We’ve been living in a fog for the last year and a half, a guilty secret which we shared only with close family members. Our youngest son would just not sleep- or more precisely he would fall asleep but then wake up frequently throughout the night. This month we finally worked it out – he was allergic to cow’s milk.
Over the last few weeks we have cut absolutely all dairy and red meat from his diet and it seems to us as though there has been a miraculous change. His sleep pattern ( and ours!) changed overnight, he now sleeps through the night, every night.
We tried absolutely everything; restricting his daytime nap to only one hour ( although even this he refused to participate in if he was not either held upright or in the sling), a soothing bedtime wind-down; bath, story, milk and a cosy cot, practising the ‘pause’ before picking him up, offering no feeds from 6 months on ( he was on the 95 percentile and maintaining this)- the list was endless. Nothing worked, he would wake at least four times a night before an exhausted CC would take him downstairs to sleep on the couch. Adult time in the evenings involved multiple trips upstairs and constantly listening out for the inevitable cry from upstairs.
Our eldest son had a severe dairy allergy, which was diagnosed at around 4 months. His symptoms were impossible to ignore, constant vomiting after every feed, multiple changes of clothes ( sometimes as many as 12 outfits a day), a need to wear a large bib all of the time to try and save some of his clothing and finally ( and alarmingly) traces of blood in his vomit and nappy. He had colic which would last for hours on end – at nighttime nothing we did would soothe him ( rocking, singing, feeding, walking)- and he would cry for 4 to 5 hours every single night before collapsing, exhausted into sleep. He would then sleep through the night, only waking in the morning. Those first months we were constantly cleaning the carpets and floor, bedding and furniture- the washing machine never stopped. I went time and time again to the GP and Health Visitors who reassured me that everything was normal, milk allergy in breastfed babies was very rare. We finally, by chance, saw a locum at our GP’s surgery who diagnosed a dairy allergy and referred us to the hospital to see an allergy specialist. I modified my diet and his symptoms stopped within days.
Little A seemed to tolerate dairy in his milk after a few months, there were no severe symptoms and we reintroduced some dairy into our diets. As parents of another child with a dairy allergy we should have seen the signs, but sleep deprivation hinders clear thinking and it was not until a chance conversation with my dear friend Eliina that I began to realise that diet was again the factor in the lack of sleep. She described very similar sleep problems in one of her children which had been resolved by eliminating allergens from her diet. We began by cutting out the dairy – by far the most common allergy in babies and young children in the UK, affecting up to 7.5% of children under 12 months. We regained our sleep ( and our sanity) literally within the week.
Throughout all of this , little A has continued to be his very pleasant, smiley self and has been surprisingly unhindered by his troubled nights. We are, however, slowly emerging from our sleepless state into the sunshine and clarity of a morning after a good night’s sleep.
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