The actress and dancer, who is expecting her third child, has two children who suffer with cow’s milk allergy, and hopes to raise awareness about the allergy, for parents who may be unaware of the symptoms and are looking for information.
Jennifer chats to Female First about dealing with CMA and advice for parents to cope with the allergy.
- Hi Jennifer! You have teamed up with Mead Johnson and Allergy UK for the new campaign ‘Is it a Cow’s Milk Allergy (CMA). Could you tell us a little more about this?
Cow’s Milk Allergy is the most common type of food allergy in young children, but it can be difficult to recognise, as symptoms are often mistaken for colic or eczema. So it’s important to know the signs and symptoms to look out for. Both of my two little boys Bobby and Harry have Cow’s Milk Allergy, (CMA) so I have a lot of experience dealing with this condition and understand how hard it can be for families to deal with. ‘Is It Cow’s Milk Allergy’ is an awareness campaign created by Mead Johnson Nutrition in partnership with Allergy UK, to help concerned parents monitor their baby and recognise the potential signs and symptoms of CMA.
- Your two sons suffer with CMA. How aware were you of CMA before you had your children?
I knew absolutely nothing about CMA before my boys were diagnosed, to be honest I found it quite confusing initially as they were not actually drinking cow’s milk. But I found out that it was the cow’s milk protein in the formula milk that Bobby was reacting to. Luckily my mother-in-law spotted the symptoms as my husband had CMA as a baby.
- How do you cope with CMA?
Once CMA is diagnosed and the right advice is given it is not as scary as people would think, but I know that for some mum’s, getting the diagnosis can take time. It’s perfectly liveable with and manageable once the right procedures are put in place.
The scary part is having a very unwell baby and not knowing what is wrong or what to do! Bobby got this awful spotty rash around his mouth, he’d cry all the time and whenever we’d give him a bottle he was constantly being sick. The symptoms weren’t getting any better, and it was becoming distressing for the whole family – putting a strain on mine and my husband’s relationship.”
- Statistics show that 53% of parents who had a baby with persistent crying had their ‘lives turned upside down’. Did it affect your life in any way?
Yes before diagnosis it was a major strain on our relationship we were not sleeping due to the persistent crying; we were stressed out, worried and scared. We blamed ourselves as we were new parents. We could not see a light at the end of the tunnel - it was a very tough time.
- What advice would you give to parents who has a baby who suffers with CMA?
The advice I would give would be to keep a record of your baby’s symptoms and follow the instructions of your GP or health care professional, they know best. Do not panic! I am the perfect example that CMA is totally liveable with. I worry that mums think the symptoms are a sign that they’re doing something wrong so they feel like failures. My mother-in-law told me not to beat myself up about it which put my mind at ease a lot. Initially I panicked – I was terrified about what it would mean in the future; but it’s important that people know that if CMA is diagnosed, it can be managed.”
- How can parents avoid strain on their relationship?
The advice I would give would be not to be too harsh on yourselves - it’s not your fault. Just follow your GPs advice and bear with it.
- You are pregnant with your third child- congratulations! Are you worried that the baby may also have CMA or are you a little more at ease with the information that you have gained?
Thank you! Obviously I have two children with CMA so I am a lot more prepared. I really hope this baby doesn’t have CMA but if it does it’s not the end of the world.
- What are your career plans for the next year?
This year sees the launch of my new TV show Dance Mums which will be featured on the TV channel 'LifeTime'. I'm also moving into my own premises with my Performing Arts school and launching my own Dance Wear range.
For more information visit: www.isitcowsmilkallergy.co.uk