Few things are as terrifying as an infant allergic reaction. It can come in the form of a rash, chronic diarrhea (possibly with blood), anaphylaxis, and more. Food sensitivities may be discovered as early as the first few weeks of life. Such a young age, combined with these severe symptoms, can leave parents desperate for answers. I was in this situation a few years ago, bawling in the hospital stairwell after doctors told me that my daughter was in so much pain because of my breast milk.
It was discovered that my 3-week-old had severe food sensitivities. Since traditional allergy testing is ineffective for children that young, we were informed that it was best to eliminate all allergens from her diet. We were strongly encouraged to end our breastfeeding journey and replace it with an elemental formula that smelled like sweaty gym socks and cost $50 a CAN.
I knew that breastfeeding was best for my daughter and that in order to continue doing so I would have to significantly change my diet. While I was grateful that was an option, I lived every day in fear. Fear that I would read a label wrong. Fear that I would run out of my packed meals and need to grab something on the go. Fear that my husband would forget and accidentally add the wrong ingredient to my food. Debilitating fear. Every time there was a fussy night or a tiny bump on her body I would die on the inside. I did that. She’s having a reaction and it is all my fault.
No mother should ever have to experience that. I created Free to Feed to help parents navigate food allergies. We are building a test strip that will allow mothers to detect food allergens transferred to their breast milk at home. Empowering mothers to continue breastfeeding by removing the mystery of what proteins are present at any given time. This will allow parents to determine what is eliciting a response as well as test subsequent milk for the trigger item.
As we push forward, we are excited to be a part of the ScaleHealth community. As a scientist turned entrepreneur, I have learned so much from fellow founders who have come before me. Being a Boise-based startup in the midst of a pandemic has made finding powerful networks increasingly difficult and ScaleHealth is a wonderful opportunity to address that obstacle. Happy to be a part of this amazing group and contribute to their successes as well!