Sunday, October 30, 2011

and this is why we're dye-free:

Since food dye intolerance isn't a widely recognized allergy, I should probably explain why and how we made the choice to be a dye-free family.

About a year ago, my son was having lots of difficulties sleeping through the night. There were lots of changes going on in our family though, so it didn't immediately occur to me that it could have anything to do with his diet. He was used to co-sleeping with us, and he had begun the transition to sleeping in his own bed. He nursed until he was 25 months old, and was gently weaned when I began having contractions (on bed rest, no less) during my pregnancy with my daughter. However, I am positive that he was not ready to stop nursing, and would have benefited from a longer weaning period. We were doing our very best to make it through each day. We would parent him to bed, peacefully and with as much love and attention as was humanly possible, and he'd drift off without a care in the world. He'd wake up a few hours later though, inconsolable. We kept him close to us, and did everything we could not to isolate him when he was so upset. As this went on, there were concerns of an anxiety disorder or emotional disability, but during the day he was what we considered to be a normal two-year-old. Occasionally he'd show signs of being a 'terrible two' but I am so opposed to that terminology that I knew in my gut that something was wrong.

One day I noticed a friend's Facebook status mentioned her son's reaction to dyes in a chocolate muffin. I repeat, a chocolate muffin. Why anyone would try to make chocolate baked goods look better than they already do is beyond me, but the idea that her son would be so sensitive to food coloring was intriguing. I started Googling and didn't find much, so I grilled my friend and asked what happens to her son when the reaction is going on, and she mentioned the same things we were experiencing. I finally had a theory, something to go on.

Eli is an intelligent kid. I love this about him. He is also stubborn and independent. This combination can result in some pretty fantastic face-offs between parent and child. I wouldn't go so far as to say he had/has behavior issues, but on a good day- a non-toxic, clear thinking, awesome day- I still have to try insanely hard to model the type of behavior I expect from him. I have to think out each move, keep him busy, keep him challenged. In other words, he keeps me on my toes. On a bad day, one where I accidentally didn't read a label closely enough... it can feel catastrophic. It feels like a three day meltdown. Our family shuts down.

I learned a good lesson about following my instincts. I've learned this lesson before when he was a baby, nursing more frequently than every 2-3 hours, and several times after that. But this was more involved and required more research and dedication. I could have spanked him and sent him to a time-out when he was 'misbehaving' but I made the choice to love him wholly and unconditionally, in his darkest and most frustrating hours, and I am so relieved. Our lives are so much easier now, knowing what we know. The free-flowing additives in food still piss me off, but since we have answers about our child's health and well-being, I consider my family incredibly lucky.

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