Noats from a Food Allergy Mom

Apr 20 2021

I remember the first day I brought my baby boy home. I was a new mom feeling all the emotions of bringing life into the world—then all the emotions that come with bringing that life home. I remember standing in the kitchen, sobbing, over the thought of having to feed this little cherub three times a day for 18 years. How on earth would I do it? I was overwhelmed. I was scared. (And probably more than a little bit hormonal.) 

As time went on, my confidence grew along with my little one. I stopped crying and even laughed looking back at those first few days home.

A punch to the gut

When my son was about a year old, that same overwhelming sense of dread about feeding him returned. This time, the tears came—not because of hormones—but because his doctor confirmed my fear: my child could die if he ate the wrong thing.

I sat in the allergist’s office, cradling the somewhat impatient patient, a still tiny infant with red welts up and down his back. The doctor told me the news. Food allergies. Severe ones. Several of them. Peanuts. Tree nuts. Eggs. Dairy. It was a huge blow.

Healthy comes to a screeching halt

Until this point, I had been a champion of food for my little one. My husband laughed as I blended organic apples for homemade applesauce. I searched for the best products to give my son. My little king would be served like one.

With the diagnosis, all of that went out the window.

I immediately shifted from “only the best for my baby” to “whatever he’s able to eat” (Oreos anyone?!).

What's a tree nut?

To be honest, I didn’t know what a tree nut was—it was never something I ever had to think about. And I found out how common it was for people to mistake eggs for a dairy product. I felt lost.  

Now, as a food allergy mom, I can teach you all about these things, as well as one of the (way too many) ways dairy can be labeled within ingredients. I read labels. So many labels. I call companies to see what’s manufactured on the same lines. I sit on hold. I slide into DMs of companies. I talk to other allergy families. And I cook. And cook. And cook. I’m always preparing so my kid has allergy-friendly food for wherever he goes. And in case you’re picturing a culinary whiz at work excitedly churning out delicious allergen-friendly meals and treats, I should probably mention: I hate to cook, and seemingly, cooking hates me too.

Carrying on

Along with the weight of the threat of an allergic reaction on our shoulders, we also carry around endless amounts of safe foods. And wipes. And epi-pens. And antihistamine. There’s never an event, playdate or picnic where we don’t have a cooler full of allergen-friendly food. As my fellow allergy parents know, we don’t travel lightly.

Lightening the load

It’s a lot to bear, knowing your child is burdened with things that could make them sick—or worse.

But there’s hope.

A constant scour of Facebook groups and various research leads us allergy parents to new discoveries. Things to make our lives easier. Things to lighten the very weighty load. Things to keep our babies safe.

Friends step forward to offer allergy-friendly alternatives at parties. Family members corral youngsters up to thoroughly wash their hands and faces after meals. And companies see the needs of families like mine and work to help the 1 in 13 children affected by food allergies.

It's about time

If you ask any allergy parent where they found an important tidbit of information regarding allergies, you’ll likely get the response, “I just read that somewhere.” Our research is endless. But it pays off. 

Recently, I was introduced to a new product designed for the whole family—including my food-allergy kiddo. Whenever I see something like that, you can actually hear me screeching to a halt. A friend told me about this fun new product called Oats in Coats, and of course, as an allergy mom, I started digging, checking the boxes in my mind:

  • Is this dairy, egg and nut-free? Check. And then some. Free of top 10 allergens and GMOs? Dang. 
  • Is it manufactured on dedicated lines? Check. It says it right on the label. I don’t even have to call anyone. That’s a double check in my book.
  • No latex gloves are used in the facility. Whoa. That wasn’t even a box I thought to check, but check! They must really take this seriously (which is another check).
  • It’s healthy and nutritious. But it tastes good?! Check, check and check.
  • It’s a breakfast food! Another box I love to check. Because, of course, my son, who can have next to nothing at a “normal” breakfast, loves breakfast so much and frankly, I’ve been out of ideas for a long time.
  • It’s something my kid will eat. Check. Another huge win here, amirite parents?
  • It’s fun. Check. Because we all need to have a little fun with our food.
  • It’s—and this was all I needed before buying stock in the product (not really, but you know what I mean)—portable and easy to prepare. So easy to throw in my bag and bring just in case. Checkmate.

It’s “just” oatmeal. Or is it?

I know what you’re thinking—“Jill, you need to get out more. It’s oatmeal.” And trust me, I get it. But it’s more than oatmeal. It’s more than breakfast. It’s a lifeline. For me. For my son. Heck, even for my husband who’s been craving the old, processed, dairy-laden packets of instant “oatmeal” he ate as a kid. 

Dramatic? Yes. Yes, I am. But that’s also the honest truth. Give me anything that makes my son’s life safer and easier (OK, OK, make my life easier, too), and I’m all for it. As an allergy mom. As “just” a mom. I’ll take it. 

Jillian B. is a mom of two children, one with severe food allergies.