Family Life

Underreaction vs. Overreaction And The Problem With Milk


Last weekend was really rough on the family and I, but especially on Atlas. Jeremy and I knew that our little vacation to South Padre last month would be hard on the kids. So when we got home and I saw that Atlas’ eyes were swollen, I thought, “Wow. He hasn’t slept well at all!” Because he’s very attached to us and I knew being without us for four days would be rough for him.

So I did what any mom would do. I cuddled him like crazy and made him take more naps. And his eyes got better for a little while, but then they swelled back up.

“It’s just allergies,” we both thought.

We took him to the doctor and saw the nurse practitioner.

“Yep. It’s allergies,” she said. And gave us a prescription for Zyrtec.

We gave him the allergy medicine for a week and didn’t see much improvement. So we took him back to the doctor. This time to see Atlas’ pediatrician and not the nurse practitioner. He was immediately concerned about how pale Atlas was. And Jeremy and I were just confused. He didn’t look pale to us. And he wasn’t acting sick at all. He still played normally. It was just the puffy eyes that worried us.

Atlas’ pediatrician took some blood and the results left us absolutely dumbfounded. His hemoglobin count (in his red blood cells) is supposed to be in the 10 – 12 range. Atlas’ hemoglobins were at a 3.5. Which meant that he was severely anemic and would need a blood transfusion.

Mouth open.

What the heck?

The doctor said he was stable, so there would be no need for an ambulance. But that we needed to get to the Emergency Room as fast as possible…

I have a hard time processing it all even as I write this. I was so shocked and confused. The whole way to the E. R. (longest drive of my life) I was worrying, crying, and blaming myself. Why didn’t we bring him in as soon as we saw his puffy eyes? Why didn’t I demand he see the doctor the week before and NOT the nurse practitioner? What caused him to be anemic? I had to receive a blood transfusion when I was 7 months pregnant with Shade, but that’s because I had severe hemorrhaging. Atlas wasn’t hemorrhaging. He hadn’t lost any blood. So what happened? I tried VERY hard to keep thoughts of Leukemia or other types of cancer out of my mind, but I knew the possibility was there and I felt so helpless.Pastel Carousel - Family and Parenting - Milk Can Inhibit Iron and Cause AnemiaAt the E. R. everyone kept commenting on how pale he was and asking if it was his normal color.

“We can’t tell a difference,” we’d say.
“Has his stomach always been big like this?” They’d ask.
“For the most part, yeah,” we’d say.

And this is what sucks about being a parent when your child is an emergency situation. You either underreact to the situation or you overreact. If I had demanded bloodwork the first time we took Atlas to the doctor, everyone would’ve treated me like I was a crazy out-of-my-mind mom. Like I was completely overreacting to something that was obviously just “allergies”. But waiting until this point…to the point of having to rush him to the E. R…I felt like everyone wanted to know WHY we didn’t notice sooner. Why we underreacted and thought it was just allergies. Why we didn’t notice that he was pale or that his tummy was too big. It’s a no-win situation. As parents, we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

And then I overheard some nurses in the E. R. talking about us.
“Did you see how big his stomach is?” said one nurse.
“Oh, I know. And his parents were all ‘this is his normal color!'” said another nurse.
And then they laughed and I almost lost it.

The only reason why I didn’t lose it is because I was plain sick with worry. They were having a hard time getting an IV into Atlas and THAT’S where my mind was. Praying. Lots of praying.Pastel Carousel - Family and Parenting - Milk Can Inhibit Iron and Cause AnemiaThey took X-rays of his body, a urinalysis, and did a sonogram on his stomach. Everything came back normal. Nothing was wrong with his stomach at all. (Thank God.) They were finally able to get the IV into his little arm and they immediately started the blood transfusion. By this point, Atlas was so exhausted that he passed out as soon as the transfusion started. We were admitted into a room and his transfusion continued through the night.Pastel Carousel - Family and Parenting - Milk Can Inhibit Iron and Cause AnemiaPastel Carousel - Family and Parenting - Milk Can Inhibit Iron and Cause AnemiaHe had three blood transfusions. Each one of them lasting 4 hours (so 12 hours all together) and a total of one unit of blood. The doctor said she wanted to give him the blood as slow as possible because that’s how he lost the blood.Pastel Carousel - Family and Parenting - Milk Can Inhibit Iron and Cause AnemiaPastel Carousel - Family and Parenting - Milk Can Inhibit Iron and Cause AnemiaWhich brings me to the culprit behind this whole ordeal: MILK

Too much milk. We would give him a bottle at nap times and bedtime. It was probably 24oz – 32oz, depending on the day. And that was too much for his body. It was replacing food in his belly (which I noticed he was eating less, so I had started to cut back on his milk already) and not only that, but milk and all dairy products were blocking the absorption of IRON in his system. And that’s what caused him to be anemic.Pastel Carousel - Family and Parenting - Milk Can Inhibit Iron and Cause AnemiaPastel Carousel - Family and Parenting - Milk Can Inhibit Iron and Cause AnemiaMy mind was blown. I know too much of anything is bad for you, but this is milk we’re talking about. I never knew it actually worked to INHIBIT iron absorption in the body. I mean, I thought I was giving him something nutritious and good for his body. When in reality I was slowly poisoning Atlas to death without even realizing it!Pastel Carousel - Family and Parenting - Milk Can Inhibit Iron and Cause AnemiaPastel Carousel - Family and Parenting - Milk Can Inhibit Iron and Cause AnemiaWe’re back home now and we’re all recovering from this ordeal. The blood transfusions raised Atlas’ hemoglobins to a 9! Which is amazing, but we still have some work to do to get him back to that 10 – 12 range. He’s no longer allowed to drink milk. He is allowed to eat yogurt and cheese to make up for his need for calcium. He’s also on iron medicine. Needless to say, we’re watching his diet VERY closely.

I see the difference in him now. I see the change in his color. He was losing iron so gradually that neither me, nor Jeremy, could see how pale he was getting over time. I see how happy and full of energy he is now and his appetite is AMAZING. But he’s very bummed about not having milk anymore.

Jeremy and I are so incredibly proud of Atlas. He was so brave and had such an amazing attitude through everything. He definitely cried at times, but he never threw a big tantrum or tried to fight anybody off. He slept right through his transfusions and woke up ready to go home and play. He’s such an amazing and STRONG little man. We love him so much!aath6If you’d like more information on foods that inhibit iron absorption, I found the website to be very helpful. You can visit it here. I mean, it says that broccoli is high in calcium! I didn’t know that either.

And a huge thank you to everyone who has ever donated blood. Your blood donations absolutely save lives!

Parents, do you ever feel like you can’t escape overreacting or underreacting to medical situations involving your children? Is it even possible to just REACT and not be judged? And did you know about the effect that milk has on iron absorption? Please comment because I’d like to know!

Let’s keep in touch!

12 thoughts on “Underreaction vs. Overreaction And The Problem With Milk

  1. I’m so sorry you and poor little Atlas had to go through such an ordeal! What a little trooper he is! I’m so glad that his problem was discovered and now you know how to keep him healthy. It’s so hard when your child isn’t well, and being judged about how you handle the situation is so wrong, especially when doctors write you off when you first come in with a concern. It’s so wrong. I diet and how bodies process nutrients should be something covered a lot better in schools. Shouldn’t we all know how our bodies work and what they need? You’d think this would be common information since we all have bodies! It seems that there is an information whole somewhere. It always feels good once you learn important information. Thank you for sharing your new found knowledge with us all so that we too can be informed and aware.

    1. Thank you Stephanie! Yes he’s a strong little man to go through all that and come out smiling. I absolutely agree with you. I can’t tell you how many people that I’ve talked to had no idea that calcium blocks the absorption of iron. AND I’ve heard from two different mommies that their doctor just put their toddlers on iron medicine because “it’s really hard for kids to get iron at this age.” So I feel like doctors are starting to understand the problem, but people definitely need to be educated about it. Whether the information is from doctors or teachers – or both! Toddlers cling to milk for security and comfort, but parents need to understand the downside to that. Thank you for taking the time to comment! ❤

  2. Awwwwwww I am so sorry that happened to baby Atlas! I am very glad to know he is doing better. When I see my friends posting pics of their children getting blood transfusions it breaks my heart. Hopefully this will be his first and only time. 😦 Your family will be in my prayers. Stay strong, he will get better before you know it. 🙂

    1. Thank you for your sweet words! So far he’s doing MUCH better. He has so much more energy than before. I can hardly keep up with him, haha. I know blood transfusions are necessary at times, but yeah they’re definitely hard on families. I’m doing everything I can to make sure he never has to go through that mess again. Even though he kind of hates me for taking away his milk, hah! Thank you so much for your prayers ❤

  3. Oh my goodness I would have freaked out! I am so sorry that you and your family had to go through this. I am not a parent myself but I know that seeing sick little ones is the absolute worst. I am just so glad they were able to take care of him. I am sending you lots of hugs!!

    1. Yep I absolutely freaked out! And seeing your baby having to go through that is definitely the worst. Thankfully he seems to be doing better. It’s almost time for his follow-up to make sure everything is going well with him. You’re so sweet Hilary. Thank you for your kind words ❤

  4. Bless him and what a worrying time for all of you. He has the most amazing eyelashes for a little chap. I hope he’s well on the way to recovery now.

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