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The Inspiration Behind Jack's Pantry: My Allergy Story
Our story started with Jack, the inspiration and the reason we feel the world needs a one-stop for allergy-friendly baby and toddler food...
Get involved using the hashtag #MyAllergyStory and be part of our community of support for allergy parents! Be sure to tag us @JacksPantryUK on Facebook, @JacksPantry on Instagram, and @JackPantry on Twitter.
Having worked in the childcare industry for 18 years, I always said “Allergies are something we will not have when my child is born”, I had a varied diet full of all things that a pregnant woman would ever want to eat – including cake of course! I craved meat and salty chips throughout my pregnancy, thanks to Man Vs Food (that’s a whole other story though!) but still ate milk, butter, eggs, soya containing products, fruits, veg, literally ANYTHING, except much to my upset Dan didn’t let me eat pate or sushi.
So in July 2016 when Jack was born, unexpectedly brought into this world at 33 weeks gestation I thought parenting would be “easy”, I mean, after all, I have raised many many children in the 18 years and knew what I was doing – right?! WRONG! Since he was premature, my milk didn’t come in in the way I expected, my body wasn’t ready to produce milk, and we didn’t have that bonding experience when he was born, there wasn’t the rush of hormones, and I didn’t get to hold him for days after he was born.
I remember coming around after my c-section “off my face” for want of a better phrase and being handed a syringe and told to provide colostrum…I had NO idea what I was doing or how I was meant to do that; I felt at one stage that I might just let the nurse do it herself as she had a much better idea on what to do than me! Then I was told I needed to keep providing these syringes so they could tube feed my baby who was laying in an incubator hooked up to all sorts of machinery and honestly, I had no clue on how or what or when or how much or quite frankly the slightest idea on what to do! The first drop of milk felt nothing short of a manual miracle, and every drop of milk produced from that point on was a miracle!
Finally, I got to see him and then a few days later hold him; he was reflux-y and hungry beyond any supply I could produce. I sat and pumped every 3 hours willing myself to make more milk than 10mls and then 20mls, then 30mls and my dream upon discharge was to pump 30mls each time so I could go onto a bigger storage bottle! Yes, it was that painstaking! So, in the meantime they were “topping up” his feeds with their formula for preemie babies, and I noticed he was bringing up a LOT of milk after each tube feed, it seemed unnatural, and I cried for him as I knew he was in pain and uncomfortable and I cried for my milk! It does get like that – you can cry over spilt milk, and it’s okay!
The day we brought him home was the scariest and yet most exciting day of our lives, our tiny fragile little boy came home and we thought we had everything under control. As he got hungrier my supply didn’t keep up at first so we had to give him more formula to keep him satiated, we noticed that just after a feed he would scream like you’ve never experienced before, arch his back and go rigid - I knew this wasn’t right and so our fun pursuit of GP’s started. I had a terrible experience with several GP’s who kept saying “He’s just a baby” and a health visitor who could only advise on what was normal for “full-term babies” then I found the gem of all GP’s she was so understanding of our concerns and understood I knew what was “normal” for a baby having had so much experience in this area. She instantly referred me to the paediatrician and dietician and so our allergy journey began! I excluded dairy and soya as the two are closely linked and he started to improve! Hooray!
It wasn’t until we started weaning him that we noticed other reactions to processed food such as bread etc that contained other things, then later on eggs causing a reaction but we just adjusted our weaning journey along the way!
When we went to go out, as Jack had been having mainly home cooked meals we suddenly realised it’s really hard to reheat defrosted meat dishes properly in a portable hot water flask (tommee tippee) and decided we would have to get some “pouches” for meals on the go, however, there were no brands catering for his allergies which amounted to dairy, soy, egg, coconut and palm oil at that stage, we scoured the food aisles and read label after label on all the well-known brands and selected 4 food pouches he could have. The novelty would soon wear thin I was certain of it but fortunately, it was only when we were out and about, however like all food products they change their ingredients so often you have to keep checking. I was asked often why I didn’t just give him falafel or pitta when out but at 9 months old I felt he needed hot food.
Rah Rah (Grandma) also scoured shelves, researched for hours on the internet for a suitable food brand for her precious grandson but found the same – no one catered for the allergy market – unbelievable in this day and age….and so, with the support and backing from Paulo (Grandad), our Co-founder Jack’s Pantry was born, because we never want another parent to have no choice on what to feed their growing little one with allergies and intolerances.
Everything we do at Jack’s Pantry comes from the heart, our heart as we know first hand what a stress having an allergy baby is, and food options shouldn’t be another burden to add to the pile of things going on as a new Mumma!
Since starting our allergy story, we've tried plenty of allergy-free options, and his favourite by far is our Broccoli Curlz! Click here to find them in Jack's Starter Pack, made for new allergy parents to try out new products for their allergy baby!