treatment for baby eczema and infant food allergies

Baby eczema is very common condition affecting more than 3 million babies in the US each year.  It is often related to food allergies and can even be caused from foods mom is eating if the baby is breastfeeding.  It can also be very serious causing pain, itching and lost sleep for not just baby, but the entire family.  Our youngest son Leo starting having pretty severe baby eczema around 3 months of age and now at 12 months, we finally have it (almost entirely) under control.

I tried EVERYTHING and want to share my experience of how the eczema presented, how we treated it and how we're managing his many food allergies as that is the cause of his initial eczema flare up...but not the whole story.  I spent many hours researching the internet and visiting doctors and therapists trying western, eastern and any treatment in between to find a solution.  Here's our story and I truly hope this might help anyone who is experiencing the same with their child!


Leo started with cradle cap around 3 months of age.  It got so bad and inflamed that he was scratching his head and breaking the skin.  His poor head was so red and irritated that he was constantly clawing at his head.  I tried treating it with coconut oil, over the counter holistic eczema creams, brushing it with a baby comb, etc. etc.

After a visit to our pediatrician, where I was told that it had nothing to do with my diet (Leo was exclusively breastfed at the time), I reluctantly started using an over the counter hydrocortisone cream occasionally.  My mom (a nurse) suggested that it looked like a yeast or bacterial infection so I started using an antibacterial cream I had been given for diaper rash as well.  We saw some relief with this.

Around 4-5 months of age, the eczema spread to his entire body and face.  Leo was miserable, hardly sleeping (so neither was I), and scratching everywhere he could.  He was still exclusively breastfed at this time.


At Leo's 6 month doctor visit, we saw our primary and amazing pediatrician, Dr. Laura Mikhail of Child and Adolescent Health Associates in Chicago.   She took one look at Leo and personally called an allergist and dermatologist to see Leo ASAP.  She also ordered blood tests to determine if Leo was in fact allergic to any foods as I suspected.  The panel included tests for the 8 most common food allergens (listed below), as well as other foods most often associated with eczema in breast fed babies and a few other foods I was suspicious of.  She also tested for environmental allergies.

Food allergies most often associated with eczema in breast fed babies or anyone:
1. Dairy
2. Egg
3. Soy
4. Tree nut (cashew, almond etc.)
5. Peanut
6. Wheat
7. Fish
8. Shellfish
9. Seeds
10. Corn

We discovered that Leo was allergic to dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, soy and possibly coconut and oats (note: false positives are common with blood allergy testing especially when the overall IgE level is high as in Leo's case).


1.  Food Elimination:
Before the blood tests confirmed Leo's allergies, I had tried eliminating dairy and already rarely ate wheat and corn.  After the diagnosis, I eliminated all of his known allergens.   This diet proved difficult and exhausting at first, but 6 months later, I feel better too and have pretty much mastered it.  I'll post later about what we (Leo and I) eat now.  I'm still nursing Leo twice a day at 13 months and if I have just a little bit of dairy or eggs, Leo will develop a small amount of eczema around his face and diaper area.

2. Homeopathic treatment:
I saw a homeopathic pediatric doctor, Dr. Chuck DuMont at The Raby Institute  of Chicago.  He suggested some homeopathic treatment that involved dissolving small pellets into water and giving this to Leo through a baby dropper.  After 2 weeks, I ran out of pellets, had done my best to eliminate the foods and we saw little to no improvement in Leo's skin.  I would possibly try this homeopathic treatment again in the future now that Leo's skin is under control.

3. Allergist:
Shortly after receiving the results of the blood work, we saw the allergist, Dr. Kelly Newhall at Chicago Family Asthma and Allergy.  She is amazing and helped me make the decision to continue breastfeeding despite the fact that Leo's skin still wasn't great and his sleep was barely better, even after eliminating all of these foods for a few weeks.  Here's what she prescribed:

  • bleach baths:  Every other day I was to bath Leo in a bath of 1/2 cup bleach for 10 minutes.  This sounded so crazy, but she insisted it would work...and it did definitely help.  We also tried apple cider vinegar but as much as I wanted it to work, it just didn't have the same effect.  
  • steroid oil
  • vitamin D drops
  • epi pen
  • benadryl as needed
  • continued elimination of allergic foods and slowly start feeding Leo orange vegetables, avocado and meats 
4.  Dermatologist:
Leo's skin, sleep and general disposition still weren't where they should be by the time we saw Dr. Peter Lio at Medical Dermatology Associates of Chicago.  I was still frustrated, concerned and extremely tired.  After 1 minute with Dr. Lio, I almost started balling from relief.  He has amazing bedside manner and finally convinced me that my decision to continue nursing was the right one.  He told me that he has seen babies become malnourished because the parents gave them rice milk only in an effort to figure out what the offending foods were.  His theory is that there is also a bacterial component to the eczema and it's crucial to treat this and repair the skin for the eczema flare to calm or be healed.  He also talked about the possibility of "leaky skin" similar to the leaky gut that's become a hot topic.  His thought is that potential allergens may get in through the skin and cause irritation (he described this better than I but the theory makes sense to me). His prescription for Leo:

  • continue with bleach baths but DAILY now
  • a compound made of steroid and antibacterial cream to be applied per a specific and detailed schedule that he gave me.  This was prepared by a special pharmacy and delivered to us.
  • continued vitamin D drops 
  • probiotics every morning (he recommended Culturelle kids)

After 1 week on Dr. Lio's treatment, we saw a major improvement in Leo's skin.  I was never a fan of bathing my child in bleach or applying steroids or antibacterials to his skin, but I also wasn't sleeping and neither was he which wasn't good for him developmentally.  I  chose the lesser of two evils.  My pediatrician and Dr. Lio were much more concerned about Leo's skin becoming seriously infected than with the application of topical steroids.

Now at 13 months, Leo's skin looks amazing (unless he or I have an offending food).  He has had a few major reactions, including an anaphylactic reaction, when he got ahold of a food he's allergic (a whole different story) and his skin flares almost immediately.  I continue to give bleach baths as needed and will occasionally apply Dr. Lio's compound for a day or two if absolutely needed.  Leo's diet is basically paleo without the nuts, seeds and eggs.  He does eat some grains (oats, rice and occasionally organic wheat).  I try to give him only organic and naturally raised meats, fish and chicken as it's my belief that his gut is allowing too much to pass through to his blood and I want to prevent chemicals from reaching his system in any way possible.  Stay tuned for a post on what we eat....

Note:  I also tried 2 visits with an NAET therapist in the suburbs of Chicago.  The whole concept of this type of healing was very far-fetched for me but at the time, I was desperate and so I gave it a try.  After 2 visits and over $300, I saw no improvement in Leo's skin and was frankly put off by the therapist and the way she dismissed my knowledge as a nutritionist.  If you're considering this kind of treatment, I would ask for an initial brief meeting or consultation with the therapist at no or reduced fee.

I was also recently talking to a fellow parent of a highly allergic child and he mentioned a study correlating birth month to allergy incidence.  Here is a link to something I found on the topic:
Season of birth is associated with food allergy in children

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments.  I would love to hear your stories,  research and experience too.

DIY Halloween Decor

Here's a quick, easy, inexpensive and fun idea for Halloween decor in honor of our batty house these days!

What you'll need:

  • 1 roll black foam paper (purchased at JoAnn Fabric)
  • Scissors
  • white chalk
  • hole punch
  • bat stencil (I just drew my own free-hand but there are printable versions on Pinterest)
  • monofilament multi-purpose string (like fishing wire or picture hanging wire)
  • clothes pins or clips
  • hot glue gun
Fold the black paper and trace half a bat at the fold.  Cut.

Fold the bats at the center and punch holes at the top to resemble the eyes.  Punch holes at the ends of the wings and thread string from one side to the next.  

I used three different strings and hung them from a tree in my front yard to my front lights and another tree.  Because it's so windy, I had to hot glue the bats in place but if you do this inside, they shouldn't slide.


How to do fringe without looking like a fashion victim

Fringe is EVERYWHERE!  So much so that some pieces seem too trendy.  Consider this simple question if/when incorporating fringe in your spring rotation: would you wear it if it wasn't "in"....

These looks seem current and still timeless.

or go super subtle with just a little shoe fringe...
Oh wait, is it too obvious that I'm obsessed with Ulla Johnson?!!

Inspirational women: Jesse Hufft

Ahhh, Jesse Rose.  Where to even start with this one?  Jesse is one of those people who walks into a room and everyone turns to look and listen.  She has style, charisma, spunk, intelligence and wit to make anyone want to step up his or her game.  She's also (no accident here) one of the owners and drivers behind the hugely successful, influential and downright genius Kansas City, MO based architecture and design firm, Hufft Projects.   Oh, and she's mother to 3 darling children, Rock, Cash and Clover and wife to the architect behind Hufft Projects.

Below is Green & Plenty's interview with this true beauty who I'm lucky enough to call one of my oldest and dearest friends.

You and your husband, Matthew Hufft have built an amazing business in Hufft Projects, an architecture, design and fabrication collaborative. Tell me about your role there.

Well I've really handled all business matters for Hufft Projects since the beginning, with a special focus on directing the PR and marketing team where I've been influential in getting Hufft Projects in magazines like Dwell, etc.  My role has a broad reach and my day to day changes, but I'm involved with all divisions of the company and I love that!

Speaking of Dwell, the home the Hufft's built for themselves and their 3 young children is featured in this month's issue (April 2015).  The Showhouse is SO awesome (I'm lucky enough to know from experience).  

Check out the feature on the Hufft's own home in Dwell magazine.  
Impressive job!  And SUCH a stunning home...especially for entertaining!  Tell us about your entertaining philosophy?
I love to entertain.  It's a great way to really get to know our clients.  We entertain about twice a month and so my philosophy is "keep it simple".  I serve no-cook apps like smoked salmon with toasts, capers and creme fresh.  Other hits are quick and easy pickled veggies and deviled eggs.  I love recipes from Bon Appetit and have been using them for 15 years...they're always reliable.  Plus a nice "proper drink" to start never hurts.  We've gone classic lately with cocktails, and again, simple: Bourbon rocks or with a splash of ginger is a favorite or tequila (or vodka) with lots of fresh citrus and mint.

How do you feed a lot of people an impressive meal without losing your mind and still finding time to really chat and entertain?
Again, I think simple is best.  For the main, I like one big meat dish that I can make ahead like braised sort ribs or rack of lamb served over polenta or this twice baked sweet poatotes with bacon sesame brittle.   I'll serve a seasonal and interesting salad of baby kale or lettuce with lots of fresh torn herbs, goat cheese, blueberries or grapes and a simple lemon vinaigrette.  Finally, a great bread from local KC baker, Farm to Market Bread.

Dessert is usually a carrot cake I make or a pie from Upper Crust Bakery and ice cream from Glace.

You always look put together and fresh, especially with a full-time job and 3 kids.  What's your style and beauty philosophy?
I would say I have a pretty classic style but I do like to put some sort of edge or current fashion element to it.  I love having a basic uniform especially for work: neutral colors and basic, classic pieces.  It helps me get ready quickly and without doubt.  Items from KC based brand Baldwin and Madewell speak to my basics persona and Kansas City boutique Standard Style and Anthropologie are fun for keeping it fresh.  I feel like I’m re-finding my style after having kids; for 6 years I wasn’t buying things I wanted bc I was pregnant, or going to be.

For beauty, I've recently started using RMS beauty products and am now very focused on my skin.  I love Malin and Goetz lip moisturizer, Deva products for my curly hair and an eyelash tint always helps make me feel better (I go to Hoopla for that)!

So if you had $50 to spend on style or beauty, what would you buy?
I'm much more focused on my face and skin now so I would probably spend it on a peel with my aesthetician or an oil.  I also need a great hat!

A few years ago you and architect husband, Matthew designed your own home.  What are some of your "must have's"?

  1. Mud room: the holding chamber for backpacks, shoes etc. with lots of storage and ways for kids to reach their own things, hooks shoes etc.
  2. Storage everywhere so everything can be clean again quickly.  We have lots of cabinets.
  3. Flor carpet tiles, especially because we have 3 kids and 2 dogs.
  4. Big glass doors that open to the backyard so I can see the kids play. 
  5. Smaller bedrooms for the kids leaves more room for the laundry and playroom on their floor. 
  6. Having the playroom on second floor makes bedtime more seamless and they’re starting to wake up in the morning and just go play rather than come bug us.  It will become the homework room eventually.
Any wish list items?
  1. A butler’s pantry kitchen with dishwasher
  2. Another bathroom in the mudroom, especially with 2 boys who don’t always keep things where they need to be...
  3. A bit more separation between the living and kitchen area

One focus of Green & Plenty is finding balance in our hectic lives.  How do you find yours?  
It's different every week.  I make sure one week isn’t too heavy with work stuff, entertaining etc. I get really stressed when we have a constant week of going.  So I work hard to balance our calendar between down time and social obligations, which sometimes feels like a job in itself.  I feel lucky to work with my husband.  While we don't work side by side all day, it's nice to grab lunch or a coffee together.  And with the kids being 2, 4 and 6 now, we are really finding our groove how to hang as a family, and that is incredibly fun.  We haven't quite made it through the crazy years, but that light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.  It's our family business- we really eat, sleep and breath it, but we love it.  I like to think that I provide a little balance to the "family side" of the family business so that it still feels more like a small business even though it has grown to over 45 employees.  It's fun to be around all the people with such a passion for design and talent in their various areas.  It's the job I never knew I always wanted.  

You and Matthew lived in NYC until 2006.  What do you miss most about it?   
Definitely the insane amount of great restaurant options.  The last time I was in NYC we went to Blue Ribbon for was the best sushi meal of my life.  But we love Kansas City and it has so much to offer.  

Jesse and her family have proudly called Kansas City home for almost 10 years now.  Stay tuned for Jesse's KC favorites on Green & Plenty....

Thanks, Jesse Rose!!  I'm amazed, inspired, proud and lucky!!!

4 ingredient chocolate brownie bites

Oliver is currently telling me he "need more brownie"....done!  These chocolate "brownie" bites contain protein, healthy fats and no refined sugars making them an ideal snack or breakfast.

I know we've all seen a million recipes for this kind of "ball", but I really like this recipe from Fit Foodie Finds (check out all her great recipes and ideas).

Here's why I like them:
1.  They require only 4 ingredients that I already had in my pantry and are easy to make in about 5 minutes.

2.  The dates give a nice balanced sweetness, but they're not too sweet.  Plus, the dates provide lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals that sugar lacks.  I used organic pitted deglet noir dates.

3.  My husband and kids love them.  While Oliver will pretty much eat anything, the other two are picky!

4.  They satisfy my never-ending need for a quick and easy healthy snack for all of us.


back to school breakfast: protein packed granola is a great alternative to store bought cereal

I have a love-hate relationship with cereal.  I love it because it's easy- my 4 year old can make it himself and my kids really like it.  And I hate it because it lacks real nourishment: it's typically low in protein, processed, and high in sugar.  It also goes right through my kids leaving them hungry 30 minutes after eating.  I've spent my fair share of time in the cereal aisle and have yet to find anything that's a great choice.  Sure, there are some fine choices, but nothing that comes anywhere close to this recipe for real nutrition and staying power!

This recipe for Nut Butter Granola is super nutrient's the breakdown:

  • 15 grams of protein and only 6 grams of sugar per 1/2 cup serving!  
  • healthy fats including omega-3s and lauric acid to boost immunity
  • 1/2 cups meets the recommended daily amount of zinc and magnesium for young children (2 nutrients most kids AND adults don't get enough) 

And here's the recipe:

2 Tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup butter (ideally grass fed, like Kerrygold)
1/2 cup nut butter
1/4 cup real maple syrup (plus or minus depending on your family's taste preferences)
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 cups oats
1/2 cup pistachios*
1 cup cashews*
1 cup pumpkin seeds*

1. Combine the oil, butter, nut butter, maple syrup and vanilla in a sauce pan and heat on low until combined
2. Pulse the cashews, pumpkin seeds and pistachios lightly until some are broken up but some remain whole (I only do this because my 2 and 4 year old prefer the nuts to be broken down).
3. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir adding cinnamon and salt
4. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and cook at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until it begins to dry (the timing may vary depending on your oven and taste preferences).

* You can use any nuts and seeds that you like but I use these because they're some of the highest in protein, magnesium and zinc.


Read more about why zinc and magnesium are such important nutrients for our kids and ourselves here.

the best vitamins and supplements for children

Do you give your child a multivitamin?  What about other supplements?  Since school is back in session and we have less control over what and who our child is exposed to (aka less than ideal food and germs), it's a good time to consider your child's diet and potentially supplements.

Most children don't eat perfectly balanced diets most days (if any).  In fact, less than 20% of kids get the required 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.   Additionally, a child's diet, appetite and affinity for healthy food can change daily- every day is different around here!  So when I'm asked if I give my children a vitamin and if I think it's necessary, my response is "most of the time it can't hurt, and can really help."

So what is the right multivitamin for kids and what other supplements do kids need?

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