When Theo was born, he spit up quite a bit and was very gassy. He didn't spit up enough to be diagnosed with reflux, but enough that I was concerned that something in my diet was bothering him. When it comes to food sensitivities in your breastfed baby, it can be a frustrating process to diagnose what's making your little one uncomfortable. If you Google it, you'll find everything from dairy to cruciferous vegetables to citrus fruits on the list of problematic foods.
Because dairy is one of the most common irritants to a baby's sensitive system, I decided to give up dairy first and see if it made a difference. After a week of no dairy, we saw a remarkable decrease in the number of times Theo spit up, so I've kept it up for over three months now. Cheese and yogurt used to be two of my main sources of protein, so I had to make a lot of adjustments in my diet to accommodate the change to dairy-free. Over the course of the past few months, I honed in on the other foods that bothered Theo's tummy, including peanuts, chocolate, peppers and acidic and cruciferous vegetables. Sometimes it feels like there's not a lot left to eat!
If your little one is spitting up a lot or very gassy, changing your diet might be the answer to the problem. But on the other hand, it might just be his young digestive system. The only way to figure it out is to try a version of an elimination diet and see if it helps.
There are many different ways to conduct an elimination diet, from cutting out all potential allergens and then adding foods back in one at a time (hard to do!) to eliminating one food at a time and then seeing if that makes a difference. I opted for a modified version of option #2, because it allows for a little more flexibility.
I started by keeping a diary for a week or so of Theo's symptoms, so I would know if the change in diet was making a difference or not. All babies spit up and are gassy, so questions are: Does the spitting up and gas cause pain or discomfort to your little one? And does giving up a particular food or foods make it better?
First, I eliminated dairy from my diet, because that is one of the most common irritants. It's important to know that a breastfed baby is not reacting to the lactose in dairy, so it's not a lactose intolerance. They are reacting to the proteins in the dairy, like casein and whey. So in addition to cutting out milk, yogurt and cheese, you also have to avoid any processed food containing casein or whey or milk proteins, so be sure and read labels. Although butter doesn't have a lot of protein, I cut it out as well, just to be safe. It can take up to a month for the milk proteins to completely exit your system, so try it for a month before you decide whether or not it's working. While eliminating dairy improved Theo's symptoms, he still seemed to be having frequent tummy aches.
For the next eliminations, I eliminated each food for one week and kept a diary of Theo's symptoms, to see if they improved.
Next up, wheat, which is another common irritant. After one week, it didn't seem to make any difference in Theo's symptoms. Elie was thankful, because when I can't eat bread and pasta, I get grouchy.
Next up, peanuts. I ate a LOT of peanut butter when I was pregnant with Theo, because meat and fish didn't appeal to me at all. I relied on dairy and nuts for most of my protein. He must have gotten sick of the peanut butter, because eliminating peanuts immediately reduced the number of tummy aches he was having.
I rarely eat soy, but if you drink soy milk or eat tofu, eliminate this for one week as well.
After eliminating dairy and peanuts, Theo rarely spit up anymore and the gassiness had gotten much, much better. But he would still get the occasional tummy ache, and I was determined to figure out what was causing them. From the time Theo was born, I had noticed that cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower) caused him pain, and so I had already eliminated those from my diet. When he got tummy aches, I continued to make notes about what I had eaten in the meals prior. I was able to narrow down the irritants to chocolate, red peppers and tomatoes.
Now that I know what bothers his system and I know what foods to avoid, he almost never gets a tummy ache anymore. He still spits up on occasion and he has a normal amount of gas, but nothing that bothers him.
Since he's almost 6 months old, I'm ready to start adding foods back in again, to see if his digestive system has matured enough to handle them. First up: cheese and butter. We're leaving for France in less than a month, and I can't be in France and not each cheese and pastries. Or, at least I hope not. I'll let you know how it goes.
If you're trying to figure out what's bothering your little one's tummy, I'm happy to try and help! And if you're giving up dairy, here's a recipe for homemade date-sweetened almond milk. I love my latte in the morning, and this almond milk is truly delicious. Don't judge almond milk over the commercial brands you can buy in the store. Just like most things, homemade almond milk is a whole different animal. It's also great over granola or oatmeal. I hope you enjoy!