Jul 29, 2013

A Dairy Free Life

I love milk.
I love cheese.
I typically drank 2-3 gallons of milk a week, by myself.
And now I have been dairy free since April.
Because this face is worth it.
3.5 months ago I was told by my sons Pediatric Gastroenterologist (GI) that I needed to cut all dairy and major sources of soy if I wanted to continue breastfeeding Davy. I was also told that since he is a preemie, he is better on breastmilk than on the hypoallergenic, dairy- and soy- free formula due to caloric needs. The formula he could have is a very expensive, prescription-only formula that is just amino acids. And not high enough in calories for a preemie.
So the pediatrician told me that it was healthiest for Davy to get breastmilk and advised that changing my diet was the best thing for him *if* I could really stick to it.
Basically, Davy needs breastmilk and the breastmilk he gets can't be dairy tainted.
If I ingest dairy, Davy gets blood in his stool. The milk protein causes his intestines to bleed. It causes mucus to build up in his body, which comes out in his diapers and gives him a horrible cough that breaks my heart. He also gets red hives around his mouth and a very angry bottom. The elimination of diary from my diet ended his colic, helped his reflux, and resulted in a cheerful happy baby who sleeps through the night (versus sleeping in 90 minute chunks). His whole personality changed with the elimination of dairy. We finally met this little guy at the end of April when he was 3.5 months old.
At his initial diagnosis in April, Davy was diagnosed with a dairy intolerance which has similar symptoms to an allergy but no possibility of being dangerous or fatal because it is purely a gastroenterological response. At a later visit his diagnosis was changed to an allergy as his symptoms expanded to include a skin reaction and the mucus issues became more apparent and severe.
The difference between an allergy and an intolerance is small but important. Davy has an allergy not an "allergy" or an intolerance. I am shocked by the number of people who casually throw the word allergy around to refer to a mild upset stomach or an eczema reaction. Those are intolerances, not allergies. If you or your child can still eat the food it probably isn't an allergy. If avoidance is a choice it isn't an allergy. The word allergy seems to be used in a vague and all-encompassing way to refer to any sort of discomfort after eating. This really complicates explaining the severity of Davy's reaction.
True food allergies are serious and, in rare cases, can even be fatal. Intolerances are much more common and usually less serious than allergies. Food intolerances may produce symptoms similar to food allergies, like abdominal cramping and even bloody diapers, but while people with true food allergies must avoid the foods altogether, people with food intolerance can eat small amounts of the intolerated food without experiencing symptoms and without any threat to their life or risk of an emergency room visit.
So I eat no dairy.
Since eliminating dairy, I have been faced with many various reactions. The most common response I have gotten is shock that I would sacrifice so much to breastfeed. Many of my friends and even some family don't understand why I have not switched to formula. But the hydrolysate formulas would run hundreds of dollars a week (one person told me they spend $50 for a 14oz can) and it isn't as healthy for my sensitive little guy. Sacrificing my own diet has made breastfeeding harder. It has made eating harder. It has made everything harder. But, it is worth it. Because I know that Davy is getting the best possible nourishment designed specifically for him to meet his changing needs at each life stage. I know what is in it. I know that it is safe.
This means I have cut many processed foods like bread, crackers, cookies, cakes, prepared meats, soups, gravies, butters, and even some products that say "non-dairy". I spend much of my time in the grocery store reading labels. We have found suitable breads. I make my own brownies. I found a (yes, just one) casserole we like that doesn't use cheese. Or "cream of" something. We eat a lot of tacos. And brisket. And the last 3.5 months have been okay. I know that I am giving Davy and Tripp the best source of nourishment available to them, regardless of the sacrifice I have to make.
Davy will no longer have all of his foods filtered through my body. His reaction will no longer be tempered by me. And we have been warned extensively of the possibility that his reaction to milk protein when he ingests it could be serious. For this reason, the GI recommended I make my own baby food (risk of cross contamination and even minute amounts can be dangerous) and we introduce foods slowly and methodically.
We have all the hope in the world Davy will outgrow this (80% of children do) and plan to have him tested and retested if necessary. But until then, we are being exceedingly cautious about every little thing that enters his body. So when you think we are overreacting or being overprotective, we aren't. We are being just the right amount of protective.
Because Davy has an allergy. In the true potentially life threatening sense of the word.

1 comment:

  1. I feel your pain! My son was allergic to dairy and soy as well. He was such an unhappy guy until we figured it out when he was 2 months old. I then eliminated dairy and soy from my diet and he became such a happy baby. I eliminated for 6 months before slowly adding stuff back in. He thankfully outgrew his allergies by 8 months. Most people thought I was crazy for making the sacrifices I did to continue breastfeeding, but it has been so worth it. Today he is 16 months old and still breastfeeding. Kudos to you for making this sacrifice for your beautiful son!