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Can food help your child sleep better?

Uncategorized Jun 27, 2017

I thought I had left my troubles behind but I find myself back being my own coach again.


In January this year Daffodil (my youngest daughter) and I finished our breastfeeding journey (Yay!) and almost the next day, she caught a cold. Full on runny nose, post nasal drip and night time coughing.  I was so happy with finishing our journey in an easy way that I was totally blind to what was actually going on.


Yes, it could have been a cold; her older sister Sunflower had a cold and various bugs she was picking up from school, so I was in awe of how powerful my breastmilk had actually been at protecting my wee Daffodil for the last 2 years.


And we went from Daffodil sleeping in her own bed all night every night, although she’s always woken during the night, to me actively taking her into my bed with me.  And it wasn’t because I missed her waking me, her breathing started to get worse at night, she started snoring more and every night, and then she started to stop breathing.


I was petrified! My little baby would be snoring loudly, and then she would go silent, her chest would continue to move trying to pull air in, until about 15 seconds later she would eventually gasp for air.  This would repeat every 2-5 minutes for 2-4 hours.  In fairness, it took me about 3 weeks of watching this every night to wait the full 15 seconds before moving her to get her breathing again.


So she was back in my bed.  I was propped up with numerous pillows in the corner of my bed in a way that she could sleep in my arms, and when I would feel her stop breathing, I would nudge or move her to start breathing again.


Naturally, I contacted my GP, multiple times.  Every time, I was told something slightly different:


  • she had a cold and that with the inflammation in her tonsils and / or adenoids at any one time, that this could cause airway obstruction and that if it continued once her cold had cleared up then they would refer her for further assessment.

  • she was fine because the muscles in the back of the throat just haven’t fully developed yet.  This means that at night when said toddler is asleep and goes into deep relaxation, the relaxation of the muscles of the throat essentially cause it to close in on itself.  She will be fine and will grow out of it.

  • some kids just have larger tonsils and / or adenoids which take up a proportionally larger space in the back of the nose and mouth that in older children and she will grow into them.

Over the last 5 months I must have spoken to our GP every month about it on some level.  I have accepted these explanations every time, from different doctors.  Until about 6 weeks ago.


I got fed up of being exhausted.  I got fed up of worrying.  I got sick and tired of being given excuses and Daffodil not getting better. 


I was fed up of being told that my child wasn’t designed perfectly because I believe every child is perfect, and it’s their environment that screws things up. 


[Yes, there are a relatively small percentage of children who have genetic differences that mean they have illness and disease from the outset, but I refuse to believe that any child cannot thrive if given the best environment to live in.]


I had an epiphany.  It came when I started writing my book on food intolerances and allergies.  I suddenly remembered that I could never get Daffodil to eat eggs, and now she was happy eating them every morning.  And her apnoea was particularly bad right now.  I realised that she started eating eggs just after I stopped breastfeeding. 




A possible cause.  So we cut out eggs from her diet, and guess what? Yip! A million times better that very night.  And then by accident she had a slice of bread that had egg white powder in it, and another bad night happened.  So out again, and a drastic improvement was seen immediately.  Now eggs are a probably culprit, but not the only one because she still has some breathing problems and apnoea.


So, it was time for me to print out my own food and symptom diary sheets and start doing some recording and pattern analysis.  


I’m going through the whole emotional rollercoaster again.  What can I feed my child? What is going on for her? Why are her symptoms not clearing up and why the hell did she have the WORST night EVER last Friday night when I managed to get a total of 1:20 sleep?!! (I know because my watch told me so!!).  Daffodil is on a massive exclusion diet and her sleep is getting better each night. 


Believe me when I say that I know what its like to do food diary stuff, I feel the emotional turmoil of “why the hell is this going on?” and “When will my child be able to eat normal stuff?”  And added to that, Daffodil is now at the age where she fully understands that what her sister is eating is not the same as what’s she’s eating, and this was so difficult at a birthday party on Saturday last when she couldn’t have cake and didn’t want the “special” biscuits I had for her as a treat.  It’s hard.  She knows she cannot have it but she doesn’t know why.  To her, her sleep is her sleep.  She doesn’t see anything wrong with it.


From the reading I’ve been doing, sleep apnoea is not a good thing for babies and young children and I am shocked about my GP not referring her earlier for some sort of assessment.   Sleep apnoea in children is serious – it can reduce their IQ by 10 points and increases the risk of childhood obesity, as well as many behavioural problems including aggression, hyperactivity, attention and learning problems. 


And I’m shocked that the one of the first options for children with sleep apnoea is often removal of adenoids and or tonsils.  Why is no-one asking the question “why are these adenoids or tonsils enlarged?”  and what can we do about it? Surely there is a reason for the adenoids and/or tonsils to be enlarged?


My understanding is that both the adenoids and tonsils are part of the lymphatic system which is crucial in fighting illness.  Adenoids and tonsils are especially important in children as they are the first line of defence against respiratory illness.  As the child grows, these glands become less important as the rest of the lymphatic system develops into a highly functional system, so I understand removing them later in life when they appear to be redundant, but I am not so sure about it as the first option. 


For me, I’m trying to see if we can identify why they are enlarged first, and do something about that.  It may well be that a cold earlier this year affected them and that they have not shrunk since that, but with all the other symptoms of a runny nose at night, and mucousy cough, I am inclined to think there might be something else going on instead.  It may end up that she will eventually need her adenoids out to allow her to breath properly, but that to me is a last resort.


For now, I’m food and symptom tracking, being really strict on what she can eat and I’m seeing the benefits.  She’s getting better sleep, and sleeping longer in the morning, her behaviour in late afternoon (because she’s also dropped her daytime nap!) is easier to manage, even though she is tired, and I’m getting better sleep.


I’m waiting for the referral I demanded from my GP to come through, but in the mean time, I’m doing what I can do myself rather than let it continue in its worst form with no-one sleeping properly.


You can read more about me and how I can help here


Aine x


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