Whole Parenting Family

Elimination Diet: SweetPea Protests Something in My Breastmilk

I’m not a diet person. I have poor self-control when it comes to food, especially when my mom’s chocolate chip cookies or caramels are around. But I’ve never been so motivated in my life (not even during Lent, sorry, Jesus, as we Catholics give up sweets usually) than I am now.

It’s every mama’s nightmare. My baby’s beautiful skin has turned into a scaley, puss-laced, acne-ridden, and bright red mess. At first I thought SweetPea was simply having normal baby acne. But after a few days, I realized this had to be worse. Her skin looked abraised, and her acne opened into yellow crusty scabs. What on earth was going on here? This photo barely shows her poor little cheeks, but you can kinda see it. It started on her face and moved to her neck, chest, and back. She’s so sad looking!

Fortunately, our doctor is a family practice doc who practices in an integrative medical model. She took a look and suggested we initially tackle it as a food allergy as that is what it looked like to her. Her suggested elimination diet was something I was totally unfamiliar with, but now know all too well. She told me I could do it a little at a time, like just dairy and gluten, or tackle all seven food products at once. I definitely opted for the most extreme version of the diet, basically because I want to just get. it. DONE.

1) It’s been a week since I’ve had any of the Big Seven allergens:

1) Dairy

2) Gluten

3) Soy

4) Corn

5) Nuts

6) Certain fish family members

7) Eggs

Let’s just say I’m eating lots of rice products, fruits, and veggies. Yes, I did have grilled chicken breast & french fries the other night but usually it’s just lots of gluten-free granola and rice milk, and the healthy salad. The diet is less than appealing and I’m not magically discovering all these foods I can eat. Instead I’m counting the days until my 4 weeks is up. I do already see a difference in her face, considerably. Maybe this diet will work!

Doctor Sears suggests a Total Elimination Diet (affectionately known as TED) listed here. I don’t think I need to be that extreme about it. Hopefully it all clears up after my fasting period and then we can safely start from scratch. If it’s resilient, maybe I will have to be more careful.

It made the most sense to me (and my MD dad) to cut out everything at once, so that when she improves (as she is, thankfully), we can add back in one factor at at time and evaluate how that factor effects her, without worrying that it’s some other food group I hadn’t eliminated. Tabula rasa, if you will.

2) So what can I eat??

So for 4 weeks I eat a limited diet, and then I reintroduce them back in, one at a time, least likely to most likely. Kellymom and La Leche League have been very informative, as have my friends on Facebook (you know who you are . . . thank you!!). It sounds like the most common allergy is to dairy. I’m one to eat cheese, butter, ice cream, and yogurt every. single. day. Yup! Every day. And did I mention I have an acute aversion to coconut, which seems to be prevalent as a replacement/substitute?

I have found some dry goods to eat (beans! rice crackers! more beans!) and naturally, lots of fruit and veggies constantly. I’m eating chicken more often (can’t do tofu–soy), and salmon! Also just really being healthy with my veggie intake for probably the first time in my life. Maybe this will be a blessing as it will break my habit of cheese, ice cream, and chocolate–and too much of each.

A few recipe resources that have been great:

food allergies + a toddler: my girlfriend’s blog. Her son has multiple allergies & SuperBoy has allergies to peanut and egg.

smitten kitchen: my eldest sister advised me on her yellow dal (indian fare) recipe. Num!

the glutenfree vegan: my sister also steered me toward this one.

I’m looking for a good bean recipe website–help?

Any other allergic mamas out there, I appreciate your guidance!


  1. Brittney on May 24, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I did the Thanksgiving elimination diet– Turkey, Cranberry and Potatoes… plus lots of EVOO– yum right?! It turns out that Hadley was reactive to dairy and eggs but she outgrew it thank goodness!
    Trader Joes has had some delish haricots vert and brussel sprouts that are both great with EVOO if you haven’t been eating those it would be something to try… not creative but clean AND filling.

    • Natural Mama Nell on May 25, 2012 at 5:01 am

      EVOO–YES! I read about the Thanksgiving diet too. So glad your sweet girl grew out of hers. I hope once we identify what the problem is, SweetPea grows out of it too.

      Excellent recommendation on TJ’s. Thank you! I do love love love brussel sprouts roasted with Maldon salt & EVOO.

  2. Jenni on May 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    My friend had to eliminate all of these and still can’t eat any of them due her daughters very sensitive system. She ended up following the Paleo diet and has had much success with it. She was telling me that once she eliminated all of the top allergens, it then took her daughters body another six weeks to completely be gone out of her system. And her daughter had major weight gaining issues for the first year because it took her gut that long to recover and heal itself from all the allergic reactions. She has to be VERY vigilant now to make sure that when she’s around other kiddos that she doesn’t eat or pick up any foods. It can take one little oops and it will throw off her body and take weeks to recover!
    I wish you the best of luck!! Moms that breastfeed and stick with it, especially when an allergy issue arise, totally deserve some kind of mother of the year award for their dedication. It’s so easy for some people to just give up at that point and turn to formula.
    It sounds like you’ve got it under control and soon enough you’ll get some answers ๐Ÿ™‚ Hang in there! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Natural Mama Nell on May 25, 2012 at 5:00 am

      That’s so helpful to hear that your friend found a successful diet. I never thought I’d be one of those moms who had to deal with this. But why not me? I’m lucky to have access to good medical advice & good food (and good supportive friends!).

      It sounds like your friend has a much tougher time than we do, so no complaints here. I’m glad we can persevere with bf’ing, as the thought of formula just doesn’t fly for me.

      Will keep you posted! Hopefully it’s under control!!

  3. Christele on May 26, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Hello Nell, I love and enjoy your blog, and so I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. http://healthnhorizons.com/2012/05/26/the-versatile-blogger-award/

    You can read about what you need to do here: http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/vba-rules/

    Please note, the award is completely optional and you do not have to accept.

    • Natural Mama Nell on May 29, 2012 at 11:23 pm

      This was so thoughtful of you, Christele! I will post about it tomorrow. Thank you so much for thinking of me ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Jennifer on May 29, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Oh, I remember doing this with my son after he was weaned, when his eczema got much worse. He ended up being allergic to gluten, dairy, soy, and some tree nuts. Some great gluten free grains you should try, if you haven’t already, are: quinoa and millet. Both really high in protein and nutrients. My son drinks hemp milk now, an acquired taste, but really high in omegas. Good luck! Just wait until you determine all the food triggers, it is the most incredible feeling. Just to see your child healthy again, it’s amazing!


    • Natural Mama Nell on May 29, 2012 at 11:22 pm

      I really cannot wait to see her face completely clear! She is so much better in only two weeks. I simply pray that she clears up completely so we can get to the bottom of it. It’s amazing how frequently doctors recommend treatments for the symptoms and not the cause–I’m lucky that my doctor suggested this, or else I feel I would never know what her triggers are.

      We do quinoa but I didn’t realize millet was gluten free as well. Wonderful! More to add to the repertoire. Thank you, Jennifer, as always, for your guidance on these matters!

  5. […] out of the freezer for breakfast today. Rather, he’s eating them, as I’m still on my elimination diet to figure out what’s causing SweetPea to react. She’s doing really well and the skin is […]

  6. […] getting to the bottom of her food sensitivities. I wrote about my elimination diet a few weeks back here {Elimination Diet: SweetPea Protests Something in My Breastmilk}, and have written on our […]