Sunday, January 24, 2010

Living Without Dairy

When I was a kid I loved milk. I didn't drink much else. When I was 11-years-old, I developed a scalp condition similar to an infant's cradle cap. My hair was coming out in clumps. The diagnosis? Cow's milk allergy. Our solution? Dairy goats. We raised dairy goats from then until I left for college 7 years later. At that point I gave up drinking milk altogether. I would have regular old cow's milk on a bowl of`cereal, but that was all. I never realized how dairy-dependent my diet was until the past 4 months.

When my little Oliver was born at the end of August, I was determined to breastfeed him as I had done my second son, Carter. My sweet husband hates to see me put any of the responsibility for my oldest's autism on to myself, but I can't help but wonder how things might have been different if I had nursed him as well. I'm not burdened down with guilt over it--I made the best decision for myself at the time--but the fact remains that I had a bottle-fed child with a developmental disability and a breastfed child without one. I had no plans to test out the odds with my third.

Getting started brought the same blood, sweat, and tears as it had the last time, but I was too stubborn to throw in the towel. However, we soon faced an unexpected element to the whole mix. The peeling skin typical of post-term babies seemed unusually persistent and began to intensify around Oliver's face in a way that made us believe it was not typical after all. In addition, he was excessively fussy and gassy and his stool was bright green. Based on my history, Austin's subsequent dairy troubles, and what we turned up with a little research, it seemed we were dealing with an allergy to the cow's milk protein that was passing on to him from what I was consuming.

Removing milk and cheese from my diet brought swift improvement, but there were still some lingering symptoms. It took some serious digging to discover all the many sources of dairy there were in my diet. Did you know that there's only one type of margarine in my grocery store that is totally diary-free? Did you know that English muffins have milk in them? How about breadcrumbs? (I found this out after making a meatloaf and spending a sleepless night with a cranky, miserable baby afterward.) Tastykakes, salad dressing, croutons, fish sticks, crackers, chips, cookies, the list is extensive. Not only that, but I was surprised to discover how many of my favorite meals are made with milk or cheese. As for restaurants? Forget it. Pretty much any roll, biscuit, or breaded item is off limits. It has been truly miserable, though I would have to credit this situation with forcing me to rely less on prepared foods and go the homemade route more.

Formula is out of the question. Our one attempt to supplement with soy resulted in a violently ill baby who kept nothing down for 5 hours. So I continue to breastfeed, dreaming of having a bowl of cereal, and trying very hard to not imagine the summer with no pizza or ice cream ahead of me.


  1. You poor thing and your pictures crack me up. I remember going through similar things with Gracie and it was miserable. I felt deprived of all the good foods in the world yet guilt ridden if I wanted to sneak in a yummy piece of cheese. I'm sure I've told you this but mine was thankfully resolved after a trip down to the head pediatric allergic at Hopkins. Gracie was a little over a year old. I hope the time goes quickly for you and that Oliver improves with time!

  2. :-(

    I am imagining that dairy free is as hard as my gluten-free friends out there. I'm sorry! If it helps, I've had to drastically cut back on my love of cheese in my new food/calorie watching. At least you know that you can have it back when breastfeeding is done!

  3. That is so amazing that you figured out what the problem was. You go girl.

  4. Lorien~I've read that babies usually outgrow these milk issues. Often by 6 months. That would be lovely if that would be true in our case, but I'll certainly survive either way.

    Heidi~Having done the gluten-free and dairy-free diet for Austin in the past, I have to say they are comparable. Lots of hidden ingredients. And cheese is really everywhere, isn't it?

    Kimberly~We were just guessing, but the results seem to have proven us right.