I had planned to write this post earlier on in the month but unfortunately we have been in hospital for a second time with Daisy. We’ve been out a week and I’m knocking on as much wood as possible that it will be our last journey there for the foreseeable.
The reason for this post was somewhat inspired by Veganuary because Daisy is allergic to cow’s milk protein. I’ve never written about this before because it’s become a way of life now and something we have dealt with since she was tiny so we know no different. But in light of how common dairy free living is becoming, whether it be from allergies or lifestyle choices, it inspired me to share our journey so far…
I exclusively breastfed Daisy when she was born. Shortly after her arrival she developed baby acne and what the Doctor told us was eczema on her tummy and arms. It’s common in babies her age so we simply applied all the right creams and monitored it. However, around the summer time when she was about 5/6 months old I began to notice that she was scratching herself far more so and to the extent that she would scream and bleed. It was so distressing to watch and have to hold her down, so I spent most of the season indoors covering her hands with socks to stop her hurting herself despairing that there was no cure as the Doctor kept telling us. Certain creams did help to calm the situation, but it wasn’t until I decided to stop breastfeeding that we would learn what the real cause was.
My husband was giving her the first bottle of formula (I was upstairs hiding incase she smelt me and my milk) when he called me as there was a problem. She had drunk 2 ounces but had promptly thrown it all up, had a bright red rash around her mouth and was covered in hives. A panicked trip to the Doctors confirmed that she’d had an acute reaction to cow’s milk and we would be referred to a specialist. In the mean time I was instructed to avoid dairy myself as it would do her no good while I was still breastfeeding. Easier said than done when I was surviving on coffee!
It only took a Specialist at the hospital minutes to confirm that her ‘eczema’ was in fact a reaction to my breastmilk when I had eaten dairy – proof of how sensitive she was to it. I felt terrible but had no idea that I was, in essence poisoning her. After speaking to a wonderful Dietician who assured me I wasn’t to know, I was sent home with a specially prescribed formula and instructions to avoid soya (until she was over a year as it contains hormones unsuitable for a baby), any kind of nut milks and all kinds of dairy, not just cow’s milk produce as she could react to goat, sheep etc.
I was terrified. Up until this point I had been fortunate enough to never have dealt with an allergy before but here I was with a little baby with an acute allergy, formula that the dietician told me she would hate (it was putrid in fairness) and about to start weaning – a daunting task for any new mum at the best of times. Milk, butter, cheese, cream and even whey (a by-product of cheese) was in everything! So I went the only route I knew would be safe, I cooked everything myself from scratch. The fear of her coming into contact with anything milk related was so strong that I would take a packed lunch with me for her and still do now in most cases.
Fast forward to nearly three years later and although she is still highly allergic, I’ve really noticed how far things have come in terms of allergy awareness. The ever-growing vegan trend has bought with it an abundance of free-from-dairy ranges for which I’m hugely grateful for. And in the two and a half years since Daisy was diagnosed, it seems that searching out dairy-free foods is not as hard as it once was. I’m also very lucky that my friends text me when they find something that is dairy free!
The response when I tell people she is cow’s milk allergic has been varied. To begin with I didn’t want to cause a fuss so wouldn’t say anything but I’ve since learned that more often than not people know someone with the same allergy and are extremely sympathetic to it. Most restaurants cannot help me enough, are more than happy to hand over their allergen menu and have even been known to cook something off-menu especially for her! We’ve also been extremely fortunate that Daisy’s nursery are aware and brilliantly accommodating of her allergy. However, sadly I have also been met with reactions that have been far less favourable and in some cases really unhelpful. I’ve also struggled to convey to some that it’s not merely an intolerance where she might get an upset tummy and I’m being fussy – this is an acute allergy with immediate and serious reactions. We had an incident once a long time ago when she was accidentally caught in the crossfire of some cow’s milk – within minutes she was screaming, her eyes were puffy and streaming, her face covered in hives but luckily a dose of Piriton took care of it (something I’m never without these days too). Fortunately the bad experiences have been few and far between though.
Going forward we are hopeful that the likelihood is she will grow out of her allergy. The Dietician I saw when she was two said that most children grow out of it by school age and actually have little memory of it. We started The Milk Ladder a few months ago which aims to gently reintroduce cow’s milk back into her diet through different foods and so far so good, although the biggest problem we have is that Daisy doesn’t like some of the foods on the list such as cake and pancakes!
Having a milk allergic child hasn’t been as daunting as I previously thought. She has coconut milk instead of cow’s milk, sunflower spread instead of butter and she even has dairy-free chocolate advent calendars at Christmas. It can be hard to cook everything from scratch all the time, especially when we go away, but after spending hours in supermarkets staring at labels I’ve discovered Kirsty’s, a lovely range of meals from most supermarkets that are gluten and dairy-free that Daisy enjoys as well as Tesco’s own free from range. Morrison’s also have an extensive free-from section too. It’s also surprising to see how many foods don’t contain milk – more than I had originally thought.
It’s certainly opened my eyes and I am now so much more aware of allergies than I ever was before. When I first learnt of her allergy I felt so terribly sorry for her but now I am confident that Daisy doesn’t miss out or indeed suffer from not eating butter and cheese – in fact some of the dairy-free versions we have tried are as good as the real deal!
Apologies for such a long post! I hope this has helped if you are in the same situation or know someone who is. I’d love to hear from you if you have any advice or tips.
This post was not sponsored, all thoughts and opinions are my own.