Deep breaths. Okay, let’s do this.
This post has been on my pending list for the longest time. I was actually supposed to publish this back in December when I had an influx of messages on Facebook asking me about Wacky’s eczema, what worked, what didn’t, his food allergies and how we managed it. See I’m part of these two groups on Facebook: one, a Philippines-based mommy group moderated by Amanda Griffin-Jacob and my mommy friend, Martine De Luna of Make it Blissful; the other, a patient support group of Dr. Aron — more on him later. I’ve been actively commenting on the mommy group (Glam-O-Mamas) whenever somebody would post about their frustration with their baby’s dry skin/eczema or when somebody would post pictures of their little ones with red, oozing, eczema skin.
It definitely hits home whenever I see these poor babies suffering from what Wacky had when he was only 2 to 3 months old. It was horrible. And I empathize with these mommies who are frustrated and don’t know what to do to ease their baby’s suffering. I just knew I have to reach out to other parents who are going through the same thing as we did back in 2014-2015 and share our eczema story because I know how much it helps to have somebody who has gone through and and tell you that it will get better.
A little disclaimer: this post is going to be LONG and photo heavy.
EDIT: I decided to split this post into two parts because it was starting to get too long. Part 2 is here.
Let’s go back to 2014.
Joaquin was born in August 2014, healthy via CS, we were home in 2 days. You can read our birth story here. He had perfectly smooth brand new baby skin. When he was 2 week old, we went to his first ever check up with his pediatrician. I noticed that he had a tiny pimple-like spot on his cheek. I asked his doctor about it and she said it was pretty normal for a newborn’s skin to act up a little and even peel. She said it was baby acne. FYI, before anyone says anything, I completely trust their pediatrician. Dr. Jocelyn Bondoc is the best! So no negative comments please and no comments that she mis-diagnosed Wacky.
I was told to try and put breast milk on it to see if it helps. If I’m not mistaken, this was also the time we tried using Mustela Stelatopia, a very baby friendly skin product, I was told.
Four days after that check up up to until he was 3 weeks old, it was starting to spread little by little. And I saw no improvement with the Stelatopia or breast milk application at all. We were told to try Cetaphil.
When he was almost 3 months old, the spots started to spread and grow in size, but nothing too worrisome. So we moved from the regular Cetaphil to using Cetaphil Restoraderm for both his bath soap and lotion. We also changed our laundry detergent to a milder one. We ended up using Perwol Baby (after starting out with Cradles from Day 1) for the longest time. Only changing to a regular, but milder smelling detergent (Breeze) about 3 months ago.
3 MONTHS OLD
When he was 3 months old, he had cradle cap that seemed to crawl down to his face, rather than just staying on the scalp area. We tried every trick on the book for his cradle cap. Nothing seemed to make it go away. He was also losing hair at the same time. But that was common for newborns too, to have hair loss.
The rashes were starting to crust and become more pink, rather than just looking like a harmless rash.
When he was 3 months old, I brought him to an allergologist who diagnosed him with having atopic dermatitis or eczema. And because our efforts with skin products didn’t help, he was put on oral steroids. This practice is very common, I guess everywhere, when a skin condition is starting to become uncontrollable, they prescribe steroids, whether it was in cream form or oral.
As much as it broke our heart to give our 3 month old baby oral steroids, we were left with no choice at the time because nothing we do for his skin physically were working.
Before I continue his story, it’s important to know his diet at this age. Joaquin was exclusively breastfed, no solids. My diet was also normal up to this point, but his allergologist told me to go on a very, very strict diet to eliminate all the allergens in my breast milk. That meant NO DAIRY, FLOUR, EGGS, WHEAT, SOY, NUTS, SEAFOOD, and CHICKEN. And boy was that the hardest thing to do. Take note, this was around the holidays AND my baking business was on the rise. It was so difficult to bake and not taste anything that I make. It was extra hard to enjoy the parties we had to attend because I would have to bring my own food in case there is nothing I could eat. I always brought bananas and fruits with me. What was supposed to be a wonderful, fun first Christmas was turning out to be a nightmare for all of us.
But after a week on oral steroids, we had a completely 100% OK looking baby. It was both relieving and scary at the same time, because it meant that the steroids are actually so strong, it made his skin PERFECT.
Our celebration was short lived because a week after we stopped the oral steroids, the eczema started up again. Slowly, it showed around his right eye (a sign that we later on learned as his first sign of having an allergic reaction to something he ate). Then the next eye. Then at 4 months old, it came back with vengeance. Spreading throughout his body this time. That’s the thing with treating skin condition with steroids then abruptly stopping it without tapering off. It came back worst every time for him.
Our world revolved around him. We started to lose hope and were scared for him to not “reach” his milestones on time. He wasn’t crawling or trying to stand up or playing. He was more interested in trying to scratch himself. Who can blame him when his skin is like this.
6 MONTHS OLD
When he was 6 months old, he was starting to get creative with how he could scratch himself. We would wake up in the middle of the night hearing him scratching his back and legs on the bed. In the morning we’d find blood stains on the sheets that has bled through his frog suit because of the constant scratching. One of the many nightmares a parent could have I would say. We had to be creative in keeping his hands away from his face. His Halo Sleepsack with the swaddle couldn’t contain him anymore. So we ended up with using cotton crepe bandages to tie his hands and feet together so he wouldn’t be able to put up his arms to scratch without pulling his feet up. There was also a time that the bandages were tied to some weights, but he was so strong that he was able to move them.
We tried to swaddle him for as long as we could, using baby blankets, but obviously he would break free the moment he feels the urge to scratch. It broke my heart that we had to result to doing this to him, but we didn’t have any other options at the time. He also started to use a pacifier/binky to comfort himself apart from breastfeeding.
It was so hard to understand why this was happening to him. And I could not help but compare him to his older brother who had no skin condition aside from the usual dry skin and allergy to dog saliva (I know, weird.) This was the hardest season in our lives. Not only is the eczema affecting Joaquin physically, emotionally and mentally, the whole family whole-heartedly adjusted for him too.
His 6 month was the worse. The eczema was so horrible around this time that it’s really hard for my husband and I took look at these photos without remembering how we felt that time. Sad, hopeless, helpless. It was a very difficult season in our lives.
The eczema were forming patches and patches all over his face and legs.
This has got to be the worse photo I have of him. I literally want to cry right now. I couldn’t kiss my baby or caress his cheeks. Everyone was so careful not to touch him. His skin looked so raw and sensitive.
The family changed everything we could around the house that could possibly be making it worse for him. The dog was sent to the “basement” of the house, the outside dog’s cage was put as far away from the house as possible. We changed the way we clean the house, opting to use a Swiffer sweeper instead instead of the usual walis as to not make the dust and dirt fly around the room.
GOING TO A HOMEOPATHIC DOCTOR
After my cousin suggested that we try out their kid’s pediatrician who helped manage their skin asthma, we eventually booked an appointment with Dra. Cricket Palanca-Chen at St. Luke’s Global City. As much as we believe that homeopathic could really help fix what is “broken” in his body to help his eczema go away, his skin at the time was just so severe that it just didn’t work for Joaquin. We tried it for a while, in combination with his antihistamine.
SWITCHING TO FORMULA
Another heartbreaking moment for me as a mom. I quit exclusively breastfeeding him because the strict diet was taking its toll on me mentally and physically. I was literally VEGAN during those 3 months. It was like I quit eating meat and everything else that I loved, cold turkey. I was starting to get angry with our situation. More than I know I should. I was starting to become unhappy because the diet I was doing doesn’t seem to be helping him at all! And we all know an unhappy mommy is not a good mommy to have around. So at his 6th month check up with his pediatrician, I begged for an alternative means to feed him milk. Before you start thinking that switching to formula wasn’t really a big sacrifice we had to make, let me tell you about this special formula he drank for year.
Since he was deemed highly allergic, he could not have the usual formula other babies drink. We were told that the next best thing he could have is Nutramigen.
This 400g formula cost us around Php 9,000 – Php 10,000 a month. It reached a point that I had to order them directly from a Mead Johnson med rep just to get the best deal of just Php 900 per can. It was only when Wacky turned a year and a half that we shifted from Nutramigen to NAN HW 3 Opti Pro. Even this formula is expensive in my opinion.
Cutting Part 1 here. You may read Part 2 here where I continue on his 7th month, our turning point.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment down below. Comments are moderated.