Free Food!

9.15.08 baby's 18th Week


Allergen-free that is. Yup, in the past months I've gone from being rather circumspect about Leo's fussing to calling the pediatrician and demanding answers. When I called in the late evening and got the doctor on-call, she said with assurance (as though she was diagnosing the sounds of Leo's shrieks in the background) "This is colic, an immature intestinal system. And the baby is over-tired. If you can't feed him try chamomile tea with brown sugar in a bottle, then put him to bed."

I managed to get him to nurse that night by holding him to my chest while doing deep knee bends (for some reason, holding him while doing squats is the one fail-proof way to soothe him). By the time he was in his crib I was fried. I drank an enormous mug of chamomile tea with brown sugar in it for dinner and went to bed convinced that something was very wrong. It kept up for weeks. Five minutes into every feeding Leo would go from happily gulping to writhing and screaming. So predictable, so definite, I just felt sure there had to be An Answer. I was lactating while doing squats and crying every two hours all day. When I called my pediatrician again, she suggested I give up dairy so I did.

After a couple weeks, when that didn't seem to make a difference, I gave up eggs, soy, nuts and chocolate (not all at once) too. As a food writer and food lover, I was really hoping, for both personal (er, gluttonous) and professional reasons, not to have to go down the food elimination path.

As I write down the list of foods I eliminated, I hear an imaginary voice saying "Oh? You didn't try going off wheat?" No. And I'm not going to. Because after doing endless, excruciating knee bends, something has changed. Tonight I nursed Leo while sitting cozily in a chair, then lay him in his crib, where he's still sleeping peacefully. This was also the second night that he went to sleep in footsy pajamas instead of a straightjacket-like swaddle. And today he went for the longest time ever in his stroller without fussing. He seemed to really enjoy looking about while gripping the tail of his lion as we rolled through the streets.

Maybe it was just intestinal immaturity, because I've been back on dairy—and everything else—for a week, and it's clear to me that none of the foods I eliminated made a difference. Time has though. Time, which is turning a grouchy newborn into a big, bouncing baby. Time, which is turning our tentative new ways into something firmer and deeper, so that parenting our son is not just something we're doing for now, it's something we are. You know, we don't have answers, and we don't have the ability to give up everything for our boy, but we're his parents, and we're doing just fine by him. Plus, I have very, very strong legs.

I'm back to reveling in Haeagen-Dazs, milky tea, Snickers, omelets and pesto, but I thought I'd share some of my favorite "free" foods with you. This is the short list of foods I like so much I'll continue buying them—even though I'm back to joyous omnivorousness!

Vitasoy Lite original soymilk—this is lowfat and has a pure, refreshing flavor that I love in cereal or alone. (Silk soymilk is better in tea though.)

Hazelnut milk—I like this rich-tasting milk on cereal and love it in smoothies.

Sunflower butter—my sister-in-law turned me on to this great peanut butter substitute. I adore it in nut butter-banana sandwiches and it makes great sesame noodles too.

Purely Decadent—this dairy and soy free "ice cream" is coconut-based. It's better for you than ice cream and I love the chocolate enough to continue buying it for a more "every day" frozen treat.

Earth Balance spread—this is my favorite butter alternative for eating on bread. I'll keep it on hand for when my kosher and vegan relatives are over.

Corn Thins—I love these rice cake-like crispy discs as a snack. They're like popcorn, but you can spread stuff on them (I like avocado, or nut butter).

Summer Pasta Salad