Allergies, Intolerances and Baby Sleep

Allergies, In-tolerances and Baby Sleep – how they tie together.

Baby Addison was 3-6 weeks old, she plateauing in her weigh gains, by 6 weeks she was losing weight despite mum having a great milk supply, breastfeeding on demand and Addison having a tongue tie clipped nice and early. She didn’t slip off the breast but was fussy when feeding, often refusing to latch and cried….a lot. She also didn’t sleep a lot, despite her mum being a certified sleep consultant and having successfully settled hundreds of other people’s new-borns. She was no rookie in the baby settling game, but some days there was no amount of shushing, patting, rocking or baby wearing that was settling Addison.

Initial visits to her GP suggested due to the fat that her head was growing despite her losing weight, she fine. Formula was offed as a weight gain suggestion, but there was no reason why Addison’s mum wouldn’t have enough milk, and test weighs by plunket showed she could easily drink 80ml per side when she did latch successfully. Fortunately here at Baby Sleep Consultant we have seen this too many times in the recent years, and encouraged Kate (Addison’s mum) to see a specialist despite her GP refusing to offer a public referral. The wait to see the specialist saw Kate slowing reducing the amount of Dairy in her diet, this meant that Addison was exposed to less cow’s milk protein (CMP) and slowly began to latch more frequently, stay on for a full feed, stopped screaming, began to sleep and gain weight. It was 7 days and she was in Kate’s words a different child, no more 20-30 minute naps and decent 4-5 hour chunks of sleep at night.

Unfortunately starting solids triggered an angry rash on her chest, elbows, knees and tummy, still waiting to see the specialist mum cut 4 of the main culprits usually responsible for allergic responses, soy, nuts, eggs, and dairy.

The rash started to clear and her appointment with a starship pediatrician and allergy specialist rolled around. He suspected an allergy or intolerance, but all skin prick tests came back negative. The pediatrician felt she was having a gut intolerance, non IgE mediated and this is why the skin prick tests were negative. (referred to as FPIES type reaction)

The reduction of Addison’s exposure (he encouraged mum to continue to offer Addison match tip head size portions of peanut butter and yogurt to ensure she slowly built up an tolerance, and didn’t develop an anaphylactic response) to eggs, nuts and soy saw her angry rash disappear, at which point mum felt she was ready to sleep through the night. Addison needed a week of sleep training to learn to sleep through the night, but this is not uncommon with children who have allergies or reflux and have had a rough start in life. They have not had the same 3-4 months to develop healthy sleep habits without pain, this has an effect on their temperament and they are often determined, sensitive and not the best sleeper’s!

Knowing this helped mum to ditch the guilt around any crying Addison was doing, her rash was gone, her specialist had given her the all clear, plunket confirmed she was thriving and at 8 months old we knew she could sleep through the night with a bit of sleep training.

Allergies and Intolerances are on the increase and unfortunately they do cause your baby pain, they often are the reason your baby is failing to thrive and not sleep. We are seeing more and more case’s here at Baby Sleep Consultant where the reason someone’s baby is not sleeping is a reaction to either food or cow’s milk protein.

Children who have an allergy or intolerance to either a food or milk product will often pull of the breast like Addison did, this can lead to short frequent feeds; even overnight. This can then encourage reverse cycling where baby consumes more calories at night than in the day, and this can then cascade into solids refusal which is often made worse by the solids also causing a response in the baby such as eczema a painful gut or vomiting. The delay in solids can lead to low iron levels, which also correlates to poor night time sleep habits. You can see why people are turning to us as sleep consultants after all of these experiences they are left with a poor sleeper.

This situation was similar for baby Blake who came to us when he was just 8 weeks old and mum was heading back to work when he was 12 weeks old. His weight gain was low, he had all the signs of reflux and yet a high dose of losec was doing nothing for him. Mum was formula feeding as she had struggling with breastfeeding and felt more comfortable formula feeding Blake.

Initially some gentle hands on shushing and patting allowed mum to be able to settle Blake for short amounts of time, but he was still waking despite mums best efforts (and ours!) almost hourly some nights. Mum opted to also go private and see a specialist about Blake’s reflux and low weight gain and general unsettledness. We encouraged this after working together for over a week and seeing the nocturnal unsettledness and the short frequent bottles throughout the day and Blake beginning to refuse his bottles more and more.

Blake’s Pediatrician diagnosed him with a cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA) and prescribed him a special formula (neocate) for 12 months. Despite the formula tasting terrible, Blake was quickly back to full feeds during the day, and we helped her to wean down his night feeds to just 1 full feed by the time he was 3 months.

Sleep at the best of times can be difficult for babies, but if your baby is in pain, or itchy, or hungry due to food or breast refusal it is near on impossible! If you suspect your baby is reacting to their milk or food, it is best to seek out professional advice as new research is indicating the food elimination for long periods of time is sometimes not the best solution and can lead to your baby becoming more allergic over time. This can be a hard concept to swallow when eliminating the foods enabled your precious bundle to sleep better! But your specialist, GP or dietitian should be able to give you sound advice on what foods to introduce and when. If their sleep falls apart during the process we often work alongside these specialist to help you encourage your baby back into their previous healthy sleep habits.

Allergy parents often feel their child’s sleep is fundamentally broken after so many months of crying and lack of sleep, but be rest assured that once the source of the pain is dealt with you can teach your baby to sleep, and more sleep will help their newly thriving bodies to catch up with all that growing, their immune systems get back to normal, and their appetites regulate.

If your child has suffered from an allergy or intolerance, and you now need help with your little one’s sleep. Check out our free 15 minute sleep chats here.

Let us call you and see if we can help!