The Elephant in The Room – Baby EczemaThursday, 27 March 2014
There’s a part of Alfie’s history that used to carry a degree of guilt for me; something I had almost forgotten I had felt right until I came across this article.
As I was reading it some Scooby Doo style weirdness happened and I wasn't looking at the face of another boy, I was looking at Alfie and reading someone else tell our story.
My sweet boy spent a chunk of his first year wearing socks on his hands and sleeping with us holding his arms to stop him from rubbing himself raw.
He was covered from head to foot in raw, weeping, crusty eczema that would come off on you when you hugged him.
He had a particular smell that seems to have ingrained into everything he touched and destroyed the vast majority of his clothes.
His eczema bothered him day and night. And by bothered, I mean that he would bawl in frustration that the itching just wouldn't stop.
As a parent it was a horrible thing to watch and I struggled with guilt because I always felt like I could have helped to prevent it.
While I was on maternity leave, I expressed milk for him: It wasn't loads, but apparently it was just enough. As the amount I expressed dropped, the eczema increased and I watched a small red patch on Alfie's temple slowly spread across his body until it completely overwhelmed him in a red, itchy hell.
In truth it wasn't just Alfie who was in hell, we were right there with him.
We tried different creams, different formulas, bath preparations and washing with soap nuts.
We did what you so often have to do with babies and became research students in the subject of “what the hell is going to make this better?”
We found a fairly local paediatric dermatologist who had a glowing reputation and kept asking until we got a referral.
We grew tired of people telling us that he would grow out of it because it completely negated the living hell we were going through.
We stumbled around in the dark, discarding the things that made no difference and keeping the things that helped.
Things that worked for us were mostly things we were told not to try or things that couldn't possibly make a difference:
- We fed Alfie formula based on goat milk rather than the hydrolysed or moo juice versions.
- We cut out eggs and shop bought bread because they made him worse.
- We used a combination of hydrocortisone and an emollient made of beeswax and chamomile.
They seem like three easy bullet points but they took us months trial and error.
Once we had these things in place Alfie improved, and I’m sure the same people who told us he would "grow out of it" felt vindicated.
We were just grateful to have found the magic combination that gave our son back his life.
So why am I writing this three years late?
I write this blog as a way to support both myself and other mamas, and this is something I can support the hell out of. As annoying as it when you are arse deep in a living hell, sometimes it might just stop you drowning to know that other people have been exactly where you are and survived.
Dealing with baby eczema is about trying different things to see what works and this post may contain an idea you haven't tried before. If it works, let me know, I'd love to hear your success story.
The second reason is because with the power of hindsight, it occurs to me that this is the single biggest reason I fought so hard to give the girls breast milk and I have never credited it.
As a result of what happened to Alfie I educated myself about ways to protect my future children and came across research about probiotics in pregnancy which gave mothers milk containing LGG, La-5 and Bb-12 probiotics from when they were 36 pregnant until the babies were 3 months old.
Figuring prevention was better than cure, I religiously took a probiotic that contained LGG and Bb-12 strains with both the girls. Thanks to my PPCM I didn't always make much milk but even if it was a mere drop, made damn sure they had some of my milk at every feed for the first three months.
I don’t know if it made a difference - genetics are never that simple - but neither of them has suffered from eczema.
In parenting terms, that's all the victory I need.