Did I cause this? It's my fault, right? How to move past guilt with food allergies
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
I stumbled on this article a month ago and had a moment of sheer panic, guilt, and flashback to a specific incident in 2012 on this exact topic. The title alone felt like it had our family pegged as the subjects in the study:
'Babies Whose Pacifiers Were Cleaned With Antiseptics Were 4 Times More Likely To Develop Food Allergies by Age One'
In 2012, I took my 5-month old son to Panera for coffee with a friend who had also had a 5-month old. We were both on maternity leave; this was her 3rd daughter and our firstborn son. I vividly remember feeling self-conscious as I struggled to adjust his chest straps comfortably in his stroller. Hers was a well-worn stroller that had earned its scratches and seen many spills and spit-ups. She was a pro and I was a nervous newbie.
I've always been a hand-talker who needs a lot of space to tell stories. I'm also very clumsy on a good day so you can only imagine how I look as a sleep-deprived new mom. I counted standing upright as a win, but showers were a luxury reserved for a few times a week. Brushing my teeth happened twice daily but even that felt like a lot of work.
So when I successfully left the house with a packed bag full of a dozen items, drank a cup of coffee without reheating it three times and found time to connect with another mom who was also raising a 5-month-old, you better believe I was celebrating this HUGE win.
At one point at Panera I looked over and saw my son fling his pacifier out of his mouth. Oh look. He's clumsy like his mom...how sweet. Except it wasn't sweet at all. It was disgusting. I watched it land on the sticky concrete patio outside Panera and I cringed thinking about the germs attaching themselves to the pacifier.
On instinct I ripped open a fresh pack of sealed pacifier wipes* that I bought and had shoved into my new diaper backpack. I surprised myself at how prepared and proud I was to tackle this moment.
My friend crinkled her nose, raised her eyebrow and pointed to the package with a tilted look of confusion.
Her: What are those?
Me: Pacifier wipes (with a proud grin)
............ (long pause)
Her: Oh girl, let me tell you how this went for us. First kid, we boiled new pacifiers and scrubbed dirty ones with soap and water. Second kid, we rinsed it for maybe 5 seconds. Third kid, we now pick it up, look for anything gross, dust it off and pop that sucker back into her mouth.
Me: Silent. Disgusted. Confused.
............ (more awkward silence)
Her: She flips over to the next topic immediately and moved on.
Me: I'm still stunned and don't move on so quickly. (Clearly, because eight years later, it still obviously sticks with me!)
Was I a new mom following textbook parenting? Absolutely.
Was she trusting her wisdom after being an experienced mom? Absolutely.
Were we both right based on our circumstances? Absolutely.
Now here's the interesting part about that Reddit post above. According to the article, both of our first-borns SHOULD have developed food allergies according to the study since we both sanitized the pacifiers. But only our son did. Her daughters did not. The Reddit post stirred up emotions and inspired many contradicting personal stories that people shared.
Net, net? The full picture is still very fuzzy on why some kids get food allergies and others do not. It's a complex matrix that is still under discovery by hundreds of researchers. If it were straightforward, we would have more clarity towards curing allergies.
Research is ongoing and theories vary but there do seem to be a few factors that are unanimously supported. Genetics, environment, diet and lifestyle all seem to be contributing factors to the spike in food allergy cases.