Last week was Allergy Awareness week in New Zealand and, for the first time, this actually meant something to me. Because, as I have mentioned before, our little BabyGirl is allergic to all products that contain cow’s milk. So, I thought it apt that I write a little about our experiences with this, dealing with her reactions and adapting our family to suit her and her needs.
Now, I am well aware that there are far worse allergies out there. I know a child who has an allergy and/or intolerance to most everything. But, dairy products play a larger part in our diet than I ever considered it to. I mean, I’ve never been a milk drinker. So, when I was told, “no dairy”, I thought, easy. Nope.
- How did we learn that she is allergic?
We were somewhat lucky (?!) in that BabyGirl had some relatively severe reactions very young, which meant that by the time she was starting on solids, they were able to test her pretty early on. When she was 3 months old, I decided to go swimming and left the little baby with her Daddy and a bottle of formula. Half an hour after she guzzled the entire 180ml of formula, she started vomiting. And vomiting. And, vomiting. We ended up in the emergency department at the hospital, with the little pet bringing up bile then collapsing on to me. Heartbreaking. At first, they put it down to “probably a tummy bug” and we went home in the morning.
However, a week later and Mr T and I went out for our anniversary, leaving the kids with my sister. Upon our return, the vomiting started again, and back to the hospital we went. This time they said she was clearly allergic to something in the formula, but they had no idea what.
Skip forward two months and we gingerly started giving her solid food. After a meal of custard and egg, she started wretching and screaming. And then, when BabyGirl was 7 months old, Mr T fed her some ice cream and her face flared up instantly, exactly where the ice cream had touched her skin. Bright red. We took her to the doctor that week and they did a full blood test to see exactly what we were dealing with. Frankly, we were pretty happy the day we got the phone call to say, definitely cow’s milk, because it is so much easier to manage something when you know what something is!
- Adjusting to the Change
The biggest challenge when we were told that BabyGirl couldn’t eat dairy any more, was figuring out what had dairy in it, and what didn’t. These days, there are a lot of people who don’t eat dairy products, or who are gluten free, and product packaging reflects this. A lot of things clearly state what allergens are or might be in the product. I was advised to drop dairy from my diet as well initially as I was breastfeeding her and, while I have slowly reintroduced it for myself, it made things easier in the beginning to cut it completely for me as well. The first few times I went to the supermarket, I was there for hours. Reading every. single. label. But, months down the track, I now know a lot of foods that are “safe” for her. Some surprised me, too! Oreos, for example. They are cookies and cream, yet contain no dairy. Some products are dairy free in one brand but not in another.
I found snack food the hardest. Easy, quick foods for a little baby adjusting to solid foods were hard to come by. She couldn’t eat a lot of the rice cake-type things because they are too hard, and she couldn’t eat certain fruits and veges for the same reason. Things like fresh pasta (ravioli, etc) were my “go to” foods with the other kids, yet I couldn’t give them to BabyGirl. But, I learnt.
Another big thing that I learnt the hard way? Parties. Going to a birthday party for another little kid. When a baby is one, they want to eat what other people are eating! They want cake too! I have started making dairy free cakes and cookies when I know we have a party to go to, so I take my own little baggie with her own cake and cookies. Also, we go to a music group once a week and the kids get morning tea afterwards. Again, I take my own little baggie and that’s what BabyGirl eats.
- Reactions and Out Growing the Allergy
We have been advised by the Pediatrician that she *should* outgrow this allergy by the age of three. It was her birthday at the beginning of this month, and though I endeavored to make the food as dairy-free as I could, a couple of dairy items got by. And, within an hour or two of her party, she had an itchy, horrible rash on her chest. That was a shock to us, as months without dairy had lulled us into the false sense that her allergy was waning. Though it is tempting to “test” her and see what reaction she might have, it only takes remembering that little dot in the hospital barely able to hold herself up due to so much vomiting, to remind us that she is not ready.
- Educating the other kids .. and other people
Having a three year old and a four year old in the house makes suddenly banning certain foods a challenge and somewhat unfair, but again, we adapted and they learned to as well. We rarely have ice cream now, and when we do, we make sure there is sorbet for BabyGirl. The older kids have yoghurt, BabyGirl has soy yoghurt. I am learning some really great recipes for the kids to help with – last week we made dairy free chocolate chip cookies (I found dairy free chocolate chips!) which were nicer than other ones I’ve made! The kids have learned not to feed BabyGirl anything without checking with me first, and they are really good about it.
A lot of people assume it’s a lactose intolerance, or, even, my imagination. Which is funny – why would someone deliberately limit their child’s intake of nutritious food? That’s just silly. I tend to ignore these comments – believe me, I hardly have the time to conjure up false allergies for my children!
So, basically, it is what it is. Given the choice, obviously, we would prefer BabyGirl not have these allergies but she does and so we deal with it. I’ve learned a lot about products, I’m a lot more conscious about my shopping and I lived without dairy for a few months and was actually ok with it. Hopefully she outgrows this in the next few years – very few adults have food allergies so we are looking forward to that day. If it doesn’t come, that’s ok too!
And, here is the recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I mentioned, because they are awesome 🙂 And, egg free as well, if you have an egg free child!
Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 Cup Margarine
1/2 C Sugar
1/2 C Brown Sugar
1/4 C Soy Milk
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Salt
2 1/4 C Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
Chocolate Chips (Dairy Free)
Cream the margarine and sugars until fluffy. Slowly add the soy milk and vanilla and mix well. Combine the dry ingredients and add them into the creamed mixture. Add the chocolate chips. Roll onto a baking tray in small balls, bake in a preheated oven (180C) until they are slightly browned (about 8 mins). They will be quite soft when they come out but this makes them super chewy later on!
100% awesomely magical cookies! Pow!
She’s Dairy Free, but she’s still pretty amazing!