Gluten Free Pregnancy: Excellent NYTimes Opinion Piece

I read so many studies about Celiac Disease, the right approach, what I could actually do to possibly affect my daughter’s genetic plight when I was planning her arrival.

It was daunting.

And in some ways depressing. It felt like this is the best thing we know right now. Period. And that thing they know — essentially breast feed and introduce wheat at 4 months – feels very wobbly. Like your eggs are in one basket of today’s thinking about this problem.

The author of this piece dives in deep and fills in the gaps that felt so important when I was on the road to becoming a celiac mother – its a must read.

The most important tidbits:

“American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that infants start consuming gluten while still breast-feeding.

“Not all breast milk is the same. It varies according to diet and other factors. One study found that milk from overweight mothers had fewer of those bifidobacteria than milk from thinner mothers. Another observed that breast milk from farming mothers, who inhabit a microbially enriched environment, carried more anti-inflammatory proteins compared with urban mothers’ milk.”

 

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The Blessing Way: The most unique and powerful shower gift

My friends did something really amazing for me during my pregnancy: they gave me a Blessing Way. If you want to support a future mother this is the way to do it.

A Blessing Way focuses on the mother. It is a gathering of women, but can include men close to her as well. Mine did.

Everyone that attends comes with offers of love and support. This can take whatever form you desire! For those of you that have trouble with the subtle, this is not the party that you invite anyone that the mom to be finds stressful or annoying or whatever other negative emotion you can think of. If you are going to do this for a close friend, view yourself as a curator, inviting only people that are interested in fully supporting the mom in her coming role.

The heart of a Blessing Way is just that – heart. The goal is to create a way to remind the mom that she is supported. When I read about a Blessing Way online many people have set up all these rules for them like don’t give the mom baby gifts. THROW OUT THE RULES leaving only one: focus on the mom. My friends did and it was a joyful day.

What did they do? Thanks for asking….

First they created a Blessing Way necklace. Each person that attended brought beads that were meaningful to them and they were all strung together to create a necklace.

The end result was magnificent! The remarkable thing about putting together one of these necklaces is how beautiful they look in the end. It feels like a bundle of joy and support when you wear it.Unique baby Shower

It has become one of my prized possessions. I took it into the delivery room with me and its now hanging in my baby’s room. I look at it often when the baby is really fussy and I need a source of strength when no one is around. The necklace makes me feel like my friends are watching over me and the baby at times. Its a true comfort to me.

protective mexican frog bead

The other joy of this necklace is the history behind each bead. The stories. It reminds me that for centuries women have been passing myths and objects down through their families to celebrate life.

My necklace has some of these ideals threaded through it. There are mexican frogs that are meant to protect newborns, coral that has been passed down from generation to generation upon the birth of a child, and well worn bodhi prayer beads. Many people brought different kinds of hearts for the necklace from swarovski crystals to rose quartz. An Iranian friend brought an evil eye bead to ward away darkness.

I could go on and on because there is such a richness here – and that is the point. This necklace weaves together everyone’s stories and traditions and offers them all together. Its powerful.

Second, everyone offered a written blessing for my daughter and me. These talked of love, safety, and the grace of my coming birth. It was so powerful to have them with me at the hospital. I could have threaded these together and hung them up while at the hospital, but I knew I would be moving around to different floor after the baby arrived so I kept them with me in an envelope.

Finally, someone made bracelets with a simple bead for everyone that was part of the event. By wearing these during my last months of pregnancy everyone was reminded of what was unfolding for me. This was really powerful, to have someone say “I still have my bracelet on and am thinking of you.” One person’s bracelet fell off the morning of the day the baby was born!

We say it takes a village to raise a child. I think it takes a village to raise a mother.

Skip the standard shower. Dive into deep compassion. Offer the future mom real support.

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A Welcomed Life

Gluten Free Pregnancy Baby Feet

Ava arrived with fanfare and grace. And now she is settling into the startling overwhelm of the world outside of mama’s tummy.

Thank you to everyone that has been so supportive. I have been graced by the warmth and love of others during this process of introducing a new being to the planet. She was welcomed by so many that were holding a tender space for her landing.

I didn’t expect my pregnancy to be like this – something that changed me so profoundly. What is different? Beyond what every other new mother experiences?

Its changed my relationship with my gluten allergy. Its made me feel much more powerful and in control of taking care of me both mentally and physically. Its open a door that I didn’t see before. 

In the coming months I am going to expand on the body of knowledge I have collected and turn it into a book so others can have access to the same information. Stay tuned.

There is so much I want to share that I have learned over the past few weeks. But most importantly I have had to lean into those around me for support and to RECEIVE that support.

Receiving has always been so hard for me. I tend to reject offers for help from the smallest to the largest. But what I am really doing is rejecting love people are trying to send my way.

As I feel into the grace of receiving the life that has arrived to join my family I am aiming to get better at receiving. I looked up receive in the dictionary this afternoon and found the definitions that were most meaningful:

  • to act as a receptacle or container for
  • to assimilate through the mind or senses
  • to permit to enter

New moms are often forced to receive. From gifts to home cooked meals to friendly moms that come by to teach you how to soothe your baby to everything in between. We are in a weakened state right after giving birth which opens us up. We need help so we accept it. But I pondered so many times over the last 20 plus days how I could perceive help differently after this time is over. How can I receive the love that people send my way – making a container for it and taking in it through my mind and senses and really permitting it to enter?

This is one of the gifts my daughter has already brought me – a heightened awareness of how to receive now and in the future.

xoxo Brandi

 

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Gluten Free Pregnancy: What should you ask your pediatrician?

wombed again

Your baby is almost here!  Or you already have a child and you are on the hunt for a pediatrician. Easy right?

If you are a celiac you need to do some homework (don’t worry I have done it for you!)and then use the latest facts as a sounding board to discuss your needs with a potential pediatrician.

The last thing you need as a celiac mother is a pediatrician who has false beliefs about celiac disease. You also don’t need one who is not up to date on the latest and greatest research about breast feeding and the preventative timing of the introduction of gluten.

Your goal? Select a doctor that can guide you through the maze of data and approaches to celiac disease identification, treatment and prevention. Yes, I did say prevention. There are some ways that researchers now believe celiac disease can be prevented. Read on!

When interviewing a new pediatrician, what should you be looking for? Here is how I broke it down. 

1. General Knowledge of Celiac Disease.

Do not assume a pediatrician knows much, if anything, about celiac disease. Many doctors hold outdated and further false beliefs that will effect your ability to care for your child using the latest information available.

Many physicians were taught in school that celiac disease is a childhood disease that disappears in adulthood. Is this who you want to care for your at risk child? Yes, your child is at risk. You need specific genes to develop celiac disease. If someone in your family has it YOU have a 10% chance of also having it.

The average time to diagnosis of celiac disease is NINE years. This is likely not a surprise to you if you are a celiac, I am sure you have your own decade long struggle to share. But, you should be aiming for “better” when it comes to your child. Hell, I am shooting for WAY BETTER for my child.

Many physicians hold the belief that the only thing to look for in celiac children is failure to thrive. This is their black and white approach to whether or not they should test a patient. Why not proactively do a blood test when the child is old enough (studies show that children need to be at least 2 years of age before most tests available now are accurate)?

Let me say this another way: A delay in diagnosis in childhood results in more autoimmune diseases in adults including osteoporosis, anemia, malignancies, peripheral neurophathies, dental enamel defects, hyposplenism, and infertility. It doesn’t stop there. Patients with autoimmune diseases often have other autoimmune diseases including Sjögren’s disease, type 1 diabetes, autoimmune thyroid disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, and alopecia areata.

2. Specific Knowledge of Celiac Disease Prevention in Children.

Ask your pediatrician what they know about the link between breast feeding and the timing of the introduction of wheat. If they stare at you blankly you may be in trouble. Its known that celiac disease runs in families. Its not known what makes the gene “turn on.” We know that some children never have a problem but suffer as adults after a trama of some kind (emotional or physical). The only path we have now is following prevention measures that we have scientific evidence on.

Studies have shown that breast-feeding influences the development and presentation of celiac disease. It has a protective effect (as far as is known thus far) and is believed to play a part in the onset of celiac disease. Fewer breast fed children develop celiac disease and when they do it is at a later age.

Delaying the introduction of gluten until 4 months of age, while still breast feeding, may be beneficial or protective to genetically predisposed children. By doing this one thing — introducing gluten at the right time — your child may end up living a gluten filled life without problems. Studies have shown that children who were not introduced to wheat until 1 year of age ended up with higher incidences of celiac disease. From what is known right now there seems to be a window between 4 months to 6 months that is the “right time.” Not to early, not to late.

3. Ability to Combat Old Wives’ Tales

Pediatricians and mothers may fear that breast milk transmits the disease to children. This is logical, but false. The logic is that a celiac mother will have antibodies to gluten that are not needed (non-celiacs will not have anti-gluten anti-bodies). Anti-bodies are transfered in breast milk, but this has not been shown to have any effect on celiac diagnosis. The opposite has been found to be the case. A pediatrician who supports breast feeding and can encourage a mother to keep going through the introduction of gluten will be extremely helpful and may even eliminate the threat of a celiac diagnosis.

Fattening up children who have trouble sleeping through the night with cereals containing gluten(added to bottles) is a no-no. This old wives’ practice should be avoided at all costs!! Introducing gluten too early has been shown to increase the incidence of the disease.

What did I do?

I selected my pediatrician, but it was a process. I interviewed several people. In the end, the one I selected knew quite a bit about celiac disease – but I don’t expect her to know as much as I do about the latest and greatest research. If she does – fantastic! But I will continue to follow what is unfolding to make the right choices for my child. What I was seeking was a balance between what she knew and what she was open to hearing. I told her everything I knew and asked for her support in balance with her own experience. I looked for a younger doctor who did not hold false beliefs (or a ton of bravado about what their past experience had shown). And I also looked for a small practice where I could have a more intimate experience with the nurses. The practice I chose has one doctor and one nurse – a rarity in New York City.

I want to be the best mom I can to my child. Its my responsibility to make sure I do everything I can to prevent her from having celiac disease.

The FACTS in this article are from the Columbia University Celiac Center published in their book the Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic.

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: QQ Li via Compfight

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