Being a parent of a baby who has Eczema
Written by: Jennifer Flores
The picture above is of my son Kai. On the left, is when he was 2 months old and when his Eczema started - this was his first flare up. On the right is my little boy now at 5 months old, flare-up free.
Being a parent of a baby who has Eczema is by far the HARDEST thing I've ever had to go through - even harder than pregnancy and childbirth. We've had sleepless nights, because our son wakes up due to scratching himself. I've seen my son cry from being so itchy, that I constantly have to swaddle him and comfort him. He always has to wear mittens so he doesn't scratch and bleed. I constantly have to watch him - I can't even leave him alone to play by himself, without worrying he will scratch and create more flare-ups. I don't like it when other people, other than my fiance, or my son's grandparents hold him because they don't stop him from scratching, and I feel bad because they think I want him all to myself. Truth is, I'd love to not keep holding him all the time and share him with my friends and family.
I get so overwhelemed sometimes - heartbroken mostly. There are days I am with him alone, while my fiance is at work, and I just cry because I can't stop his flare ups. Then there are good days when his skin is clear. But when those flare ups come back, it's as if it will never get better. I'm more upset because it effects his quality of life, with all the constant swaddling and surveillance. I'd like him to have independence to play and explore without feeling restricted or being uncomfortable. I also don't want him to have it his whole life. Parents of kids who don't have Eczema, I don't think get it sometimes. The struggle is definitely real, and sometimes when you are constantly doing the same thing every day to maintain the Eczema, it can almost drive you insane.
Here's our story. When I was 38 weeks pregnant, my OBGYN told me that my son was a big baby, and if I wanted to try and deliver vaginally, we could try to induce. If I waited 40 weeks, my son would have been close to 10 pounds, and I'm 4'11". It probably wasn't going to happen, so I wanted to try and deliver him vaginally at 38 weeks and 5 days. I was hesitant about this plan, because of course, I wanted to try and go as natural as possible. Unfortunately, my birth plan did not go as I planned at all. I tested positive for Group B Strep, so my OBGYN ordered antibiotics to be administered to me and my son during labour, to avoid him getting sick. Long story short, I was 26 hours in labour, and was administered antibiotics every 4 hours until my son was born, was on pitocin for the induction, an epidural for pain, and I ended up having to do an emergency C-Section because when I got to 9cm dilated, my son didn't want to come down anymore. He was stuck. My son was delivered a healthy baby at 8lbs 1 oz, with an apgar score of 9.95. He had nice smooth skin since he was a newborn until he was 2 months old... Keep all of that background story in mind.
Fast Forward... How did I get Eczema?
At around 2 months after I gave birth, I started to develop hives all over my body, and I could not stop itching and scratching. I ended up getting patches of red skin so my GP prescribed me Atarax to stop scratching and my dermatologist put me on cortisteroid ointment. I didn't like the idea of being on meds all the time. Since I had enough meds during labour and childbirth, I wanted to supplement with a natural approach. I put myself on probiotics, took out gluten and dairy from my diet and ate clean. It took about a month for the eczema to go away. I still have small itchy spots every now and then but it goes away once I put on a moisturizer.
Now, I've never had Eczema in my life, so I found it really odd that I only got it after giving birth. I wasn't sure if it was the hormonal changes, if it was allergies, or something else. When I finally was relieved of the torture of itching and scratching, I thought I was home free...
When my son developed Eczema...
Shortly after I got better, I noticed my son started to get some dry spots on his face, and he also started getting cradle cap. His cradle cap was getting worse to the point that it would ooze. We eventually went to the doctor to make sure it wasn't infected, and he told us it wasn't. He noticed too that my son had dry skin, and told me to keep on what I was doing, moisturizing with Coconut Oil. We ended up going back to the doctor because he got sick, and he noticed my son's skin was still dry. He told us to use Glaxal Base, because he suspected Eczema, and told us if it doesn't go away, he'll see if he'll give us a cortisone ointment. Glaxal base ended up making my son's skin 10 times worse, so I had to try and go back to using Coconut Oil. That didn't work either, so after hundreds of dollars spent on trying to find which cream worked to reduce my son's flare up, we finally ended up using Eucerin Eczema Relief Body Cream and Flare-Up Treatment, and Aquaphor. His flare ups weren't going away and the sides of his head were still oozing, so his pediatrician referred us to a dermatologist (finally). In the meantime, he prescribed us Fucidin antiobiotic for the oozing, as it got swollen too. The dermatologist explained to us that the cradle cap, and eczema were two different beasts that needed two different types of care. Cradle cap we had to keep dry and eczema we had to moisturize. He prescribed cortisone (Hydroval 0.2%), and told us to use Head and Shoulders for his cradle cap. After a month of using his method, our son was still not better... he would still flare-up and the oozing did not stop. There were days his skin was so clear, and then other days the Eczema would come back with a vengeance. I was feeling hopeless, so I sought out an naturopathic doctor to see if they could help.
Finding our way back to healing our gut...
After seeing the Naturopathic Doctor, she recommended I do a hypoallergenic elimination diet, and to take supplements and probiotics, since I am breastfeeding. She suggested that we can try and see if my son was getting flare-ups due to certain triggers in food being passed through my breastmilk. Kai is also on formula - we were on Enfamil before, but we switched him to and organic one, Holle Goat Milk Infant Formula 1. My son was also prescribed probiotics. We're still on this plan, and we have seen some very slight changes, but it seems that it will take a while to reset our guts. His flare ups have been less intense too.
Trying to find a balance...
Going completely natural without steroids is difficult. We tried to ween him off steroid oinments, and use Shea Butter all over, but that ended up activating his cradle cap again, so we had to start all over. Now we try to use steroids only if he is really itchy, or give very little, diluted with Aquaphor to ween him off slowly. We've upped his Probiotics drops from 1 drop to 6 drops as well. You should always start slow with probiotics, because they can make the baby colicky. The benefits of probiotics is to reset the good bacteria to fight off the Eczema. I spoke to the CEO of Viome, who is a specialist in Microbiome and gut health, and he mentioned that since I delivered via C-Section, Kai probably did not get the good bacteria from the birth canal, and also was deprived of good bacteria since we were both on antiobiotics for so long during labour.
Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
I know for a lot of moms out there who are going through mild to severe cases of Eczema, it may seem like it will never end. People keep telling us that they will grow out of it, but you don't see that ever happening. Eczema is not a curable thing, however you can control and maintain it, and I believe this can be done by good nutrition, and with some help of medications. I'm not a fan of steroids, but if used properly and for major cases, I think it helps a lot. The side effects are not beneficial to your child's health, but there are ways to rejuvenate the skin. Once the Eczema starts to get under control, then I think maintaining it with natural methods can prevent intense flare ups for happening again.
Keeping your sanity.
As a mother of a baby with Eczema, I know all too well how crazy you can get trying to take care of your little angel. You start to do tons of online research on Eczema, and obssess about it. It's almost all you can talk about. I'm that mom, as I know many others are too. It got to a point where I got so overwhelemed at depressed, thinking "I am not going enough for him, I can't help him, I can never truly enjoy being with my son or having fun with him". I had to speak to a therapist to talk about it, because I thought I was going through postpardum depression. She told me I was being too hard on myself, and that I was doing all I could for him, and that made me a good mom. I guess hearing it from someone else makes you realize... "there is only so much you can do". With Eczema, you need extreme patience (which I don't have), and realize that you have to accept what it is right now. I'm a perfecitonist, so those words of advice she gave me were hard to swallow, but since then, I have embraced being a mother during the good, bad and ugly. I realized that I'm not perfect, and my son's skin is not perfect, but that's not what matters. What matters is that he is a healthy boy, adorable, sweet little boy, and that I love him no matter what.
This blog is a story of my experience, and in no way suggestive of what you should do to treat your child for Eczema. Always seek professional help from doctors.