Surviving Your Baby’s Dairy Allergy While Breastfeeding

As I started researching, I realized how all-encompassing “dairy” was, and I wondered briefly: How much do I really like this kid?

“Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out.” That’s what I kept telling myself as I totally and completely freaked out. There was blood in my baby’s diaper. I thought I’d seen something suspicious in the last couple of diapers, but nothing like this. This was blood, and I was in full panic mode.
Do kids ever get sick during the week? Or even during the day during the week? Nope. It’s like they keep a copy of the pediatrician’s office hours stashed in their onesies. So, Sunday afternoon found us on the road to the ER – my husband driving, me in the backseat as if sitting next to my baby might actually help the situation. My husband dropped us off while he parked so I could start the check-in process. I nervously rocking the baby carrier as I filled out the paperwork. He wasn’t crying. He was just sitting there looking all tiny and helpless.
Ever since we brought Jacob home from the hospital he had had “tummy issues” of one variety or another. Tummy issues also meant sleeping issues and eating issues and crying issues and mommy-crying issues and daddy-looking-at-mommy-like-she-is-a-crazy-person issues. But we’d made it through the last five months. Until now.
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The ER doctor came in to talk to us, and basically made us feel like overprotective newbie parents, took a sample to run some tests, and told us to call the pediatrician the next day. Oh, and they gave him a single dose of over-the-counter ibuprofen that cost around $60. Very helpful. we went home with exactly zero answers.
Our pediatrician is the best, and when I brought Jacob in on Monday along with the most disgusting pictures of every diaper he’d had in the previous 24 hours (I’ve had major trouble getting those off the Cloud, by the way, so bloody dirty diaper pictures still pop up every now and then), she was so nice. She also got angry when she found out that the sample that the hospital staff had taken had apparently just gone in the trash, because no test had been run to figure out what might be wrong with my child.
Her anger made me so happy. It meant that someone else cared that something bad was going on in my kid’s body and it was about time we figure it out. She took another sample and ran some tests to rule out some of the scarier options (all negative), but she also told me that there was a good chance this was an allergy to something I was eating and that dairy was a likely culprit.
She suggested I cut it out entirely and see if that helped.
Why not formula? Well, there were a few reasons that was not my first choice. The health benefits of breast milk were a consideration of course, but also Jacob and I had finally found a good groove when it came to breastfeeding, and I liked the fact that I didn’t have to do any sort of prep work in the middle of the night when he wanted to eat. (Basically, laziness played a major role.) Breastfeeding was also one of the best tools in my arsenal for getting him to sleep. But cost was a real factor for us, too. Could we have swung formula if we had to? Sure. But I was now a stay-at-home mom and we were a family of three on a tight budget. If we could make breastfeeding work for us, I wanted to. (So, to sum up: lazy and cheap.)
A second side note to moms who formula-feed: You do what works for you and your kid, and don’t expect any judgment from me. Cool? Cool.
As I started researching, I realized how all-encompassing “dairy” was, and I wondered briefly: How much do I really like this kid? I mean, he did cry a lot, but he was pretty dang cute, so I began. No milk, no sour cream, no cheese, no butter. Even non-dairy coffee creamer, while lactose-free, has the milk protein I had to avoid.
Dairy is in everything, and it has a million different names in the food industry. I had to totally change the way I cooked, which meant I had to totally change the way I shopped for groceries. I dropped Jacob off with Grandma and spent two-and-a-half hours at the grocery store just reading labels. I found websites, many of them vegan, and started trying things. I really found a lot of great recipe ideas in “Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy, Delicious Meals” by Silvana Nardone.
Miraculously, his tummy issues subsided, slowly at first, but then more noticeably. I’m sure part of the improvement can be attributed to his gut developing with age, but the removal of dairy really did make a huge difference. The bleeding had been one of the first things to stop (thank goodness), but he also stopped spitting up as frequently, cried less, was less gassy, and slept better.
There were some low-points in our journey. My favorite cookie recipe – the cookies that I would occasionally come home and make on my lunch break when I was working because they were so quick and easy and good – use a whole stick of butter and a half cup of sour cream. So I tried some variations. Oil instead of butter. Almond milk instead of sour cream. Trash instead of my mouth. Then Febreze the kitchen to get rid of the lingering smell.
I’m sorry to say I never did find a good way to make those cookies dairy-free. But there were some successes, too. I found a good pancake recipe (in “Cooking for Isaiah”), and I found some pasta bakes that don’t rely on cheese to hold them together. We even lived through the holidays. My family was so sweet and tried using a butter substitute to make some of our traditional family recipes, and it somehow made me feel better knowing that everyone else was also eating green beans that tasted like they had been cooked in a tire factory. (Dairy-free can make you a little mean at first.)
Mercifully, most babies outgrow their dairy allergies, and Jacob was not an exception. The pediatrician had me reintroduce dairy a couple of times to see how he responded, and finally, when he was about a year old, he stopped having reactions. I made cookies to celebrate. We nursed for a little while longer, and when he was a little past 13 months, we finally stopped. It was the right time for us. Like so much since becoming a mother, going dairy-free was not something I planned for, but you do what you have to for your babies, even if it means missing out on cookies for a while.
This article was originally published on the Motherhood Collective blog.

What I Wish I'd Known About the Second Year of Parenting

Depression has always been my grown-up version of the monster under the bed. While I couldn’t say for sure that I’d experienced it firsthand, I always sensed it was close.

I walked a lot in the first months after my son was born because it was the only way Jack would sleep. I walked on fall days that were as crisp and colorful as a postcard, and into the winter when Portland, Oregon, is blanketed with heavy clouds. In early December, I stopped at a flower shop and bought two large poinsettias. I walked home with the baby nestled against my chest, his head on my heart, and one festive plant encircled in each of my arms. A man stopped and held his fingers out in the interlocking L’s as if framing an imaginary picture. “Super Mom,” he said.

I thought perhaps I should be offended by this man’s unsolicited attention and assumptions, but the truth was, I felt proud. At least from the outside, I looked like a good mom. I looked happy.

Depression has always been my grown-up version of the monster under the bed. While I couldn’t say for sure that I’d experienced it firsthand, I always sensed it was close. Fending off depression seemed to take constant vigilance, and I feared that after having a baby, I’d be tired and distracted and my tendency towards rumination and self-doubt would quickly spiral into full-blown despair.

Jack was not an easy baby. He cried constantly, not from colic but from a more general uncertainty about the world. If not being bounced rhythmically on our big green exercise ball, he would wail until his red face was frozen in a silent scream. He only slept if I held him. He also spit up constantly, not a milky dribble, but violent slingshots of vomit. Still, through all of it, I felt calm and present. This was hard, but everyone had said it would be. There was no room to think about anything except this small, furious being, and my brain welcomed a vacation from its own incessant chatter.

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Jack’s first birthday was a stunning September day, and we celebrated in the park. In the photos, I’m smiling, holding him in one arm and the string of a balloon in the other. I was celebrating my own milestone as much as his: we’d made it through the tough first year. I felt certain it would only get easier from here on.

On the same day Jack turned one, I packed up the tubes and bottles from my breast pump into their black carry case and tucked it all away on the top shelf of my closet. While I still planned to nurse at bedtime, pumping at work was a nuisance and I was ready to stop.

Soon after, fatigue hit me like a tidal wave. My whole body felt heavy; my brain seemed waterlogged, soggy, and slow. I gained weight and lost motivation to exercise. It became difficult to focus at work. The glossy sheen of new motherhood had worn off and left behind a duller version of myself.

Jack walked and then ran, said his first words and then his first sentences. I watched him trot around the playground, with his doughy cheeks and mullet of shaggy curls, and I felt lucky as a heads-up penny. But as my joy at being a parent grew, my joy at being a person withered.

A few months later, I cut out nighttime breast feedings. The fatigue and fogginess began to feel more like hopelessness. My husband and I bickered constantly. I cried in the mornings before leaving my son for work. I knew that when I picked him up at the end of the day, I’d feel fuzzy-brained and unaccomplished. I began to wake up in the middle of the night gripped by some large but unnameable fear.

The phrase, “I’m dying inside,” ran through head like a screensaver on my otherwise blotted-out mind. Once, when the words escaped the trap of my brain and passed through my lips, my husband overheard and stared back at me with a mix of horror and concern.

It didn’t occur to me that my depression might be related to weaning, until one day when I was pulling on a pair of jeans that I’d bought just a few months ago. Now I couldn’t pull them up over my hips. My body had seen tremendous ups and downs over the past year. I gained over fifty pounds during pregnancy, and then, with the help of a ravenously nursing baby, shrunk down to a size I hadn’t been since my wedding day. After weaning, my weight crept up again.

Was it possible that my body wasn’t the only part of me experiencing new highs and lows? Didn’t it make sense that my mind and my body were riding this roller coaster side-by-side, squeezing each other’s hands? I did an internet search for depression and weaning, and found a plethora of blog posts and comments from mothers who’d experienced it, but little scientific research. The closest I got to science were a few quotes from doctors acknowledging that there is very little research on the topic.

However, it all seemed to make sense: the less I breastfed, the more miserable I became. While breastfeeding, my brain had been marinating in hormones designed to keep me feeling calm and content. In the absence of those hormones, the depression I’d always feared lurked somewhere close began to show its head.

It’s likely there were other factors involved too. Perhaps my mood change was a result of sheer exhaustion, after returning to work full-time and with a baby who at one still didn’t sleep through the night. Perhaps it was due to my dawning realization that the physical and mental freedom I’d had before parenthood was gone, not just for a year, but for the foreseeable future.

Still, I wondered, if depression was even a small risk after weaning, why had nobody warned me? I’d been screened for postpartum depression at every prenatal visit and even Jack’s early pediatrician appointments, but I’d never been told that I might not experience the symptoms until much later. If I’d known, I may not have avoided it, but I could have at least prepared myself and my family for the possibility.

My descent had been a fast drop, but climbing out was a slow chug. Reading articles urging moms to “take ten minutes a day for yourself” felt like an insult, as if needing more than ten minutes for myself marked me as weaker or needier than the leagues of other working moms out there who could fulfill their own needs in less time than it took to cook a frozen pizza.

So I adopted a more intensive self-care approach. I deleted facebook from my phone to minimize the time spent admiring other people’s pretty lives instead of focusing on my own. I found a therapist I liked, and I actually went back week after week. I took vitamins and sat in front of a “happy lamp” while I worked. I journaled and jogged and drank more tea and less wine and fed my body as well as I knew how. And every night, before whispering goodnight and slipping out of Jack’s dark room, I spent a few minutes sitting beside him with my eyes closed, just breathing.

In time, my energy returned, slowly and surely as color to a near-frostbitten limb. My brain cleared, decisions came more easily, and so did laughter. I remembered who my friends were and why they might actually like me. I ran in the park, and felt grateful for the strength and utility of my own limbs.

Jack turned two and we celebrated with family gathered around our dining room table for pizza and a bus-shaped ice cream cake. I tied a balloon to the arm of a chair, and Jack sat in his booster seat at the head of the table. He drank milk from a sippy cup and clapped heartily as we finished a warbling rendition of “Happy Birthday.” As I watched him attempt to sputter out his three candles, I felt light, hopeful, and alive. I leaned over and together we blew out the last flickering flame. We both need one to grow on, after all.

5 Things to Do While Feeding an Infant Besides Scroll Through Facebook

Mindlessly scrolling on my phone does not make me feel smarter or happier, and it certainly doesn’t bond me to my infant. So I’m trying to do this instead.

Two weeks ago we welcomed our third child, a girl, into the family. We’ve enjoyed the days at home together as a family, resting, bonding, and adjusting to our new dynamic. As any new parent knows, newborns spend the majority of their time eating and sleeping. I’d forgotten, however, just how much of my time would be spent feeding her.

At first, feeding times provided much appreciated breaks while my husband entertained the other two kids. I was so enchanted with our daughter that I could just sit and watch her the whole time she ate. Yet after about 80 of these feeding sessions, the exhaustion began to set in and I started to feel antsy. I found myself cycling through social media more and more while nursing. Mindlessly scrolling on my phone does not make me feel smarter, happier, or more fulfilled, and it certainly doesn’t bond me to my infant. I decided it was time to come up with some new nursing activities that would benefit me and my newborn. So far, the following activities have been a great fit for us.

1 | Look at each other

Many mothers find themselves watching their infants admiringly while they sleep, nurse, or coo, and it’s not just because they are so cute. When a mother looks at her baby or even a picture of her baby, the reward center of the brain lights up. The effect that seeing her infant has on a mother’s brain is similar to the effect that romantic love has on the brain: it activates some of the same areas that are rich in oxytocin and vasopressin receptors. The chemical reactions in her brain create feelings of happiness and attachment. It turns out staring at your infant for an hour is not a waste of time at all.

2 | Sing to your baby

It may feel natural to sing to your infant, even if you can’t carry a tune, and there are good reasons for it. Several studies surrounding the effects of music on babies have found that singing calms babies more than talking does, creates stronger bonds with parents, improves health, and may increase future language fluency. Even if you don’t see a Broadway audition in your future, a little “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “You Are My Sunshine” will benefit your baby both now and in the future.

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3 | Talk to her

Tell your baby about your day, how you met your spouse, or how you came up with her name. Take the opportunity to hone your storytelling skills or to unload whatever is on your mind. Ann Fernald, a psychology professor at Stanford, has found in her research that infants whose caregivers talk to them often have increased language processing abilities and larger vocabularies at 18 months when compared with children whose caregivers do not talk to them as often.

4 | Read

Often, nursing time is when I catch up on news, read articles I am interested in, or sneak in a chapter of whatever I’m reading. I keep a couple books of poetry close by because poetry is easy to pick up and put down without interrupting a storyline. The benefits of reading are pretty well-known, but did you know that your infant may benefit from you reading aloud to them? A recent study showed that reading to babies regularly may improve their vocabulary and literacy skills for years into the future.

5 | Go through your to-do list

I am a list maker and find myself even more reliant on to-do lists when I’m tired or overwhelmed. Nursing sessions provide me with a good opportunity to check in with my to-do list and update it. I love the feeling of crossing off an item, adding a few, and planning for the following day or week. Science shows that using to-do lists to plan activities reduces the stress load on the brain. Parents of newborns have a lot to keep tabs on mentally. Using feeding times to update to-do lists can relieve you of some of the load.

I Drove Myself Crazy Trying to Be the Best at Attachment Parenting

For nine months we studied attachment parenting, And then we actually became parents.

When I got pregnant, my husband and I decided to be huge hippies about it. For nine months we studied attachment parenting, took holistic parenting classes, and purchased natural versions of every baby product available to make our vision come true. We were going to be the best parents ever.
Our all-natural lifestyle started – of course – with an all-natural birth. While I never expected it to be easy, I also never expected to be vomiting in the backseat of a Saab as my water broke on the way to the hospital. Live and you learn. As intense as the birth experience was, at least it only lasted 12 hours. The rest of our hippy dippy parenting choices were going to haunt us for the next year and beyond. Here’s how that all went:


All the breastfeeding books and La Leche League literature tells you it shouldn’t hurt, it should never hurt. Well, that’s only if you know what you are doing. A first-time mom and her first-time baby both have no idea what they are doing. Baby Harvey and I were totally clueless, each hoping the other would take the lead and figure out this whole “latching” thing.
I spent the first two weeks of my son’s life completely topless because even the thinnest tank top caused searing pain in my cracked and bleeding nipples. Did you know that you could safely take four ibuprofens at a time while breastfeeding? I did.
We did get better, eventually. But even when we finally figured out what a good latch was and how to achieve one, that didn’t mean we nailed it every time. Especially at 3 a.m. Harvey could chew my nipple off at 3 a.m. if it meant we might get back to sleep in a few minutes.
But yes, it shouldn’t hurt.
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When I was pregnant, people would crack me up by asking, “Is your nursery all set up?” Considering our three-room railroad apartment, they might as well have asked, “how’s your horse stable coming along?” It’s not. Harvey was in with us. And not in a crib, no, no. In a device called the Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper out of which I could pluck him before he stirred, gently nurse him, and then place him back to sleep without as much as a whimper.
Harvey didn’t agree to any of that. He just wanted to sleep in bed with us, end of story. And that was fine. I loved cuddling with him all night, and because some studies show that co-sleeping is safer, SIDS-wise, than crib-sleeping, the set up felt like a win-win. Until I found myself obsessing over every single noise, body shift, temperature change, quiet fart, or sleep smile that the poor kid naturally experienced while he slept. It took me 18 more months to finally relax and sleep through the night again.
Plus, cuddling with my husband became a very distant memory. A memory I started to resent as I watched him sleeping there without a fussy baby kicking his eyes. Look at him. Laying on whatever side of his body he wants with blankets and a pillow. Bastard.

Baby wearing

All my literature said that wearing my baby all day would promote calmness, better sleeping, happiness, an end to war, and keep the sun burning for a billion more years. But I discovered a few factors that really get in the way of this seemingly flawless idea. For example: standing still. Harvey pitched a fit if the parent he was strapped to stopped moving, so that “all day” thing apparently meant walking and/or rocking for infinity. But, if I needed to walk someplace that was five hours away and then walk home again, it was a great system.
Also, if you have the misfortune of giving birth in the summer, like I did, a sling or a wrap tends to make your baby’s head turn bright pink and slick with sweat, like a feverish drunk man. I didn’t want my baby to look like a feverish drunk man. Unless it was after eating and milk was coming out the sides of his mouth and his eyes were struggling to stay open. Then I did a little voice for him: “I’ll sstell you when I’ve sshad enough.” Hilarious.
The final hitch with wearing my baby was that it’s wasn’t easy. All the sales people who helped me practice with a bag of rice into a woven wrap/rings sling/mei tai warned that baby wearing takes practice. And boy, were they right. The first 10 times, I found myself juggling a screaming baby into a soft shapeless mass wrapped around my shoulders, getting him in, making several thousand tiny adjustments, realizing I’d done it wrong and would have to start over, and literally breaking down into tears. I just want to leave my apartment and get a seltzer!
Then there were the times I thought I’d done it perfectly only to have my neighbor point out that the sling’s metal rings were lodged in Harvey’s eye. Great mom!

Elimination communication

This is the theory you can toilet-train your baby from a young age by following cues and holding them over a small bowl. We tried. We failed. We don’t speak of it anymore.

Cloth diapers

Cloth diapers are the final frontiers of hippie mom-dom. Even hardcore baby wearers and extended breast feeders don’t do it. Why not? It’s much better for the environment, better for baby’s skin, can make potty training easier, and more. Unfortunately, the “more” stands for more laundry. You can either hit the washing machine almost daily or sign up for a diaper service to do it for you because you like throwing money away.
Then there is actually using our pre-fold cloth diapers. The fold was simple enough to learn but hilariously hard to master, leading to poop and pee dripping down baby’s legs and onto my clothes/bed/dog/face a few times a day. And, sure, babies have blow-outs with disposables too, but when Harvey blew out a cloth diaper it was my bad fold job – not Pampers’ fault.
Plus, unlike disposables, babies can really feel the wetness in a cloth diaper. And my baby really didn’t like to feel the wetness in his diaper. That made my baby angry. As a result, we started going through 160 diapers a week. I know that’s a lot is because the diaper service lady, whose life is diapers said, and I quote: “Good grief! That is a lot of diapers!”
She asked me if I was doing anything with my life besides changing diapers. “No,” was the answer.
Also, my apartment always smelled like diapers, just FYI.

Cloth diaper covers

Pre-fold cloth diapers need waterproof covers and you have two choices: plastic or wool. My husband and I, of course, decided that the plastic lined covers were too chemical-laden and went with wool. There were some other upsides, too, like when a wool diaper cover gets wet from pee, it dries clean…once you lanolize it. What’s lanolizing, you ask? That’s when you soak your wool diapers in super-hot water and special wool cure overnight once a month. And when wool diapers get covered in poop you can’t just toss ‘em in the laundry because they need special wool shampoo. Also, you have to wash them once a week.
Seems like a lot of extra work, you say? It was.
It really was.
Much like the current natural make-up trend, this so-called “natural” attachment parenting took a lot more work than I had ever suspected. But ultimately that’s true for all parenting, isn’t it? While I can’t say for sure if all that effort contributed to the amazing, sweet and healthy five-year-old Harvey is today (not to mention his kick ass 20-month-old little sister), I still wouldn’t change a thing. If nothing else, Harvey and Mabel both looked super cute in their cloth diapers. And after a while, we stopped noticing the smell.

Can You Eat That? A Simple Diet Planner for Breastfeeding Moms

Learn more about what can pass into breast milk, or scroll to the end for a quick quiz about whether or not a particular food is okay to eat while breastfeeding.

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]A[/su_dropcap]lthough new moms often celebrate their new babies with the booze, sushi, and deli meats they were warned off of during their pregnancies, after swallowing their celebratory vices they’re back to eating for two. The same basic mantra of “the baby eats what you eat” is broadly applied to nursing mothers, leading many women to forego their favorite foods in an effort to properly feed their children.

There’s just one problem here. Nursing mothers are not human Vitamixes. It’s not as though our kale salads become green smoothies for our babies. In general, your nursing baby is not eating what you eat. Your baby is eating breast milk derived from your blood, which carries the parts of your broken-down food that passed into your bloodstream.

If you eat a piece of bread, it’s not going to straight to your baby because before it passes into your bloodstream, it needs to be broken down by various processes. By the time it has been broken down into smaller sugars, proteins, fats, and vitamins, all of which are combined with other sugars, proteins, fats, and vitamins to produce breast milk, that bread won’t be bread-like at all.

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But other molecules are much smaller and need less digestion before they can pass into the bloodstream. Read on to learn more about what can pass into breast milk, or scroll to the end for a quick quiz about whether or not a particular food is okay to eat while breastfeeding.

garlicky shrimp, can you east strong flavor while pregnant

Is it okay to eat strong flavors?

It’s misleading to say that the baby eats what you eat. But it might be reasonable to say that your baby smells what you smell. The molecules that make smelly foods so pungent are tiny enough that they pass into your bloodstream without having to be fully digested.

The sulfur compounds contained in garlic are so powerful that they don’t even have to be eaten in order to be tasted. Garlic can be absorbed through the skin and actually be tasted later, even when applied to the feet. Even chopping garlic with your bare hands can change the flavor of your milk.

Your baby isn’t eating garlic, which will have to be digested into smaller parts before it makes its way into your milk. Your baby is, however, eating some of the small molecules that make the smell of garlic. That flavor change is not a problem for most babies. Some studies have shown babies will actually drink longer once introduced to garlic.

This may help explain the commonly shared but scientifically dubious claim that garlic increases milk production. There is ample evidence that babies feed longer when introduced to new flavors like garlic. That increased feeding time might, in turn, stimulate more milk production. In other words, it wouldn’t be the garlic increasing the milk production, but the curious young eater enjoying a new flavor.

In the garlic study, babies’ prolonged feedings tapered off after they got used to the garlic flavor. That was also true in similar studies of the less pungent but still strongly scented vanilla. There’s little evidence that any one flavor will lead to prolonged nursing or to increased milk production. But these studies suggest that if mothers eat a wide variety of foods, their babies may nurse longer to keep trying new flavors.

spicy food, peppers

How spicy is too spicy?

What about foods that are less smelly and more spicy? Are hot peppers, ginger, and cinnamon safe for babies?

Given the ubiquity of hot peppers in cuisines all over the world, it’s hardly surprising news that hot peppers are generally safe to eat when nursing. There is one 1996 case study of two babies who experienced dermatitis after their mothers consumed red peppers. Although the condition sounds terrifying, “dermatitis” just means “skin inflammation,” a symptom not uncommon in adults who enjoy hot peppers. The case study did not report the babies experiencing any pain and their dermatitis resolved on its own in a few days.

That case study should not scare you away from extra jalapeños on your next breakfast burrito. Instead, that study just suggests that the molecule that makes many hot peppers hot – capsaicin – is passed through breast milk.

As far as spices go, eat whatever you can tolerate. It’s not like you’re asking your baby to take the cinnamon challenge. Even when all of those “hot” molecules pass into your breast milk, they’re not going in there alone. Considering that many curries consist of a blend of spices and milk, your child is essentially consuming his first curry. At least one study has suggested that nursing mothers’ diets are a significant contributor to national and cultural cuisines, as children show preference to flavors introduced during pregnancy and nursing.

Before we leave the topic of spicy foods, we should also take a look at one more set of spices: those recommended to women for increasing their lactation.

Breastfeeding women looking to increase their milk supplies are encouraged to ingest a variety of herbs and spices. According to LactMed, a database maintained by National Institutes of Health that keeps up-to-date information on drugs that pass into breast milk, it’s unclear whether or not the contents of your spice cabinet will increase milk production. Many strong flavored herbs, among them anise and fennel, are claimed to increase milk production but there are no strong trials behind those claims.

These spices can, however, change the flavor of breast milk and, given what we know about babies who nurse longer after being introduced to a new flavor like garlic or vanilla, it’s reasonable to guess that babies nurse longer when exposed to strong-smelling herbs. Perhaps this is why fenugreek has long been claimed as an herbal remedy for increasing milk production. It may not stimulate milk production on its own, but your baby may be interested in the maple syrup aroma it adds to your milk.

Should nursing mothers avoid potential allergens?

Given the basic logic of human digestion, we understand that if you eat a peanut, your baby isn’t eating that peanut through breastmilk. But your baby may be eating one of the distinct proteins found in peanuts.

The peanut proteins that most commonly cause allergic reactions, as well as proteins at the root of cow’s milk and egg allergies, are excreted into breast milk. Does this mean that you should avoid these foods? In most cases, no. According to the recent LEAP trial, early exposure to peanuts actually reduced the likelihood of serious allergies, so for most women there’s no reason not to eat peanuts. In fact, there’s some suggestion that eating peanuts will lessen your child’s risk of developing a peanut allergy.

It’s possible that your baby will be allergic to something you eat. But the only way to find that out is to eat a food and induce a reaction. So, in most cases, you don’t need to avoid any foods for fear of allergies unless, of course, you are allergic to those foods.

ice cream scoops that looks like breasts

Can you eat that? A two question quiz

Do you like it? Then eat it. If not, then don’t eat it.

If you’re trying new foods for the sake of giving your baby more variety and a sense of gustatory adventure, good for you! You don’t have to repeat any foods you don’t like because chances are, given what we know about garlic, vanilla, and other similarly aromatic foods, your baby would get bored if you kept eating them anyway.

Does your baby like it? Irrelevant. Many parents claim that their babies frown or push away from the breast because Mom consumed broccoli or dark chocolate or hoppy beer. But if most parents can’t figure out what’s making our babies cry for hours in the middle of the night, perhaps we place too much weight on our assessments of babies’ milk preferences. Looking to your baby for breast milk tasting notes is unlikely to yield good information on what he or she likes or does not like.

Sharing Our Boobs: The Case for Communal Breastfeeding

The idea of another woman putting her nipple in your baby’s mouth might give you the creeps, but remember, only a few generations back breastfeeding itself was taboo.

Real talk, moms: to decolonize our feminism we have to actively look around the world and consider how other societies parent with the assumption that there’s nothing backward or “undeveloped” about it. Communal breastfeeding is one of those things we rarely see in primarily white societies since the advent of commercial formula.
While it certainly isn’t free of controversy elsewhere (specifically, the class issue attached to wealthy women hiring poor women as wet nurses), there tends to be a certain matter-of-fact maturity about its benefits that could teach us a few things.
Because sure, the idea of another woman putting her nipple in your baby’s mouth might give you the creeps, but remember, only a few generations back breastfeeding itself was taboo. Even doctors did their best to convince our grandmas that nursing is uncivilized and inferior to bottle-feeding. Since then science has vindicated nature’s design, and it may just be time to de-stigmatize the notion of communal breastfeeding, or allo-nursing, where a pair or group of women nurse each other’s children, either together or as a division of labor.
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Consider the benefits

1 | Nutritional breadth

Through your milk, baby absorbs your diet. Thus, a baby exposed to several women’s milk is likely introduced to a broader diet. Of course there’s a downside to be aware of – women with poor eating habits or drug issues are not the ideal candidates for allo-nursing – but then there’s the upshot: milk informed by biodiversity can expand baby’s palate for when it’s time to introduce solid foods, gently acclimate her to potential allergens, and introduce a greater range of nutritional sources.

2 | Boosting immunity

One amazing thing about breast milk is its wealth of helpful antibodies. Scientists now believe breastmilk changes in response to feedback gleaned from the baby’s spit via glands on the mother’s nipple. (Take a moment to appreciate how awesome that is.)
If the baby is fighting a cold, for example, the mother will produce antibodies in her milk to help the baby cope. Now imagine one baby catches a pathogen in a circle of allo-nursing moms. Any woman who nurses that baby will produce antibodies in her next letdown – meaning the other babies can receive this natural medicine before having to get sick themselves! So the immunity of the whole brood is strengthened – and presumably everyone gets more sleep.

3 | Social bonding

In Islamic countries where allo-nursing is an established cultural practice, children who shared a breast grow up with a lifelong bond. Known as “milk brothers” or “milk sisters”, they are believed to have a familial relation as valid as one by blood. (After all, these are both life-giving body fluids!) With so many reasons to have a small family, yet so many reasons to want siblings for our kids, this socially constructed kinship makes a lot of sense.
Bonding is not just for the younger generation. Renewed interest in attachment parenting has heightened awareness of breastfeeding’s greatest gift, which is a dedicated space to promote quality time between mother and child. Weave those bonds between neighbors, and you get a rock solid community.
Let’s not forget, mothers have a real need for social contact and support, especially in the early years where we can feel damn near invisible. Sharing this time together, loving each other’s families, and being respected by each other’s children paves a smoother road to walk down together.

4 | Relief for moms who need it

There are many reasons a woman may not breastfeed even if she wants to. She might need to work, have other kids to attend to, be dealing with an infection or be on meds she doesn’t want to pass on. She might have post partum depression, maybe partied too hard the night before, or just needs a frigging day off.
Not to mention, some babies just don’t latch well to some breasts, and it’s nobody’s fault. Does that mean they must miss out on the physiological and cognitive boons of being breastfed? Nope.
With allo-nursing, moms can pick up each other’s slack and help maintain each other’s supply even when the little ones go on strike (or favor one breast disproportionately – we all love that, right ladies?). Women can even trade off nursing two babies at a time, allowing themselves to stagger their letdowns and maximize intervals of rest – or productivity! Whatever it is you need to do when baby isn’t rooting through your blouse.

8 Things to Know About Breastfeeding a Tongue-tied Baby

You’re both going to need some help.

The lactation consultant stared down at my chest and declared, “Yep, she’s gonna have to grow into them.” ‘Them’ being my nipples.  I cringed.
I’d never really contemplated the size of my nipples up until my breastfeeding woes began. They were bigger than most, perhaps the size of a nickel on a lily pad, but not so big they couldn’t fit into my newborn’s mouth. Yet, she wasn’t gaining weight.  
Days before I had made the hard decision of having my daughter’s tongue-tie clipped. Most people think of tongue-tie as a moment when you have a hard time speaking due to love or embarrassment, but tongue-tie or ankyloglossia is a common condition that makes breastfeeding difficult and painful. Basically, there is a piece of skin or frenulum that connects your tongue to the bottom of your mouth. If the frenulum is too tight or short, it’s referred to as tongue-tie.
The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery states that tongue-tie is often missed and can lead to mothers abandoning breastfeeding completely. The reason is that babies with a tongue-tie cannot stretch their tongues out and over their gums to draw more of the areola into the mouth. This ensures the baby will suck more milk. Instead, they end up rooting on the nipple, causing pain for the mother and not receiving enough milk.
Well, that certainly was the case for me.  
Here are few tips that can help you and your baby get through tongue-tie and quite possibly succeed.

1 | Check for tongue-tie in the hospital

It’s becoming more of a common practice to check for tongue-tie in the first few days of a baby’s life, but my daughter’s tongue-tie wasn’t discovered until I insisted they check before we left the hospital. I had a terrible time breastfeeding with my son and wanted to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Breastfeeding with my daughter seemed to be going fine. She was latching nicely, and there wasn’t any pain. Still, I was shell-shocked from my first experience and mistrusted everyone. I’m glad I did because I would have left believing we were breastfeeding without any problems. Checking for tongue-tie is a simple procedure but needs to be done properly. Request that your pediatrician or lactation consultant checks during the first routine examination.

2 | Clip Earlier Rather than Later

Now, this advice is controversial. For some, clipping a tongue-tie is unnecessary, like having your son circumcised. It makes sense – you don’t want your baby to experience pain unless it’s needed. Also, some small risks are associated with a frenotomy.  Some of the risks include:  pain, bleeding, and possibly infection.
If you and your doctor decide clipping is best for you, then have it done as soon as possible. If left untreated the tongue-tie could cause extreme frustration for the baby and failure for the mom. Another important factor to consider is that the earlier the tongue-tie is discovered and clipped, the easier breastfeeding will be for you and your baby.
Best-selling author and pediatrician Dr. Sears gives some great reasons for clipping it immediately. The doctor clipped my daughter’s at two weeks, which may seem early, but we were already two weeks behind in breastfeeding and struggled to catch up. Remember, clipping the tongue-tie should be a decision you make with your doctor.

3 | Don’t attend the procedure

Most doctors will ask if you want to be in the room during the procedure. Don’t. Seeing your baby in pain and blood coming out of their mouth will be one of your first low points as a mother. It’s understandable to want to attend to comfort them (I naively thought, if my baby is in pain, I need to be too), but this won’t be the case. A nurse holds the baby while the doctor makes the small cut. Once the procedure is finished your baby is brought to you for breastfeeding. This is when you can really comfort your baby. Once Leah was back in my arms and firmly attached to my breast, I felt a shuddering sigh as she snuggled in. I then sighed with her. It was over; at least for now.

4 | Clipping the tongue-tie will not fix the problem immediately

According to the Journal of Human Lactation, “within 24 hours [of a frenotomy] 80% were feeding better.” Even though this is true, it might take some time for the baby to relearn how to suck or root. Babies’ practice the rooting motion in utero with a tongue-tie, so once the tongue-tie is eliminated, they have to relearn how to nurse without the restriction. The mother and baby now learn together. How long this takes is individual.
Relearning how to suck might take a week or it might take a few months. It took my baby 10 weeks to relearn how to breastfeed. I scoured every website and forum I could find to determine an average time, but the answers varied from immediately all the way up to six months. It’s really hard to pinpoint the exact timing because every baby and situation is different. In the interim, the mother might need to supplement with a bottle to ensure healthy weight gain and to pump to keep up her milk supply.

5 | Do the recommended tongue exercises as much as possible 

To help ensure that the frenulum doesn’t reattach, they recommend daily tongue-tie exercises. Fortunately, informative videos can help you with this. My doctor also recommended that I rub the clipped area a few times a day with a clean finger. You have to press down and rub back and forth so that any reattachment doesn’t occur.
Honestly, I was guilty of skipping this because, with everything else I had going on, I would forget. I think deep down I didn’t want to cause her any more pain. When you rub the sensitive area, you have to do it hard, and I found it difficult to do this repeatedly. A lactation consultant showed me once, and she made my baby bleed accidentally. Afterward, she told me that I needed to do it hard; otherwise it was pointless.

6 | Join a breastfeeding support group

Most hospitals have a weekly group that you can join for free. If you live in a larger city, there will be a breastfeeding support group almost any day of the week. One place to start is your local La Leche League. 
For some, joining a group can seem daunting, while for others it’s a natural fit. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, find one and go as early as possible and as often as possible until you’re breastfeeding full-time. At the meetings is a board-certified lactation consultant, who will be able to help you latch properly and answer all of your questions.
At first, I hated the lactation consultant who told me my nipples were too big. The consultant is usually a fit woman in her 50s. Think Jillian Michaels on steroids, but she’s there to help you. Also usually another mother is crying or looking so miserable that you’re suddenly thankful that you only have your problems to deal with.
During the breastfeeding support group, you’ll weigh the baby, then breastfeed the baby, then follow with another weigh-in to track how much they’ve transferred. The scale used for the weigh-ins goes to the grams and ounces, so it’s pretty accurate. Another benefit is that you connect with other moms and realize that you’re not alone. If an in-person group is not your thing, consider joining a Facebook support group for tongue-tie. I found that very helpful.

7 | Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect.

Lactation consultants and doctors are there to help, but they aren’t there with you in the middle of the night when you are trying to comfort a screaming baby who won’t latch and who is turning red from frustration and hunger. They aren’t with you when, after you get through the pain of a bad latch, you have to supplement with a bottle, then pump to keep up your supply, only to do it all over again once the cycle is completed. They aren’t feeling the mixed emotions of wanting what is best for your baby yet wanting to sleep; wanting to enjoy being a mom yet wanting it all to be over with.
The best advice I received and followed is: nurse when you can, supplement when needed, and pump when convenient. Research has shown that the ideal of breastfeeding and what actually occurs are quite different. Women are put under a lot of pressure to breastfeed exclusively; if they don’t, they are made to feel they have failed. They’re told they haven’t just failed themselves but their babies as well, possibly making them less healthy and smart. Don’t give into this overwhelming pressure. Decide what you can do, based on your situation, and know that it is good enough.

8 | Remember Everything is Temporary

In the first few weeks after a baby is born, time seems to stretch and speed up making your sense of reality alter. One week with a newborn seems like a blink yet a year. One week struggling with breastfeeding seems like you’ve aged 20 years and you’ll never sleep again. I found my first gray hair after struggling to breastfeed for a week.
It’s important to remember that everything changes and that the struggle is temporary. Every day you and your baby are changing. Just when you think you can’t make it through one more day breastfeeding, you do and just as suddenly you’ll be successful. As soon as I gave myself permission to do only what I could and acknowledged that this moment would not last forever, my daughter grew into my nipple.
I began to hear what sounded like slurps and gulps. My little angel became like a beer-bong guzzler. Intuitively, I knew she was getting more milk.  It did take 10 weeks, but to get there, I allowed myself to understand that the struggle would end.
Just breathe and remember the frequently quoted mantra, “This too shall pass.”

Is Burping a Baby More Habit Than Help?

What do parenting manuals have to say about the practice? And whom does burping benefit more: the baby, or its caregivers?

Although I never had one of my own, I watched the commercial enough times to know exactly how to care for a Baby Burpee. Twenty-five years later, I still know that patting her on the back “really makes her feel so much better,” even though she has long ago been supplanted by more realistic crying and wetting dolls.
Burping is such a reflexive action that we might not even think about why we do it. You feed the baby. You burp the baby. But why do we burp babies? What do parenting manuals have to say about the practice? And whom does burping benefit more: the baby, or its caregivers?

Contradictory advice on burping

When I’m looking for a deep dive into parenting advice, I turn to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ mammoth “Caring for Your Baby and Young Child”. Weighing in at just under 1,000 pages, this book covers all the developmental milestones from birth to age five and describes treatment for most common and many uncommon conditions children may have. Its entry for “burping, hiccups, and spitting up” offers the following advice:

Young babies naturally fuss and get cranky when they swallow air during feedings. Although this occurs in both breastfed and bottle-fed infants, it’s seen more often with the bottle. When it happens, it may be helpful to stop the feeding rather than letting your infant fuss and nurse at the same time. This continued fussing will cause her to swallow even more air, which will only increase her discomfort and may make her spit up.

A much better strategy is to burp her frequently, even if she shows no discomfort. The pause and change of position alone will slow her gulping and reduce the amount of air she takes in.

This advice, or some version of it, is the advice most of us would probably give if asked about burping. But it’s not the only advice out there.
Michael Cohen’s “The New Baby Basics” is much lighter than the AAP’s manual and takes a decidedly lassiez-faire approach to parenting. Cohen’s simple, alphabetized format makes it a wonderful guide for middle-of-the-night reassurance about a host of common issues. The book is, in essence, a comprehensive list of things not to worry about.
Cohen’s entry for burping, for example, begins with the assertion that burping is “not all that important.” Cohen explains:

Burping happens when the stomach releases air that was swallowed while feeding or crying. Newborns don’t often burp, since they eat slowly and sleep most of the day, allowing little chance for air to enter the stomach. Bottle-fed babies tend to ingest more air, because artificial nipples aren’t as easy to seal a little mouth around. Therefore, as a good rule of thumb, if there’s no air, there’s no burp. So don’t go pounding on Lucy’s back for hours in search of audible results. And if she drifts off after a meal, you might as well let her sleep; even if you don’t tap, the air will still make its way up, if less dramatically.

While the AAP advises parents to burp their babies even if their babies seem comfortable, Cohen advises parents to leave them alone.

The medical case for burping

Cohen suggests that former feeding practices are in part responsible for the pervasiveness of the “burping myth.” When parents were instructed to feed their infants set amounts of formula, babies often ended up vomiting. Out of that vomiting arose concerns that babies would choke on vomit. Instead of changing the amount babies were being fed, parents burped the babies. Now that the general practice is to feed babies on demand, Cohen argues, there’s generally no need to burp them.
There is some evidence to suggest that babies with underdeveloped lower esophageal sphincters may need to be burped, because in those babies burping is thought to help keep food in the stomach. But babies with perfectly well developed esophageal sphincters (that is, babies who are not doing “Exorcist” style projectile vomiting after feedings) do not need help keeping food in their stomachs.
The two main medical reasons offered for burping otherwise healthy babies are that 1) colic is improved with regular burping and that 2) burping reduces the risk of SIDS. Neither of these conditions has been effectively linked to the presence or absence of burping.
A recent study comparing babies who were burped and babies who were not burped found no differences in colic between the two groups. Mother-child pairs were randomized to a burping or no burping group. The study was small, enrolling only 71 mother-child pairs, but its findings are intriguing. In addition to finding that burping did not appear to affect rates of colic, the study also found that babies who were burped actually experienced higher rates of regurgitation than babies who were not burped.
Burping has also been connected to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) because of a 2007 article in the journal “Medical Hypotheses”. The problem with this connection is that it was, as the journal’s title suggests, a hypothesis. “Medical Hypotheses” has been a significant source of controversy, because, up until 2010, the articles in it were not peer-reviewed.
It’s important to note that, despite this article’s priority in internet search results, no peer-reviewed study has proven that either the presence or absence of burping is a contributing risk factor to SIDS deaths.

Why burping persists

Cohen’s advice against burping runs counter to every family member and stranger who interacted with my child. I didn’t regularly burp him, but he was often burped, reflexively, by everyone else who held him. So why are we still burping babies in the absence of strong medical evidence?
Burping may not have a medical function, but it may serve an important psychological function for caregivers. In his commentary on the above study of burping and colic rates, physician Ahmed Rashid writes: “There can be few more frustrating consultations than those with first-time parents trying to manage infantile colic. The desperation in their sleep-deprived voices can make it extremely difficult not to offer some intervention.”
This focus on exhausted parents puts advice about burping into a new perspective. What if burping is not for the baby, but for that baby’s caregivers?
Observe the following two sentences: “The baby was burped” and “The baby burped.” In the first sentence, the baby had something done to it: A caregiver burped it. In the second sentence, the baby’s in control: He or she burped.
What if we imagined these two sentences as parenting philosophies? The first sentence, reflected in the advice from the AAP, suggests that babies need parents to do everything on their behalf. It also indirectly offers the powerful encouragement that parents can do something in the wake of colic or other similar situations.
The second sentence, reflected in Cohen’s advice, suggests that letting a child burp on its own (or not) offers the tiniest bit of agency to the tiniest of humans. Choosing to not burp the baby, then, can be one step in a long process of helping a child gain incremental independence. But Cohen’s advice is cold comfort for parents up at all hours with a screaming infant. It asks them to accept that, sometimes, there’s nothing a parent can do to calm a screaming baby.
Just like Baby Burpees – some of whom are still out there being burped – today’s babies are probably going to be burped. Perhaps that’s because burping is a ritual for parents, making us feel that we have some measure of control over our otherwise chaotic first years with our babies.

Saying No: A Nursing Mom’s Struggle with Work-Related Travel

The decision to continue breastfeeding while returning to work was challenging enough; I wasn’t ready to add multi-day traveling to the equation.

I remember so clearly what it felt like. I was sharing a hotel room with a colleague I didn’t know very well and discretely pumping at the desk in front of my bed in the double queen hotel room. Tears were welling up as I desperately wished for more milk to magically appear in those bottles and for relief from the pressure I was feeling.
It was day two of a conference and my son was nine months old. He was still nursing multiple times a day so I had brought along my pump as well as all of the necessary supplies to keep the milk cold until I arrived back at home on a flight a day and a half later. But something was wrong. My supply was definitely there, but my pump didn’t seem to be working.
I started to panic. Forgoing the next two conference sessions, I made my way around the city of Indianapolis desperately searching for a different breast pump to try. Through the magic of mid-west kindness, a local drug store about a mile from my hotel had their other branch across the city drive a hand pump over for me.
I walked the mile back to my hotel, pump in hand, praying that it would work and wondering: What use it was to travel for work if I was going to have to miss half of the conference?  
Over the next few months, I made the choice to skip other potential out-of-town conferences and consulting opportunities because my son was still breastfeeding and I couldn’t bear going through that experience again. Four years later, when my daughter was born, I declared a blanket rule that I would not consider traveling for the first 18 months.  
A 2015 study confirmed what I was feeling: Moms who continue breastfeeding when they return to work often experience more family-to-work conflict and overload. The decision to continue breastfeeding while returning to work was challenging enough; I wasn’t ready to add multi-day traveling to the equation.
Sure, some women find ways to comfortably travel with newborns and toddlers. Maybe long-term pumping works for them, or they make the choice to stop breastfeeding earlier. Others can afford to bring family members along for the ride to help take care of the child. We did this once but quickly learned that we didn’t have the bankroll or the spousal vacation time to do this very frequently. These solutions just weren’t working for me.
Holding my ground on travel was difficult, and I was sometimes tempted to “hang up the horns” and give up pumping; multiple studies have shown that I would not have been alone. For example, a 2006 study on predictors of breastfeeding duration and a 2008 study of maternal employment and breastfeeding both identified early return to work as negatively associated with breastfeeding duration.
A 2009 study showed that “lack of long-term infant-mother separation” was a positive predictor of continued breastfeeding and a 2013 study showed that encouragement from colleagues and supervisors was positively associated with continued breastfeeding. Social and workplace support are important predictors of whether a mother continues breastfeeding and pumping; any mother who has been in that position has experienced these factors first-hand.
How did my own colleagues respond to my choices around nursing and travel? On the one hand, there were people who questioned my commitment to collegial priorities by saying things like “We haven’t seen you at the meeting recently; we do hope that you’ll make it a priority this year.”
When another meeting was going to take four days of travel and my daughter was still nursing three times a day, I respectfully informed my colleagues that I would not be joining them but offered to join a conference call or webinar if they were willing to make that happen; they did not explore the technological option.
Even local travel options were challenging. Despite regulations around workplace accommodations for nursing mothers, my emails asking where I would be able to find a lactation room or nursing mothers’ room during a day-long meeting were often met with embarrassment or surprise. “I don’t know,” they’d say, “let me look into that.” I actually found myself feeling proud of the role I was playing in breaking ground for the women who would ask that question after me.
Other colleagues were more understanding and offered plentiful support. One college campus in my state referred me to an online guide listing the availability at least a dozen nursing mothers’ rooms with locking doors, comfortable chairs, outlets, and lovely artwork. Six years later, I still do an annual web-based workshop for a university in another state because we discovered, when I wasn’t traveling, that being there in person wasn’t actually necessary to meet their goals.
Not only was it cheaper and more convenient to have me do a webinar for her group, it remained engaging and useful because web-based technology has come a long way in making it possible for us to actively engage with others, no matter where they are.
Sometimes I question whether I lost ground in my career by not presenting at national conferences or showing up for a meeting that colleagues wanted to host in-person. I found other ways to contribute – publishing papers, delivering webinars, attending phone conferences – but there is still a lingering sense that some of my colleagues (both male and female) didn’t support my choice.  
“I’m so glad that you’re back,” they’d say, sounding genuinely collegial, yet communicating an underlying disapproval or simple lack of understanding. Was I really gone?  If I was, was it my fault? Why couldn’t I be “engaged” and still be able to be available for my children and my own medical needs?
Hasn’t technology made that more than possible, especially for the relatively short term of giving birth and caring for an infant? Despite the fact that even the Surgeon General has called for increased workplace support for breastfeeding women, comprehensive understanding of accommodations and widespread social support in the workplace are obviously still lacking.
As I write, I am sitting on a plane on my way to a professional training. My daughter is two-and-a-half, no longer nursing, and my husband and I are back in the travel game, so to speak.  I’m spending this whole flight reflecting on what it felt like to take that break. It was right for me, it was right for my family, and I kept up with my high performance at work.
Yet, some colleagues still judged me and in some ways I’m still digging out of that hole. I’m not bitter; I have enough local support to not mind distant colleagues passing judgement. I’ve learned a lot about how I want to treat others when they find themselves in this situation.
Research on strategies to better accommodate breastfeeding women is plentiful, but beyond policies and regulations we also need cultural change that allows us to support colleagues and talk to one another about these challenges, (as demonstrated by this article about the importance of workplace communication around breastfeeding).  I hope that I will not automatically assume that traveling to a meeting or a conference is the best choice for me or one of my staff members or one of my colleagues who works across the country.  
I pledge to find ways to make them feel welcome in ways that I was not, and I encourage them to share their perspective if we are making decisions in which they cannot be included. I pledge to consider them a valuable colleague and appreciate the work that they are doing even if I’m not always seeing them on a regular basis. I also hope to gently remind others when they are creating scenarios that ostracize those in our community who must limit travel.  
Nursing moms are not the only ones who deserve this support. Whether someone is caring for a child, an elderly parent, or a sick spouse, or we have our own medical or personal needs, saying no to travel while we are in these circumstances should not be a punishable offense.

Should Your Baby Go Gluten-Free?

Does gluten deserve this reputation? What is it? How does it impact health? And should parents avoid feeding gluten to their children?

Gluten has been blamed for weight gain, irritability, irregular bowel movements, fatigue, and a host of other symptoms. The charges against gluten are exceeded only by the number of gluten-free products lining our supermarket shelves.
Many of these labels are appearing in the baby aisle as well, a reasonable consequence of the gluten-free movement, given that the symptoms of gluten ingestion overlap nearly perfectly with the behavior of most infants and young children.
But does gluten deserve this reputation? What is it? How does it impact health? And should parents avoid feeding gluten to their children?

What is gluten?

Gluten is so often invoked as an enemy that it sounds scary, but its definition is downright boring. Gluten has taken on all manner of nefarious meanings, but, most simply put, it is just a group of proteins that are found in wheat and other similar grains.
Those proteins are, in fact, desirable because the gluten formation in bread dough is what gives really good loaves their chewy texture. That’s why many recipes call for wheat flour, which has more protein and will lead to a chewier texture than other, lower-protein varieties.

What illnesses are related to gluten?

While gluten is completely harmless to most of the population, it does pose a genuine health risk to two populations. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the body reacts to gliadins, one of the two protein types found in gluten. In adults, celiac disease is associated with gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain.
Many children with celiac disease don’t show these symptoms. Instead, because celiac disease interferes with nutrient absorption, one of the most obvious symptoms of celiac disease in infants and young children is a failure to thrive. In both children and adults with celiac disease, prolonged exposure to gluten can damage the small intestine, which is why patients with celiac disease are prescribed gluten-free diets.
Like celiac disease, a wheat allergy is also an immune response. In medical literature, an allergy refers specifically to the body’s immune response to a substance that is usually considered harmless to humans. In patients who develop wheat allergies, the first exposure triggers the body to develop antibodies, so that upon subsequent exposures, the body will react. Anaphylaxis is the most serious symptom, which is why people with wheat allergies also have gluten-free diets.
People who have gastrointestinal discomfort after consuming gluten, but no other symptoms of celiac disease or wheat allergy, are increasingly being diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Unlike celiac disease and wheat allergy, which are related to the immune system, intolerances are related to digestion. Intolerances for certain types of foods can lead to discomfort, but they do not cause long-term organ damage like celiac disease or life-threatening anaphylaxis, like wheat allergies.

Does gluten pass to the baby through breastmilk?

If you spend any time on forums that discuss gluten, you’ll find the oft-repeated but rarely sourced claim that gliadin, one of the proteins in gluten, passes into breastmilk.
Before considering this remarkable claim, let’s step back from the question of gluten for a moment and think about the digestive system.
Let’s say you, sleep-deprived parent, drink a latte. Some parts of that latte, including water, sugar, and caffeine, are immediately absorbed into your bloodstream. But the milk, which includes proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates, aren’t digested until later when they reach the stomach and small intestine.
Proteins are broken down into amino acids, while fats are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol. All of these molecules, as well as the sugars coming from carbohydrates, pass from the small intestine into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, those molecules can travel anywhere in the body, including into breastmilk. But by the time those molecules appear in breastmilk, they look very different from how they started.
Now imagine that you’re eating a piece of bread. You don’t think of that bread as a protein source, but it is. The gluten proteins from that bread will be broken down by your stomach and small intestine into amino acids, which will then pass through your small intestine into the bloodstream. By the time your body recombines those amino acids into the proteins in your breast milk, they won’t be gluten proteins anymore.
The proteins formed in breast milk are similar in structure to gluten proteins, which may lead certain researchers or advocates of gluten-free diets to claim that gluten proteins are, therefore, passing through the digestive system into the breastmilk. Without a complete paradigm shift in the understanding of human digestion by the general populace, it seems unlikely that this misinformation will stop.

Can gluten-containing formula and foods cause celiac disease and wheat allergies?

Even if your child is considered high risk for celiac disease or wheat allergy, there’s no indication that he should not have gluten. In the case of allergies, researchers have found that earlier introduction to potential allergens actually decreases the likelihood that children will develop allergies.
Early introduction of gluten does not appear to have an effect on the development of celiac disease. Researchers behind the TEDDY study, a large longitudinal study of children, found that the timing of gluten introduction to children does not impact the onset of celiac disease. Another study explored the introduction of gluten and breastfeeding and found that neither contributed to celiac disease.

My child is (irritable, inconsolable, contorted) after nursing or eating. Could it be gluten?

Here we get to a really tricky problem, trickier even than studying human digestion or immune responses. You breastfeed your baby. The baby starts screaming. The baby has strange-looking stools. You remember you ate that bread before nursing, and come to think of it, the baby cried the last time he ate cereal…
Here’s the thing: Babies cry. A lot. And humans are generally good at seeing patterns where there are none. Parents who are looking for causes of pain in their babies’ crying can develop impressively elaborate, but ultimately false, narratives to explain this behavior.
None of this is to say that you shouldn’t raise concerns with your pediatrician. But if your child is gaining weight normally, there’s not a lot of reason to suspect celiac disease. If your child is not breaking out in hives and is still breathing, there’s not a lot of reason to suspect a wheat allergy.
If your child seems uncomfortable after eating a food, see what happens the next time he eats it. And the next time. And the time after that. With more data, you may notice that what looked like a pattern is just the haphazard nature of early parenting. If you are in the lucky 96-99% of the population who doesn’t suffer from celiac disease or a wheat allergy, you may find a giant bowl of pasta makes that hard fact easier to swallow.