Katie @the_freefrom_mummies x LiberEat Guest Blog
Katie, who runs the @the_freefrom_mummies Instagram blog shares the story of her family’s allergy journey and gives an insight in to how they live with allergies
Tell us more about yourself, Katie!
My name is Katie, I am mummy to three little ones: Teddy (5), Brodie (3) and Aurora (1). I am married to the lovely Laurence and I am a primary school teacher. In 2015, Laurence and I were completely overjoyed to become parents to our gorgeous little boy, Teddy. Like so many allergy parents, we knew that there was something wrong, something different about Teddy and this was apparent from when he was only a few days old.
How did you find out about Teddy's food allergies?
It started with a rash that permanently covered his body, ‘baby acne’, his puffy face, his explosive nappies, his sickness and reflux, his difficulty to settle and his restless sleep. When I write it all down like this, knowing what I know now it seems obvious, but as a first time mum you put all your faith and trust in the professionals and although we didn’t know it at the time, this was our introduction to the allergy world.
When Teddy was 5 months old, every parent’s worst nightmare became our reality and Teddy went into anaphylaxis with his first direct exposure to cow’s milk. This was his first confirmed allergic reaction and the beginning of getting his diagnosis for his multiple allergies through skin prick testing, blood tests, ISAC tests and food challenges. Teddy is allergic to dairy, egg, sesame, shellfish, tree nuts, kidney beans, chickpeas, peas, celery, apples as well as dogs, dust mites, pollen and grass.
Do Teddy's siblings also have dietary requirements?
In 2017 we had our lovely little boy, Brodie. From an early age he began to display similar symptoms as Teddy had and so it didn’t take long for us, with the support of the hospital, to begin to eliminate foods from my diet in order to continue to breastfeed Brodie safely. Armed with our new knowledge of allergies and with experience on our side, we were able to identify food that Brodie was allergic to and were able to have these confirmed through allergy testing. As important as previous experience, we now had contacts in the NHS and an understanding of the process, and to an extent were able to skip the months of being dismissed and repeating the same stories with GPs that we had with Teddy. Brodie currently avoids eggs, peanuts, all tree nuts, peas, lentils, kidney beans, banana and coconut. He is currently on the first step of the milk ladder, though we are taking this nice and slowly.
It was also in this year that Teddy had his first asthma attack at the age of two. After multiple attacks and admissions to hospital, he is now diagnosed severely asthmatic, which seem to often come hand-in-hand with allergies.
In 2020 and in the middle of a global pandemic, we welcomed our third baby to our family, Aurora
Aurora lost 12% of her birth weight and after a number of weeks, it was suggested that food allergies could be the cause of her difficulty to gain weight. Sure enough, as I slowly eliminated foods from my own diet with the support of healthcare professionals, Aurora began to gain weight and although it is very early days for us with Aurora and her allergies, we are slowly starting to make sense of the foods that cause her a reaction. They say that the likelihood of having a second child with allergies is not massively greater, but if you have two already, that the third will have allergies is almost a given.
How did you come to share your story on social media?
After such a dramatic introduction to the allergy world, we truly felt like we had been plunged into the deep end of living with allergies and finding safe foods for our children to eat in those early days was a scary and fragile process.
Through my experience with Teddy’s allergies at such an early age, I decided to share our journey on Facebook and Instagram through @the_freefrom_mummies in the hopes of finding other parents who had similar experiences to us. Through social media, I found comfort in speaking with hundreds of other parents who have children with allergies, just like ours. The comfort that I found in speaking with parents who fully understood what we had been through, was and is still, immeasurable.
I still continue to share my journey on Instagram and Facebook and I am truly inspired with the families that I speak with daily. Speaking about how we all manage life with allergies and seeing how others deal with daily life inspires me to share our day to day, recipes, easy wins, as well as the ups and downs that come with living with multiple allergies, asthma and eczema. I hope that in doing so, that it has a positive impact on just one family.
Tell us about your current projects.
Recently, myself and my good friend Jade, a fellow allergy mama, have started up a podcast all about living with allergies. We have recently had a number of guests record with us to share their expertise in allergy and also to give multiple perspectives and different information beyond our own experiences. Our main aim of setting up our podcast is to let others know that they aren’t alone in their allergy journey. We know from first-hand experience and from speaking with other parents daily that the allergy world can be a lonely and isolating one, especially in those early days.
Jade and I have also set up a local support group for parents of children with food allergies, Stockport Allergy Mamas, where we have local meet ups and mums nights.
Who inspires you in the free from community?
There are many, many people I could name as people who I look up to in the allergy community, though Emma Amoscato always comes to mind first when I think of my favourite account and inspiration. I met Emma through Instagram when I started following her account back in 2016. Since then we have spoken often, she has been someone who I have turned to when I have been worried about reactions or asthma and she has been someone who has coached me through dealing with the mental impact that living with these atopic conditions has had on my health. The content that Emma shares is truly inspirational and she will always be someone that I look up to.
What tips would you give to someone who is new to navigating dietary requirements?
My tips for anybody just starting out their allergy journey would be to take it as slowly as you feel comfortable with. Often when dealing with allergies, especially with young children, it can mean that you have already experienced some reactions or had a bit of a difficult start. Once you have seen the impact that food can have on your allergic little ones, it can be difficult to build that trust back up with food. I would say to take it easy and only introduce new foods at a time when you feel most comfortable and safe. Always make sure that you are armed with your prescribed medication to treat a reaction and don’t worry about taking your time in supermarkets and restaurants.
We are fortunate that there are a number of amazing free from products in the supermarkets. Even in the short time from when Teddy was born in 2015 to now, the supermarkets have so much more to offer. I personally love the Wicked Kitchen range from Tesco who have a growing range of products from ice creams and baked goods to sauces and ready meals. Thinking of our favourite brands, we all love Creative Nature Gnawbles! They are delicious and never disappoint.
What do you enjoy about being in the free from community?
Our family can’t have a lot of the snacks that they see their friends enjoying but through our family’s diagnosis, we have developed a new love for cooking and particularly baking. I love to find recipes or follow trending foods and adapt them to meet the needs of our family. Brodie in particular, at only the age of three, has found a real love and joy for baking and takes pride in baking independently and creating new and safe foods for us all to enjoy. He enjoys recording and sharing his bakes too!
Although allergies, asthma and eczema have brought a great deal of worry to our lives, they have also given me a new purpose. They have shaped the person that I am today and I like to think that I am better for it. I will forever be an advocate for my children and the allergy community. I have met some amazing people and some friendships that I know will last a lifetime. Allergies don’t define our family, but we have adapted our life and already overcome so much. I now know that nothing can hold us back from accomplishing anything we want in life.
@the_freefrom_mummies on Instagram and Facebook
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