Toddlers are fun. After all that time as a squishy little newborn, they finally start showing some sass! Some personality! Some BRAIN POWER.
They are becoming little humans, and that includes starting to eat the same foods that you do. How fun is that?
Since Leo was a few weeks old, Alex and I joked about how he would just want to eat an entire pizza someday. Probably at the age of three. And by his teenage years he’d be wolfing down pizzas, pasta, and cereal like a maniac.
I couldn’t wait until his first birthday, when I could give him a BIG bite of ice cream. I wanted to get a big cone from Dairy Queen and let him just dive in.
But a few weeks before he turned one, I gave him scrambled eggs for dinner. And it did not go well.
He started crying and rubbing his lips almost immediately. Within a minute, his lips were swollen, his cheeks were red and puffy, and he was REALLY upset. Alex and I had one of those parenting moments where we didn’t quite know what to do. I had heard about allergic reactions of course, and I knew that they could be life threatening. But we weren’t sure what constituted an emergency. We didn’t want to overreact, but we also didn’t want to under-react! What should we do?
Alex called the emergency room at Children’s Hospital to see if they could offer some guidance for us. As soon as he mentioned that Leo’s lips were swollen, the person on the other end of the line said, “hang up now, and dial 911.”
So he did.
The ambulance arrived within minutes, and by that time, Leo’s symptoms had already started to plateau. He had stopped crying, and when we walked outside to step into the ambulance, he was all smiles. After they checked his breathing, heart rate, and temperature, they informed us that we needed to go to the emergency room. But they were ok with us driving ourselves and avoiding the thousand dollar ambulance ride. Whew!
After a few hours in the emergency room and some follow up appointments with our pediatrician, we now know that Leo is allergic to eggs, cow’s milk, wheat, soy, and peanuts.
That rules out a LOT of foods.
How do you feed a toddler that can’t eat any of those things?
Specifically, my first two questions were 1) what kind of milk do we transition him to if he can’t have cow’s milk and 2) how do we make sure he gets the right balance of nutrients from his diet?
Our pediatrician recommended coconut milk or almond milk. So far, we have tried both and he is NOT into either option. We are still on formula for now (he’s been on Nutramigen since he was 6 months old because he had severe eczema that we suspected was food-related…and HEY LOOK, WE WERE RIGHT!).
We’ll continue to offer him alternative milk options, but we are also incorporating plant-based fats into his diet of solid foods. Like veggies cooked in olive oil or baked goods with coconut oil instead of butter.
But when it comes to solids, we have one other hurdle to clear: Leo’s gag reflex. If we give him a new food that he doesn’t like the taste or texture of, he starts gagging and vomits within seconds. It started off kind of funny, like, “OMG! Our baby pukes just because he suddenly decided he doesn’t like avocado! And I got it on video! This is hilarious!”
But then it became a major pain in the ass when we had to clean up vomit just because on the fifth bite of quinoa he decided NO THANK YOU I DON’T LIKE HOW THIS FEELS SO I’M JUST GOING TO PUKE IT UP! Along with everything else we had already fed him for dinner. Awesome.
So we’re taking it day by day. I’ve started experimenting with gluten free and vegan baking, and I had a major win this week! I made this recipe for Pumpkin Muffins with Chia Seeds and substituted a flaxseed meal and water mixture for the eggs and Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour for all 2 1/4 cups of wheat flour. I had to bake them for an extra 10 minutes, but they turned out pretty well.
Leo LOVES them, and he would eat a whole muffin in one sitting if we let him. He clearly shares his mama’s affinity for pumpkin-flavored baked goods. (But ONLY baked goods. No pumpkin lattes, pumpkin scented candles, or Pumpkin Spice Oreos…that just sounds disgusting).
But back to the toddler foods. We’re also trying new veggie and fruit options every day (before we feed him anything else, just to lower our risk of a major vom-attack) and he is making progress! Steamed carrots, roasted potatoes, and black beans and corn have all cleared the vomit-hurdle.
We also rely HEAVILY on those handy little fruit and veggie squeeze packs. Although we would really like to transition away from those because HELLO they are getting expensive! Meal planning is becoming increasingly important for us.
I started a Pinterest board of Vegan and Gluten-Free options, so feel free to follow it if you are on the same food journey right now. I’ll be pinning recipes that are toddler and/or adult friendly. And of course I’ll be sharing what works for us as we continue on this food-allergy journey. Most kids outgrow these type of food allergies, so hopefully that will be the case for Leo.