Baby is not nursing nicely. Maybe there’s a rash. You’ve heard it might be something you ate. This might be so. But there’s no reason to spend the rest of your nursing relationship in chocolate-deprived misery, wondering if it really did make a difference. There are a couple of more scientific things you can do.
The food and wellness diary is my second choice of diagnostic tool. My first, is the two-day low-allergen elimination diet described in “Infant Food Sensitivity: step-by-step self-diagnosis“. The diary is more work, takes more time to get a result, and requires more knowledge (or help) to interpret than the two-day exclusion diet. However, on the plus side, it’s completely safe, easier on your eating requirements, can be used in conjunction with whatever else you are doing, and can help you come to a more detailed understanding of the situation.
What to record
A breastfed infant’s basic food sensitivity diary only needs to record four things:
1. time and date
2. Mother’s intake
3. Baby’s intake
4. Baby’s condition
Keeping it simple, you can rule up four columns in an exercise book. I like to rule a horizontal line at the bottom of each day to make scanning back through the diary easier. While you can use “day 1, day 2…” I find actual dates simpler to use in the long run. Time doesn’t have to be exact, morning/afternoon/night is ok.
Mother’s intake includes everything you put in your mouth: food, drinks, supplements, et cetera. If you want to understand what food additives are in your diet, you can paste the ingredients section of your food labels in there (or just write them out). You only need to paste it once, and refer to that product by name after that. It can be good to give an indication of amount (trace/some/lot) as this may be helpful later.
Baby’s intake also includes anything which goes in their mouth, including nursing, solids, drinks, et cetera. If you are giving baby expressed breastmilk, record the date on which the milk was expressed.
Baby’s condition includes observing everything which might be food-related including symptoms like these.
The souped-up version
When I’m feeling a little overwhelmed or sleep-deprived, I find myself wanting to use a super-detailed spreadsheet to format my food diary. (Here’s a sample I prepared earlier.) It’s more work to set up, but it’s a dream to use — it reminds me what to observe, and most observations are of the yes/no or high/medium/low variety. Your spreadsheet might include:
2. Mother’s Intake
(a) Safe Foods (list all foods you consumed in this period which you believe to be safe, based on experience)
(b) Unknown Foods
(d) Supplements, medication, other
3. Baby’s Intake
(a) Nursing (how much)
(b) Expressed breastmilk (amount and date expressed)
4. Baby’s Condition
(a) Contented, alert, happy?
(d) Other notes
To be most effective, use your food and wellness diary in conjunction with some elimination experimentation. Using the diary without intervention will remind you which unusual things that you ate might be related to baby’s condition. But if you want to learn which of your regular foods may be having an effect, you’ll need to have a period of time without them.
Hopefully, it won’t be long before you have answers and a happily nursing baby. Good luck!