't before, as the immune systems developing.

Natalie Gross 33:45
Oh, that's Wow, that's so interesting. I love science. So how does your company for you to feed help moms navigating this? How do you support nursing mothers in particular.

Trill Paullin 33:57
So our big goal is to launch a test kit that would allow parents to detect these allergens at home. And so there's a lot of misconception around transferability, and how long it's in your breast and whether you can keep breastfeeding. And so what I see since I've navigated this myself, is the best way to help parents navigate this is just put the power in their hands, give them the information in the data and ingredient ducts for the boob, if you will. And so we've been working very hard on not only developing that product, but now we're at the stage of manufacturing and getting closer and closer to launching. In the meantime, though, while working on this like big scientific endeavor. I started talking to more and more families to make sure that like, you know, I'm not an n of one crazy person out here by myself saying like, I want to test my you know, good juice, that this would actually be valuable for other families and And as I was discussing this, with parents who are navigating food allergies through their breast over and over again, we kept hearing, I wish that someone would just take the time to sit down with me and tell me what's happening in my body, what's happening in my body and baby's body. Listen to my journey, give me the science, and helped me navigate next steps with the resources that I need to be successful. And so I initially said, Okay, I that's a thing that I can do, I can help provide education. It started out on our social media platforms largely on Instagram, dancing to boobie facts on the internet, not something I thought I would do with my PhD. But here we are. And over and over the number of parents who would reach out and say, like, you know, can you explain this part or this part? I have questions eventually got to this space of, you know, let's, let's help Let's educate families in a way, that's one on one because each journey is very nuanced and different, as you heard with our three fac rounds, and food allergies. And so we brought on registered nurses, registered dieticians, lactation consultants, and pediatrician, all with a goal of providing the education that parents deserve in order to help them decide what their best next step is. Because, unfortunately, in a typical medical situation, they're falling in kind of a health care gap between it not being a food allergy that can be tested for typically, and it happening in two different bodies that are being impacted. And there isn't enough time in a 15 minute, you know, medical provider appointment to deep dive into these are all the ways that cow's milk protein can be listed on an ingredient doc, right? There's just so much that parents have to learn. It's a huge, huge learning curve. So we started offering these one on one personal consults that grew into the food allergy support package, which is three full months of modules of education behind, you know, what is a food allergen? Why is it transferring to my breast? How do I make sure that my nutrition is complete? As I navigate this all the way to how do I find a daycare provider. So really important to mention that the biggest goal here is to ensure that we're helping parents effectively feed and in a place that is supportive and loving. And then as we've done that, we've just listened to what they needed. And that's been things like a free from multivitamin or a certification course for their lactation consultants and other items. Great.

Natalie Gross 37:54
Well, thanks so much. Dr. Trill. When we come back, moms, Jill and Jen will be joining us again. So stay tuned.

Natalie Gross 38:06
Welcome back, everyone. Well, Jill and Jen, I want to bring you back into the conversation to comment on what we've just heard. And Jen, I wanted to ask you, you know what we were talking about before you have a son who's allergic to eggs. Was he at all affected if you ate eggs while you were breastfeeding him?

Jen Judson Vastola 38:20
Not at all. I loved eggs, and I loved cheese. So I did. I ate so much dairy, and eggs while I was pregnant while I was breastfeeding. So it just came as a really huge shock to me that either of my kids with Express food allergies, just very surprised. And it was particularly difficult with my first because I was already dealing with I think some anxiety and feeding anxiety in terms of just choking hazards. And it can be scary, I think with your first baby when you start to switch to solid. So when I went for for the egg, it was suggested that I do that before they would be able to feed him breakfast at daycare, they said try egg at home. If he's great, you know, we'll start feeding him egg at school. So I did. And it was just so traumatic because it happened so quickly. It was the first solid food besides baby oatmeal that I'd given him. And I think just like navigating the whole thing was was really stressful. I think one of the better things was finding my allergist like Joel talked about finding the right allergist is really important. And, you know, we were able to figure out what it is we were dealing with. So I think that that was very helpful, but in terms of the dairy allergy, didn't didn't cause any problems with my breast milk either. The only time it really started to express was when we switched over to a formula. So I find that really interesting. And then also just to I wanted to add when we're talking about hypoallergenic formula earlier, Dr. Cho was talking about that. I have to say having to switch to that was extremely difficult just on the financial side. Dr. Trill, I totally hear what you're saying it's $50 a can. And what I did, I was lucky I had like, the Cadillac of health insurance at the time and was able to after spending days and days on the phone and being on hold, and no, you're at the wrong place. No, call this number, call this number call this number. I finally was able, what I thought to get it partially covered by my health insurance, but I managed to get my formula entirely covered by my health insurance. So my advice to any mom dealing with that is to definitely see what your health insurance can do. I didn't even know I could get it covered under health insurance until I got some advice from another mom. Otherwise, I would have just been paying out of pocket and cringing at the bills.

Natalie Gross 40:52
Yeah,I had never heard of that. Yeah, that's great advice. Great advice. Well, I know we've kind of touched on this a little bit. And Jill, you had mentioned, you know, did you have enough support from pediatricians or you know, any other resources allergists that made this easier for you? Do you wish you'd had more of that at the time? What would you say to moms navigating this now?

Jill Aitoro 41:13
I think, you know, there's a couple things I would say. One is, you know, you bring up nursing, like I mentioned, I struggled with nursing, I have no idea if it had anything to do with allergies, I kind of assume it didn't my milk didn't come in very well. You know, it might have been just not for me. And I think that's okay sometimes to mentally, you know, I did remember my sister saying to me when I was nursing, you know that her doctor, she had struggled also. And her doctor said and was she was very upset, she said, but this is better for my baby. And her doctor had said, having a mom that is stressed and showing anxiety all the time is not going to be good for your baby. Now that said having a child then with allergies, and being a mom who threw in the towel pretty early on nursing, you start to feel a little self blame and that mom guilt that emerges like well, what if I could have nurse longer and built up more immunity for my baby? Would that have made a difference? You know, and I think there needs to be? I think in general, always there needs to be a lot more support for the experience that moms go through and them knowing what works best for them as a parent and not not having shaming, because people did actually ask Why did you stop so early? Oh, really? Were you worried and it's with a tone of judgment, or at least that's how it's received. So that's one thing that I think is really important to know. The other thing that I will also say is yes, I think moms or parents in general fathers also, of course need to be their own biggest advocates and their child's biggest advocates. So I again, like I said, I had an allergist and we stayed with that allergist for quite a while that in the long run wasn't a fit for me. And I kind of wish I would have made a switch sooner. I mean, I was for six months trying to find frozen meatballs that didn't have garlic in the ingredients because I thought he was gonna cook a huge allergic reaction. And my pediatrician was the first to just be like, I don't know, I just don't think so. And I think you're fine. So, you know, I made the switch, because I didn't I did want to be sure. And the second like I mentioned, the second allergist I went to she expressed frustration because there's an evolution and how allergies are treated and detected. And she said there's there's some that do believe complete. Like, oh, like emitting them or omitting them I'm sorry, from the diet completely is the only way to go. And in some cases, certainly life threatening allergies. That's true. But there are other approaches that are emerging and I found that allergists to be what we needed and what my son needed so that we could transition like I mentioned we did a lot of in doctor's office testing of tree nuts going one tree not after another he got through all of the different tree nuts taking a little bit like a pinky nail size in his mouth and then waiting 20 minutes doing another Pinkie says we were in there for hours. And he got through every tree not and walnut was the one Stickler that he would start breaking out in hives right when he had it and so we'd say Okay, nope, not this time. And we try it again three years later, and he then eventually did build up the tolerance that he now can do the tree nuts and that was huge. That was pivotal for us as parents that now tree nuts are okay, they're actually encouraged and having an allergist explain that to me was really really valuable. The one addition to our story that I think is worth sharing and again this goes to show everybody's experience is different is we very recently went back to the allergist and you know, wanted to just kind of get an update. We have been hearing like many others in the news about oh, there's in No new treatments for peanut allergies, you know, kids can get this patch or whatnot, and, and then they can have be exposed to peanuts and it's safe. And so we're really excited. And I'm sure Dr. tro could speak more to like what is actually happening there. But we went and spoke to our allergist. And she said, it is a wonderful progress, she said, but let me explain how it works. And basically, at that moment in time, he would have had to basically take medication at the same exact time every day, he would not be able to do any activities for at least a couple of hours afterwards. So that he because sometimes your reactions to allergens is heightened if you have too much exercise immediately after, but he couldn't go to sleep because we had to be cognizant of watching and making sure he didn't react. So he would she said he can't be off playing with the dog. He can't be playing with his sister, he can't be playing with the street. If he's on vacation, he needs to be, you know, calm for those couple hours. So I remember saying like, how is that going to work in terms of quality of life. And she said for you, it just might not right now. But there's others out there who can't even go in a classroom where there might be a peanut somewhere in there because they will react, it would be life changing for that person to not have that concern. But that's not where my son was at. So it wasn't for us, but I'm sure it was wonderful others and as she said, and I you know, would love to hear Dr. Phil's thoughts on this. It is such a sign of progress that if they are developing these things, five years from now, who knows, you know, there might be progress made where it will move forward, and he will be able to do something to not be as concerned about exposure. So I guess my advice again, to answer your original question is just know what is best for your family, both in terms of the allergist you use, and then also what treatments is most effective, obviously being cognizant of what is healthy for your child, but also what works within your lifestyle? Yeah,

Natalie Gross 47:07
Dr. Trill, I was actually going to ask you if there's, you know, cure or treatment for food allergies, so that'd be great. If you could comment on that.

Trill Paullin 47:14
Jill, thank you so much for mentioning not only the shame and guilt aspect, but also the the progress, right. So there's, there's two pieces there that I want to hit on. First on the guilt and shame aspect. I feel like I agree 110%, with what you mentioned about this undercurrent of kind of attitude towards parents. And it really feels like it doesn't matter what our choice ends up being that there ends up being this undercurrent from one person or another. And we hear that with our families that we work with everything from those families, like yourself that get kind of that underlying comments about, you know, their breastfeeding journey or switching the formula. And on the flip side, also hearing from families that are being told, you know, that it's selfish of them to keep breastfeeding or that they're doing more damage than good, that they're being judged on the other side of it. So it's unfortunate and unnecessary on all facets, right? Like, we're not doing anyone, any proper service by that judgment and that guilt. And that's where free to fee that has really worked very hard to make sure that we're, like I said, a really safe space for these families to come to that we're going to support you no matter what your decision is. Everything from formula feeding exclusively breastfeeding exclusively, any combo in between starting solids, wanting to be all of those things, being here to say like I get it, you're amazing. I'm so proud of you, this is so hard. And here's the information that you need to make the best next decision and we help families through all of those things, and also giving them the support that they need and deserve as they their goals and their opinions and their tactics change. Right. As we get more information and we're further along in the journey, it will often change. And so here for that too, and to support that 100%. So I really appreciate Joe mentioning that. And on the side of the progress that we've made, right, like kind of the the light if you will, at the end of the tunnel that we're all hoping isn't a train that's going to run us over which is kind of what it feels like often as you're navigating food allergies is that we are seeing things like it which is oral immunotherapy we're seeing tip which is another tolerance program, where these researchers and Even medications that are coming out to help induce tolerance in those who have those life threatening food allergies. And the beauty of these programs is that they're built to allow a person to be exposed to a food and not have it be life threatening anymore. So you can, as Joe mentioned, like walk into a classroom that happens to have a peanut in it. And that's not life threatening to you any longer. And so deciding whether or not you're going to try to be a part of one of these programs, the good and the bad of it is the good, obviously, yes, absolutely. It's incredible that we're making progress. It's wonderful that there's a focus here, we need it. And I am so excited to see more and more of it come out. The downside, though, is that because it is still in its early phases, that for many families, it's incredibly expensive, that insurance may or may not cover it similar to the formula apps portion of insurance may or may not cover it. So for those who it doesn't cover, it's often very expensive. It's often only available in certain locations. So then parents are having to pay for the travel expenses to get there. It's often a very long and arduous process. And the the goal of it, the goal of these oral therapies is to theory slowly increase the tolerance of how the immune system is or isn't to seeing the food trigger. And so what I mean by that is giving the child such a small dose of either a protein that looks like the one they're allergic to, or the actual one that they're allergic to, I'm talking like micro micro dosing of these proteins, and very slowly increasing the amount that they're getting over a long period of time and tell they're at a stage where they can have, you know, a handful of peanuts or have a muffin that had a walnut in it and not see a big reaction not mean an epi pen. And is that important and exciting? Absolutely. Is it viable for everybody? No. And I am just like Gil excited to see the progress and I'm hopeful that we'll have better data that we will have more accessible progress as we keep going in the tolerance phase of things.

Natalie Gross 52:24
Well, thank you so much for all of this helpful information. And to you moms for sharing your experiences. Listeners, you can find out more about Dr. Trill's work at and be sure to also check out new mommy where we have all of our podcast episodes plus videos and more.

Natalie Gross 52:50
That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Newbies. Don't forget to check out our sister shows Preggy Pals for expecting parents, Parents Savers for moms and dads with toddlers, the Boob Group for moms who get breast milk to their babies and twin talks for parents of multiples. Thanks for listening to newbies your go to source for new moms and new babies.

Disclaimer 53:15
This has been a newmommymedia production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of new mommy media and should not be considered facts will such information and materials are believed to be accurate. It is not intended to replace or substitute for professional medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medication. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health, or the household, your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.

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