Sleep Apnoea, Allergies, CMPA and Reflux: How They Are All Related

reflux, colic, allergies, unicorn baby


I wrote this post when my secondborn was three years old.

Sleep apnea is scary, and it's super scary when it is your toddler who is suffering from it.

If you are lucky enough not to have experienced it, there’s a short explanation of what happens below.


We went to the allergist today after a 5-month wait.

Daffodil, my almost 3-year-old, reacts to sulphites, cashew nuts, dairy, cod, tuna and raw tomatoes. By reaction, I mean that within hours (nighttime), she will have difficulty breathing. Her airway constricts, and she suffers from sleep apnoea, in that she will stop breathing up to 20 or 30 times an hour for hours on end.

Literally, STOP BREATHING. For up to 30 seconds at a time (I’ve only actually let her alone and counted once. It was too stressful to watch and wait). And it's not just that she stopped breathing; her chest was moving, trying to desperately inhale air, and her airway was closed so no air could enter... and then, suddenly, she would gasp a massive inhalation and wake herself.

And so she sleeps in my arms so that I can move her about and make her breathe again. My husband and I do 4 hours each per night. (Edited: This was our routine for two years...)

Sleep apnoea is not to be confused with the normal breathing pauses that a sleeping baby will often take. These pauses are not traumatic to the baby at all. They simply breathe in or out and pause. You will not observe any stress in their body, and when they decide to exhale or inhale, it is gentle without any gasping. These are also worrying for parents, however, they are completely normal.

The associated impacts are a really knackered and grumpy mum, a restless, unhappy, grumpy toddler who hasn’t had enough proper sleep and an older sibling vying for attention because she feels she’s missing out. And poor partner trying to be nice to the grumpy gals!

I know it is food-related because every time she eats any of the particular substances listed above, she has these same reactions. When she avoids them, her breathing is P.E.R.F.E.C.T. So perfect that some nights I worry because I cannot hear her snoring. Her breathing is so quiet.


And so the cycle went...

Remove the food, and remove the symptoms. Introduce the food and bring back the sleepless nights.

Before I went, I prepared myself; I wrote down every question I could think of about allergens, food, intolerances, etc. I wrote down all the detailed questions I had about the Milk Ladder. I hyped myself up that this appointment would be amazingly magical and supportive with some sort of recognition of my child's experiences.

This is not what I got. At all.

I felt so disappointed and deflated.

Something in me hoped that this once it might be different. Perhaps this consultant would take a different view from the rest of the medical profession. Maybe a new person in our journey would have some new and positive light to shed on the situation. I would completely rewrite my memories and previous unsupportive medical professionals and be elated about the support, connection, and understanding I received today. I was so looking forward to writing that blog.

Alas, what I experienced turned out to be way shorter than I thought short would be.

I was told that my daughter was not reacting to food with her symptoms (I have months of food diaries that say the opposite, and I could test today, but I don’t want four sleepless nights guaranteed, thanks). I was told that sleep apnea as a result of a food allergy was not really a thing. I wasn’t told it never happens. I was so not taken seriously.


A skin prick test for allergies

Daffodil was given the skin prick test for a number of foods that I suspected (know) were causing problems. The challenge with a skin prick test is that it only relates to IgE serum levels, which is important as this response type is the type of response that could end up as an anaphylactic one.

A skin prick test tells us nothing about delayed reaction allergies (IgG serum levels).

The skin prick test was negative for all but one item tested, which I knew and expected because she has never had an immediate response (within 2 hours). No surprise there.

I also know that a negative on a skin prick test does not mean clear from an allergy. All a skin prick test will tell is that a positive result is a positive result. Nothing else.

Without so much in saying so, I was told that my daughter needed her adenoids removed.

I was told that she could and should eat a full diet as she had no allergies.

I was told that sulphites cannot be tested for. Nothing else. No information, no recognition. I was looked at like I was on drugs or something.

I was treated like my observations were meaningless and false.

Thankfully, I know I am the expert on my child, and this stranger allergist is not. I have done my research, and I know that enlarged adenoids can be related to elevated IgG serum levels (confirmation of delayed response allergy) [research paper, 2013].

I trust myself and my observations.


What shocked me most was this...

In discussing the Milk Ladder, because I would love for my kids to be able to eat dairy, I was asking questions like:

  • How long should I leave between each step?
  • What sort of symptoms should I be looking out for?

And with the second question, the allergist finally threw her eyes to heaven and said

"Look - you're child doesn't have any food allergies. I'm trying to give you some control here. She can go out there and eat anything she wants. When she gets sleep apnoea again, ring your doctor the next morning and request an urgent sleep study when you can come and stay in the hospital overnight, and she can be observed. Then they will decide if they need to operate immediately or not."


"You want me to purposely induce severe sleep apnoea in my baby so that she can have her adenoids removed?"


I chose to leave her office at that point.

My real frustration is that the allergist refused to acknowledge me or my child. That she would prefer to remove a necessary part of my child's immune system.

Why do our doctors prefer to cut us up and stuff us full of drugs than modify what we put into our bodies?

My daughter has a balanced and nutritious diet. Just because she does not have dairy does not mean she is not getting enough calcium. There are plenty of other sources of it out there.


What did I do to help my baby?

I wasn't able to accept these answers because it felt like that would have made me a bigger failure as a parent than I already believed I was. After receiving no answers from medical professionals, I decided to take matters into my own hands. My previous career in engineering taught me one thing: there is always an underlying cause, no matter what the problem. We just have to keep looking.


Can I help you?

Having pulled together a raft of knowledge and experience, I have now successfully transformed the lives of thousands of babies and families around the world and helped them understand infant reflux from a holistic point of view.

I'm here to help you and your baby.

The 'Reflux Free Baby' is a series of online courses in which I walk you through all the symptoms you need to observe and record for your baby, what they mean, and how to use them as clues. Based on these clues, we build the pattern, and then we know what action to take to relieve their troubles.

  • If the cause is related to how they are eating and drinking, there is lots more information in the mini-workshops on air intake, oral play and more.
  • If the cause is milk/food related, there are the weaning courses (solids if your little one is already eating three meals a day) and the breastfeeding masterclass to show you how to find the foods that your little one is reacting to

This is the BEST and FASTEST way of getting a reflux-free life.


To get your baby free from their reflux as quickly as possible, sign up now. You will have your plan of action within an hour.


Is this blog insightful? Head to the links below for similar suggested blog titles:

Get your free Reflux & Colic Symptoms Tracker

We will never sell your information, for any reason.