• Thu, Apr 24 - 3:00 pm ET

Putting Your Toddler On A Clean Eating Diet Is A Colossal Pain In The Ass

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I know you came to this article to flame me for being one of those moms. You know what I’m talking about: Horrible, helicopter, #cleaneating moms who are way too concerned with everything that goes into their Special Snowflake’s mouth. In a way, you’re right—but I promise you there is more to the story. Let me ‘splain.

I’m very thankful that my oldest son doesn’t have any major health issues, but he is definitely the sickly one in the family. (As an aside, I’d like to blame my husband for that one because he has pretty bad seasonal allergies and had asthma as a kid.) We saw a ridiculous amount of specialists for my son in his first year of life, related to a two-vessel cord, a heart murmur, and allergies. Thank God, everything is fine.

But as a baby, my son had (and still has) a pretty severe case of eczema. Like a nine out of 10. When we brought him to the doctor for help after trying almost every sensitive skin and eczema cream on the market, the doctor was shocked to see a five month old baby with weeping, bleeding, cracked, and oozing skin.

Eczema at its worst.

Elliott’s eczema at its worst.

The doctor suspected food allergies. At that time, he advised me to cut dairy out of my diet since I was still breastfeeding. As my oldest son transitioned to solid foods, we tried to keep him on a gluten-free, dairy-free diet. That was an utter clusterfuck as I was trying to learn how to feed a baby for the first time. We ultimately got him tested for food allergies, and he is mildly allergic to eggs and peanuts, only related to skin outbreaks.

So, that’s good. We started to avoid those trigger foods, but more than a year later, things are not remarkably better. He also has seasonal allergy and asthma issues that flare up and have almost landed him in the hospital several times. We are using all the prescribed medications, we are doing everything the doctors said, but I’m at a point where I’m desperate. It’s hard to deal with his health ups and downs, though they aren’t life-threatening.

My husband and I both work for natural food companies, so we may be a little biased. I am in no way preaching about natural health, but I think we can all agree that what you eat does affect the health of your body in some form or another. This is why we decided to go balls to the wall with a clean eating, Body Ecology diet that cuts out all gluten, dairy, and sugar for a time, just so we can rebuild his digestive and immune health and cut down on chronic inflammation. We also ferment our own vegetables at home and give him probiotics and supplements every day.

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  • Megan Zander

    No judgment here, you do what you need to for that little boy. I have eczema ( on a much smaller scale) and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, especially a wee one. Also, if it will help you feel supported, I will lie and tell you that goldfish are not that delicious.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Now I am even sadder because he has learned to say “itchy” and says it ALL the time. :(

    • Kendra

      Awww! Poor little guy! I HATE being itchy!

    • Megan Zander

      Oh that sucks so much. And so many of the creams and what not are for adults. I’ve used California babies on my own skin which sometimes helps spot itching, but no question, it’s not fun. Texas is humid right? That helps.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Yeah, it’s humid, so that helps! We also put really heavy medical moisturizers on him when it’s really bad.

    • Megan Zander

      I hate when your kid is uncomfortable or hurting and you can’t just *snap* fix it. Poor lil guy.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thanks! :)

    • ted3553

      It sounds along the line of what you’re already doing but I had terrible exczema and used steroid creams but they didn’t work as well as gold Bond moisturizing lotion. I can’t imagine being a baby and suffering from that horrible itch and rash and cracking etc.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Good tip, thanks!

    • Jessica

      A little boy I used to nanny for had prescription steroid creams for eczema break outs. We also applied vaseline all over after every diaper change. One day they were out of vaseline, so I used another lotion they had in the cabinet with all the other family medicines and it totally broke him out :( I felt so awful.

    • Butt Trophy Recipient

      I think it’s up to the family to provide the nanny with instructions on what to do… not your fault. You did what a reasonable person would have done.

    • Valerie

      Poor little pup. :-(

    • Tinyfaeri

      :( hugs to all of you!

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thank you!!

    • Valerie

      Claire hates goldfish crackers! Always has!

    • Megan Zander

      More for her brother!

    • Valerie

      Yes, he does enjoy his “doldfishies”.

    • http://batman-news.com Bunny Lou

      I wish I hated gold fish crackers.

    • Jessifer

      I had very bad eczema as a teenager, it was all over my legs. I didn’t even wear shorts or skirts from the ages of 13-22 years old! Out of desperation, I saw an allergy specialist and found I had sensitivities to various types of fruit. A few weeks after I started avoiding them, the eczema went away just like that. I am now super cautious with my own son, although thankfully his skin so far has been perfect (thanks DH!). I don’t blame anyone for taking measures to prevent their child from going through the same. It’s a horrible condition.

  • Kendra

    Since you’re doing this for an actual purpose other than shoving it down everyone’s throats that you are awesome and amazing and healthy, I give you a pass. Also, my daughter has eczema, and it was only severe like that one time. It’s horrible. I too think she has a food allergy of some kind, but at this point, it’s such a minor annoyance that I don’t think it’s worth all of THAT to try to get to the bottom of it. #lazyparenting (I use that a lot). On a side note, I couldn’t help but admire how much your ring looks like mine!

    • Bethany Ramos

      Haha ring twins! ;)

  • Valerie

    It may not be life-threatening but it sure is not comfortable having rashes all the time. :-( I would do it for my kid too, believe me. Eff anyone who rolls their eyes- you are a wonderful mother doing what is best for your baby!!! <3

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thank you!!!! xoxo

    • Butt Trophy Recipient

      Yea, my friend’s wife, 33, still suffers from severe eczema. She’s really pretty, but when she has flare ups, it’s difficult to look at. She’s trying to ween herself off hydrocortizone

    • Valerie

      I don’t have it but I do have extremely sensitive skin and if I use scented detergent I get awful rashes on my knees, elbows and under my bra (basically anywhere that my clothing would rub up against the most). So glad I got it under control years ago and figured out what was wrong because I had started to hate summer and having my knees and elbows show. :-(

    • Butt Trophy Recipient

      So… you shouldn’t be on your knees and elbows huh? We’ll find another solution.

    • Valerie

      So glad you’re back. It is exhausting being a troll and we girls just couldn’t hack it full-time. #grateful

  • Calendars in Sandscript

    Here Beth, wear this shirt.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Hells yeah!

  • Kelly

    I feel for you. We did gluten free a few years back because of my son’s autism. It was hell and I already eat very clean. I thought a total health nut like me would have no problem but oh my god! What a colossal pain in the ass it was! The worst was when we had to turn down things like cake and ice cream at parties. I felt so bad for the poor kid.

    It sounds terrible but I was kind of relieved when the diet didn’t end up helping and I could stop stressing about everything he ate.

  • Kim

    Aw, poor little fulla! Don’t judge you at all for doing what you’re doing. Allergies are funny things, you never know what can set them off. My son had a anaphylactic reaction the first time he ate hummus, scary stuff! Both my kids had eczema (not as bad as your little one by the looks). The best thing that worked for us was boring old Baby Aveeno. I hope he gets some relief soon, stupid eczema.

  • Smalls

    I’m genuinely trying to understand the underlying tone around “clean eating” – the disparaging attitude really confuses me. Like all “clean eaters” (whatever that means), have personal chefs and would “positively die” if their baby ate something processed, and I’m not one of those (ick) clean-eating moms. Is it that some people bring a superior attitude to it? Or something else? I just don’t see what the big deal is for a parent to make choices for their kid due to a belief they have about what it means for their health.

    I’m not saying the author is saying any of these things, mind you. It just came out a little bit in the piece, and I’ve seen it before, so I’m curious about people’s thoughts.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Good question. I just personally felt like many people are skeptical about how diet connects to health (in my real life), so if you go clean eating, you are doing it for vain rather than health reasons.

      And also, some vegan people may or may not have acted high-and-mighty when I lived in CO (but not all!). ;)

    • the_ether

      I’m a junk food vegan, so you’re safe with me :)

    • Smalls

      I definitely get that. The high and mighty thing drives me crazy. No matter who it’s from, really.

    • Lilly
    • Smalls

      So, the superiority thing. Gotcha. Oh, Gwenyth.

    • noodlestein

      I’ve gotten a HUGE ration of shit ever since I started clean eating (thank you, Whole30!), and I don’t even have kids. I was reading a Beyonce thread about how she doesn’t give Blue any white sugar except for special occasions, and people were being absolutely scathing about it, saying things like, “well, that little girl is having a great childhood /sarcasm,” or “how can she deprive that sweet baby of all the things that make childhood so wonderful,” or “good to see she’s pushing her food issues onto her child.” It was shocking. I mean, when did getting stuffed with junk food become the best thing about childhood? When did eating healthily become something to scorn? It sounds silly, but it’s true. People are all about jumping all over me for my “extreme” diet. LIke, yeah, eating whole, healthy foods is soooooo extreme! /endrant

    • Smalls

      Yeah, it’s that scorn that I’m really curious about. I think Bethany was spot on in that maybe people don’t make the link between food and health. It’s just the freaking attitude that amazes me “UGH, what you don’t let her eat BREAD? Are you one of THOSE MOMS?!” I mean…who cares?!?

      It’s the same in reverse, too – don’t judge someone else for having their white bread or a Frappuccino or giving their kid Doritos.

    • Kelly

      I get the same shit. It used to bug me but now I just kind of laugh about it. I don’t talk about my diet or judge others for theirs either.

      The best is eating a salad without dressing and watching people lose the goddamn minds over it. LOL It still surprises me that people even notice. I pay very little attention to what they eat.

    • EmmaFromÉire

      I dunno, my childhood could have been sponsored by Pixie Sticks and it was pretty damn good!

    • Ashley Austrew

      I totally believe in the benefits of clean eating, but in my experience, it almost becomes like a cult for some people. They are extremely rude and judgmental about it, or they grossly exaggerate the benefits…or both. In some circles, there is a complete lack of awareness about how much privilege plays into our ability to be able to eat clean. There’s also a lot of misinformation that gets thrown around (if you eat X, you’re going to DIE RIGHT NOW OMG) and a lot of victim blaming (“Oh, people who get diseases only get them because they don’t eat clean like me” or “She got breast cancer because she eats Doritos!”). It’s become this sort of obnoxious trendy thing rather than just a way of living, and people feel very judged (on both sides), and I think that’s why it garnishes such strong reactions. I just keep my eyes on my own plate and try not to worry too much about what anyone else thinks or eats.

    • EmmaFromÉire

      Anyone i’ve encountered who is a ‘clean eater’ is loud and superior about it. It really bums me out, because I love to cook for people, I love to make dinners and have everyone round and one of my friends has recently become a ‘clean eater’ and as such turns her nose up at most of my cooking, and I just don’t want her at dinner anymore because of it.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    Oh, that eczema looks awful! My son has it too, although it got to about a 5 before it got under control. He doesn’t have allergies, thank god, so that wasn’t part of the equasion.
    Under doctor’s instruction, we give him a nightly five-minute-or-less bath to allow the skin to soak up the water and then a very quick pat dry and then cream to lock the moisture in. Luckily this cleared it up to the point I’d rate it only a 1 or maybe a 2.
    It really is a misery for a kid to deal with. You don’t get a break from your own skin :(

  • Samantha Escobar

    Tell that kid in the lede image to comb his damn hair.

  • Andrea

    No sir, you are NOT “that mom”. “That mom” wants the world to revolve around her own yunique snohflayke and uses what is possible a bullshit allergy to make herself feel a martyr and her kid more “espeshal”
    That picture of that sweet sweet sweet baby with those reactions warrants that you try everything you are trying and you are NOT “that mom”. I hope Elliot gets well quickly!

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thank you!! I really appreciate it.

    • Momma425

      I was just about to say:
      I do NOT judge anyone at all for what they eat.
      The difference between you, Bethany, and THOSE mom’s is that you don’t:
      *judge other people on what they feed their kid (you know, unless it’s like crack rocks or something)
      *expect nobody to serve cake at their own kid’s birthday party because your kid can’t eat it
      *act like everyone else should bend to your diet and change to accomidate your kid
      *freak out like allergies are the end of the world, or over exaggerate and tell people that your kid will die of blood loss if he sits next to someone who ate peanutbutter yesterday

  • Drstephaniedvm

    I have terrible eczema and diet totally impacts it. I usually eat really clean but when I cheat my hands itch and crack and bleed :-( if your looking for good kid friendly foods there is an awesome cookbook called “Eat Like a Dinosaur” not full on AIP diet in all recipes but all gluten, peanut, and dairy free.

  • Natalie

    Hey! I’ve been reading mommyish for close to a year now, and have a 3 month old little girl. Also eating gluten and dairy free, otherwise I have a SCREAMING baby on my hands. I’m also a NYC chef, and so I started a blog about it. Take a look for some cooking ideas and recipes! foodformamas.wordpress.com. PS Bethany you’re the coolest.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Awww thanks! And thanks for commenting! I will so check out your blog. It looks amazing. :)

  • Rachel Sea

    OHMYGOD, his poor little face! If I eat something I’m allergic to, I get eczema on the soles of my feet. When it’s at it’s worst I alternate steroid cream and Water Jel’s Burn Jel. The steroid cream makes it heal faster, and the Burn Jel makes it stop itching and hurting. I’ve never found it in a store, only online – they mostly sell to industrial safety suppliers and EMTs.

    It’s handy stuff to have around for first aid too. I seared my elbow on a 400 degree pan last night, and after 20 minutes uselessly trying to make it feel better with a cool pack, I remembered the Burn Jel, and it stopped the pain instantly.

    • JD

      My husband is a safety administrator in a steam plant. He has given Burn Jel to every family we know. That stuff is amazing!

  • Tinyfaeri

    We only tend to flame folks who write something to the effect of “Loving your child means giving them only organic produce, no meat, mostly raw food, but you do what you feel is best.” Not “I may not have the typical medical reason for this, but I do have a medical reason.”

    That said, they make some organic meal replacements for toddlers – I know they’re processed, but I think some of them are gluten free, soy free, etc., and might help fill any gaps in his nutrition. My 2 year old is super picky, so I can’t even imagine trying to get her on a clean diet (or any diet sans goldfish, bacon and cheese steaks, anyway). Best of luck to you, and I hope it helps!!

    • EmmaFromÉire

      I’ve noticed that in trying to get myself to eat better ( or veer away from the tragic student diet anyway!), most of the meals I now eat are vegan. And then I add a big ole bacon sandwich to rectify that, because bacon is my soulmate.

    • Tinyfaeri

      Agreed. We still eat meat for most dinners, but for breakfast and lunch I tend to lean towards lacto-ovo vegetarian. Aside from cheese steaks and bacon, my daughter’s main sources of protein are cheese, nuts and beans, so she’s kind of there with me. :)

  • K.

    Here are the “Allergy/Clean Eating” moms who earn my eyeroll:

    “Love = Tofu” moms
    “Tofu = I don’t have to vaccinate” moms
    “My child’s allergy should dictate what YOU feed your own child in our presence, regardless of the fact we’re not in my private home” moms
    “A food allergy is the end of the fucking world” moms**

    **You, Bethany, are not this. There is a difference between venting–once in a while–about the fact that it is difficult to adjust to a new cooking shorthand and a new way of eating (and it is an adjustment), versus a constant hyperbolic “the Gods have conspired against me” if your child has food allergies. Especially in 2014, when there’s a gluten-free version of practically everything, plus an internet with 10 billion sites and blogs devoted to cooking and caring for kids with food sensitivities. My DH was allergic to wheat as a kid (he later outgrew it)…in the 80s. Don’t talk to him about the woes of gluten-free eating. I am a vegan and haven’t eaten dairy for years. My son drinks almond milk and eats mac and cheese made from cashews. Don’t talk to me about how your poor, poor dear can’t drink milk. It’s not the end of the world.

    Again, not that you do this, Bethany–I’m more ranting against a lot of mothers who clearly have nothing else wrong in their lives except that they have to buy special pasta and then act like they are oppressed.

    • Bethany Ramos

      I totally get where you’re coming from, and your poor husband in the 80s!! I can’t even imagine. I seriously am so glad gluten-free is “on trend” because it makes explaining the diet that much easier.

    • EmmaFromÉire

      THE THIRD ONE. Oh my fucking god, that bitch can take her snowflake and leave. I helped organise my cousin’s tenth birthday party a few weeks ago and there was that one asshole who wanted to change the entire party food setup because her kid isn’t allowed to eat sweets. No, it’s a party, if every kid isn’t dangerously close to diabetes at the end of it then I haven’t done my job.

  • Dev

    Just a curious question: did the allergy tests include coconut? I ask because I was diagnosed with eczema when I was a baby, and it took until this year to find out that it might actually be the result of my coconut allergy (actually diagnosed by an allergist, not self diagnosed, promise). (Coconut derivatives are found most shampoos, soaps, detergents, etc). I’m still in the process of switching to all coconut free products to see if it helps my skin (which is a huge pain in the ass because coconut is in EVERYTHING (even water filters -_-)) but it might be something worth checking out.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Actually, that wasn’t on his allergy test – we will check on that. Thanks so much!

  • Buffy

    Don’t care what other people might think. You’re doing a great job for your kid– and you’re NOT a modern eating-drama-queen. I wish you and your family the best!

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thank you!!

  • cabinfever

    It sounds like you’re taking wonderful care of your son, and I’m sorry that it has to be so complicated. Hopefully he’ll outgrow all of his sensitivities.

    We’re among the “bored-and-probably-just-exaggerating” parents dealing with a food allergy; it can be tough to make peace with all of the hostility out there. But like you said, the upside can often be healthier diets for the whole family, and that’s pretty great.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thank you so much!

  • http://twitter.com/ElyneS Elyne

    My sympathies for your son and you! I don’t blame you at all. I have it as well so i know how bad it feels.I’m getting all itchy just by reading your article. With me it’s usely spicy foods also i noticed i get when drinking/ eating dairy. So i avoid that. Excema is difficult to treat so if you can find a way to get it better you should do that don’t listen to “those” kind of people.

  • Jayamama

    Trying to find something that my toddler is willing to eat is hard enough as it is. Most days, all she wants are waffles, mac’n'cheese, hot dogs, oatmeal, or grilled cheese. Thankfully, she’ll eat most fruit and some veggies, but those are side notes to the main event, you know? She is allergic to peanuts, but that’s becoming more common and easier to deal with. I can’t imagine having to plan around the sensitivities you’re talking about. Bless your heart.

    And the fact that you’re afraid of being one of “those moms” just proves that you’re not one of them.

  • Suzanne

    I rolled my eyes at “that mom” too. Then my son was born and had sensitivities to practically every food (like, blood in his poop, this is not in my head, real problems). The only thing that helped him was for me to cut out every major allergen and then some since I was breastfeeding. “That mom” has dietary restrictions because it is trendy. But when your baby is hurting, you do whatever it takes to make them feel better.

  • Emily

    Have you ever tried the Emily products? I TOTALLY tried them first because of my name, but I really like that they’re all natural. I don’t know how much they really help with my eczema (I find that no one product does it for me) but it was the first thing I found that I could use as a lip balm that didn’t make me react, which I of course think is great. Their facebook and website are plastered with moms writing in with before and after pictures, so it may be worth giving it a try for your little man!
    http://www.emilyskinsoothers.com/

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thank you – I will check it out! We are always open to checking out new products to see what may work better. :)

  • Anna Cinneide

    Does the diet work (to clear up his skin?)

    • Bethany Ramos

      Yes, that’s the hope. The natural health company that we work for bases this very strict diet off of initial cleansing to heal the gut of irritation and infection caused by sugar, which is also in carbohydrates like gluten.

      So, he has to avoid all processed foods and eat whole foods, like quinoa, vegetables, and protein, which is never a bad thing LOL. The diet is supposed to focus on improving his digestive health to reduce allergies and build immunity.

    • Anna Cinneide

      Thanks. I’m a scientist (microbiologist), I do a bit of research on gut ecology (but in animals, not humans), so the diet sounds interesting.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Here’s the extensive PDF if you are bored. ;) We are very into gut health!

      http://www.bedrokcommunity.org/downloads/protocol-report-v2.pdf

  • Julie

    There’s nothing wrong with clean eating. I’m baffled that you’d actually care about what others think? At least you’re feeding your child actual food and not the crap the FDA has labelled as edible. I appreciate moms who actually care about what their child eats. Also, can we stop with the “Special Snowflake”?

  • Katherine Handcock

    Poor little guy! My son’s eczema was no where near that bad, but it was still no fun. Hopefully as he grows it won’t be as extreme.

    And since we’re into suggestions you can try: it’s definitely not going to be all you need for this little guy, but if you can find a preparing pharmacy near you (i.e., they can mix medications, not just dispense), see if they will make you a eucerin/glycerin lotion with no preservatives. It’s relatively cheap, won’t aggravate his skin, and it’s super moisturizing. It IS very greasy, but it can be a good way to get a little extra moisturization on him without worrying that the lotion will aggravate things further.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thank you! I will check it out – that sounds like a great suggestion for regular moisturizing. :)

    • Katherine Handcock

      I slicked my little guy up with it about four times a day when he was little! It was a greasy business, but at least he wasn’t uncomfortable. The cheap factor is the big thing – my pharmacy could usually make the preparation for me in a 500g tub (that’s about a pound for the non-metric folk ;-) which easily last me a month or more, and it cost me $11.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thank you so much! What a great help. :)

    • Katherine Handcock

      You’re welcome! I hope you find a solution that works for your little guy.

  • Ashley Austrew

    Ohhh, poor baby. You are not THAT mom; you’re a great mom. I think any of us would go to any lengths to help our babies feel better, and I have no doubt it’s a hard road. I used to think my daughter was such a great eater, and now she basically refuses anything that isn’t a plain slice of bread. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to keep a toddler on a strict diet and not be able to use those convenience options like Goldfish crackers, etc. that we all rely on.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thanks so much!!

  • C.J.

    Half my family has eczema. The one thing I have learned about it is everyone has different triggers and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. My older daughter has it. It was really bad when she until she was 3 then improved until recently when she hit puburty. Some of the things that worked for her are probably going to sound kinda weird but I will share them anyway. When she was a baby I used nipple cream on her face. I figured if it was safe to use on nipples that she ate from it wouldn’t hurt her, it worked quite well. When she gets it on her feet she sits for an hour with her feet soaking in tins of olive or canola oil. She uses shortening (Crisco) as a moisturizer, this seems to work the best for her. There is an aloe spray sold by a company called Aulloette that we have had good luck with too. We avoid soaps and detergents that have any kind of citrus,especially lemon in it. She can’t use scented fabric softener. I really hope you find what works for your son. No one should give you a hard time because of how you feed your son even if it isn’t for a medical reason. You’re not telling them what to eat.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thank you! We have used nipple cream too (I use it on chapped lips!), and these are all great suggestions.

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  • harrison_inc

    Hello, I am looking for a safe way to lose weight. Has someone already tried the Detox Diet? What are the results? Thank you.