For anyone who has met or held Nella, you probably got a burp cloth put over your shoulder and a warning from Jimmy or I saying “she tends to spit up…a lot.” We buy shout in bulk and, and when Nella was younger, would go through a bottle in a week. Let’s just say that our poor baby girl has spent the majority of her life covered in…well..throw up.
Her GI issues began when she was in the NICU. She had reflux, but that is expected with a preemie and we were told that she was still gaining weight appropriately. One of our favorite nurses whispered in my ear that Nella would definitely require medication, but the neonatologists and nurse practitioners assured us it was all normal. Her reflux tended to be much worse after her bottles of pumped milk that were fortified with a tiny bit of high calorie formula. We thought the formula may be upsetting her stomach, but after awhile it was hard to ascertain what it was…and well…we were so very uninformed at the time. (Sorry Nella!)
When Nella was 2 months old I tried eliminating dairy from my diet, but we didn’t see any difference in her mood or spitting up so we assumed it wasn’t dairy and requested a prescription for Zantac. Nella quickly (and continuously) outgrew her Zantac dosage so at 4 months we moved up to Prevacid and never looked back. She was certainly more comfortable when she was spitting up, but she was still a little fountain. We were told, though, that the purpose of the medicine was to prevent damage to the esophagus and make Nella more comfortable.
At 5.5 months we had some pretty “bad” spit ups and I tried eliminating dairy again. We saw a HUGE difference in Nella’s mood and sleeping patterns, so we decided that we would continue to avoid all dairy products and anything that contains dairy until Nella was a bit older.
At 9 months our pediatrician (who I adore, by the way) said I really need to get Nella on three solid meals a day. I was reluctant to put more food into her system, because, honestly, it felt like the more food she ate the more food she threw up. Since most babies who just have reflux tend to do better with solid foods, we were referred to a GI specialist. Our specialist confirmed it was atypical for a baby to throw up whole pieces of food continuously…who knew?! Nella was diagnosed with delayed gastric emptying and within a month on new meds and a milk protein free probiotic she. wasn’t. throwing. up.
It was amazing. The angels were singing and we were leaving the house without 4 extra bibs and 10 burp cloths. I started doing a lot more playing and a lot less laundry. Amen.
At a year, our GI specialists recommended that I add a very little bit of dairy into my diet to see if Nella could tolerate the milk proteins that come through breast milk. Research shows that a majority of children who are milk protein intolerant will outgrow the intolerance by a year. I cautiously ate a peice of cheese, some pastries, and even took a few sips of a cappuccino. Sadly, Nella’s spitting up and gas and discomfort returned and our doctors recommended a visit to a peds allergist.
About a week ago we visited the peds allergist…with no idea what to expect. Our allergist really believed that Nella was simply “intolerant” to the milk proteins rather than “allergic.” A true allergy will cause an immune-system response and often the babies have experiences hives, wheezing, respiratory distress, etc. She administered a skin prick test and we all hoped for a negative result…much to her surprise and our dismay the skin test was positive. Our doctor wasn’t convinced and said that the skin prick tests have a high false positive rate, so we were sent to the lab for a blood draw….and again we received a positive result. The blood work came back with a level of .48 and anything over .1 is considered an “allergy.” However, the allergy levels in the blood tests can go up to 100…so it’s still pretty low.
We were all left scratching our heads…is she allergic? Will I ever have to administer this epipen? What will happen if she picks up her friend’s sippy cup and starts to drink it? What will happen if the nursery accidentally gives her a snack with milk?
At our doctors’ (yup…all three…I called them all) recommendation we’re going to go in next week to administer an oral food challenge. This means that we will give Nella 6-8 oz. of whole cow’s milk or yogurt…eek. They will start with a drop and slowly work their way up to a more significant dose. Her vitals will be closely monitored in the allergist office for 2 – 3 hours after the test begins. Sounds fun right? Don’t get toooo jealous.
It’s certainly unnerving giving Nella the exact item that I’ve been avoiding with such vigilance for over 7 months (who knew that Tostitos Hint of Lime chips contain dairy?!). I’m pretty convinced her stomach isn’t going to handle the milk proteins well, but we’re praying that we can rule out a life threatening allergy. That’s the whole point of the exercise since her test results and history don’t really match up…and I’d rather test this out with trained medical professionals and next door to the children’s hospital.
Please be praying that the oral challenge goes well and that Nella will actually ingest the cow’s milk or yogurt and tolerate the milk proteins. Please pray that she will not have a severe allergic reaction. Please pray that I will remain calm for my daughter.
If you made it through this novella…congrats. Here’s some cute pictures of Nella as a reward.