By Trillitye Paullin, Ph.D., Molecular Biologist, Mother, and Founder of Free to Feed, on a mission to help parents confidently navigate infant food allergies.
Like many mothers, I expected breastfeeding to be an intimate bonding experience with my first daughter. Life with our first baby was hard. She cried all of the time. All through the night, all through the day. We were told it was colic and normal.
In 2015, when my little June was just 4 weeks old, my husband and I awoke to any parent’s nightmare. Our newborn lay in her crib, covered in eczema — with a diaper full of blood.
June was admitted to the hospital and put on a “starvation diet.” I watched my baby cry, unable to feed her because I was told my breast milk was killing my baby. Doctors determined June had severe infant food allergies, and recommended a hypoallergenic formula since food allergens passed through to my breastmilk from my diet.
Experts typically perform allergy testing for infants 6 months or older, so that wasn’t an option for another 5 months. Since I desperately wanted to breastfeed, doctors told me to remove several allergens from my diet. I removed a bulk of my typical diet to continue breastfeeding.
I felt lucky that — after two weeks of pumping like a madwoman and supplementing with formula — June returned to breastfeeding. (Paced bottle feeding for the win!) I remained on a very restricted diet until June’s first birthday, which is incredibly unhealthy and not something I recommend.
When my second daughter, sweet little Rose, joined the family in 2018, we quickly learned she also had baby food allergies. As one does in heartbreaking scenarios like this, I had a big long cry — and knew what I had to do all over again.
With 3 years between my children, I hoped more resources and information would be available.
I was beyond disappointed to find little to none…still.
Exhausted, on another elimination diet, breastfeeding & pumping, working full time, and serving in the National Guard — I was over it. I couldn’t fathom the lack of resources and credible guidance for mothers breastfeeding babies with food allergies. As the go-getter I am, I did something about it.
I launched Free to Feed when my second daughter was 4 weeks old! I decided to use my biology degree and make it my life’s mission to support families like yours.
Through my experience I have learned so much. Most importantly, that it does not take two weeks for allergens to leave mother’s breastmilk and that mothers can continue their breastfeeding journey through food allergies. I am determined to spread the word, expand the research & develop products that will empower parents with food sensitive infants. Today we offer educational consultations which help parents pinpoint triggers and make breastfeeding sustainable for parents. My goal is to launch an at-home breastmilk allergen test strip (coming soon – join the waitlist!).
Free to Feed was founded to provide support, education, and resources during your infant’s food allergy journey.
Every story is unique, but one thing I know for sure is that so many parents struggle with disheartening infant symptoms like eczema, GI issues, acid reflux, sleep challenges, and inconsolability. And so often, when parents bring up these symptoms to medical professionals they are brushed off as typical infant behaviors or ‘colic’, and they default to treating the symptoms rather than investigating further to find the root cause of a baby’s discomfort.
Suspected food allergies are extremely common in early childhood, with 25% of parents reporting adverse food reactions. However, testing mechanisms for children under 1 year are inefficient and often inconclusive. This means that a mere 5 – 10% of infant food allergies are confirmed.1 If an infant is exhibiting one or more of the symptoms listed above, this can often be caused by the baby reacting to a food protein in the breastmilk or formula baby is consuming.
The good news is that with a bit of investigation, paired with the support, empathy, and guidance of a Food Allergy expert, you’re on your way to resolving the root cause of your baby’s discomfort, all the while reaching your feeding goals, whatever that looks like for you.
The unfortunate news is that food allergy education for medical professionals is severely lacking, and therefore parents often don’t receive the science-backed knowledge and data they need to make informed decisions when faced with these challenges.
If you are a parent of a baby or young child that has infant food allergies, and you aren’t satisfied with simply treating your baby’s symptoms, and prefer to resolve the root cause, Free to Feed is here for you. We offer 1:1 consultations with Allergy Experts, each with varied professional backgrounds and their own personal food allergy experiences.
Don’t navigate the challenges of infant food allergies alone.
Connect with me on Instagram and send me a DM @Free.to.Feed if your family is navigating the challenges of infant food allergies and you have questions, or if your intuition is telling you your baby’s symptoms are being caused by something more and you need another opinion.
Check out these additional FREE Resources Free to Feed offers for Food Allergy parents:
- Diaper Decipher Guide – Food Allergy parents can all relate to analyzing baby’s diapers and asking yourself ‘is this normal stool’? We created this helpful guide (with pictures) to help you decipher baby’s diapers! Learn what is considered normal consistency and color for infant stool, and what type of stool should sound the alarm bells.
- Allergen Substitutes List & Food Allergy Essentials Amazon Shopping List – When navigating an elimination diet, figuring out safe foods that are allergen free is the biggest challenge! We’ve created an allergen substitutes list with our favorite allergen friendly food. Note: please don’t dive into an elimination diet on your own without consulting with your healthcare professional or having a Free to Feed 1:1 consultation.
- How Long Do Allergens REALLY Stay in Your Breastmilk? – This is the #1 question I receive from parents who suspect their little one is experiencing food reactivity and they desperately want to continue breastfeeding. If that’s you, start here by diving into the science of how long allergens truly stay in your breastmilk.
- Infant Food Allergy Survey – Are you a parent or caregiver of a food allergy child? Help us make a significant impact for future food allergy parents by sharing your experience. Unfortunately, data on this topic is severely lacking, so we need you to share your experience!
Free to Feed is here to support you. Visit us at www.FreetoFeed.com to learn more.
1 Wood RA. The natural history of food allergy. Pediatrics. 2003 Jun 1;111(Supplement 3):1631-7.