Our sweet Lincoln was two weeks old when he was diagnosed with a milk protein allergy. I was surprised at the time, but looking back, I knew something was “off” just by how his skin looked.
I was scrolling through my phone deleting old photos over the weekend and I came upon the ones I took of his skin in those early days and it just broke my heart.
It’s very emotional to look back on these photos because his skin was so bad guys…so, so bad. I’ve never shared these photos because it still pains me to look at them.
I remember feeling panicked when his skin got this bad. I texted Kevin these photos and I had already booked an appointment with the pediatrician. This couldn’t be normal, right? It was far more than just “baby acne” and it was getting worse each day.
At our appointment, his diapers tested positive for blood and combined with his other symptoms (very gassy, overly fussy, bad-smelling diapers, etc), the doctor told me he had a milk protein allergy and that I should eliminate dairy from my diet if I wanted to continue breastfeeding.
The reason I’m sharing these photos now is because it’s truly amazing how much better he’s doing and I want to celebrate that. I also want to share a little bit about this journey of changing my diet and what kinds of foods I eat now.
It took a full eight weeks for the dairy to be completely out of my system and his. It was a long road to finally get good results, but with each passing week his symptoms improved. There were days I felt discouraged because he would have a bad diaper or was really gassy or fussy, but now at almost four months old, he’s doing well and is a happier baby overall, sleeps better and is growing perfectly.
I love to eat and I love cheese, lattes and butter. Changing my diet wasn’t easy, but breastfeeding is important to me and I wanted to provide my milk for a year like I did with Harper. Plus, hypoallergenic formulas are absolutely amazing, but they’re also incredibly expensive and often not covered or fully covered by insurance. I didn’t want to go that route if changing my diet could work, so I stopped eating dairy the day he was diagnosed.
Below are my tips if you’re also facing this as well as a little bit about what I eat.
I immediately joined a Facebook group to connect with other moms who were also on the same diet for breastfeeding. It helped tremendously to feel encouraged and to see the progress so many of the babies had made. The group has over 3,000 members so it’s wonderful for getting feedback about symptoms, meal ideas and favorite snacks, etc.
Another way I have been incredibly supported is by my wonderful in-laws. They have truly been the most generous, incredible people (and they always are, but I’ve been really touched at how supportive they’ve been about this in particular). They immediately started looking into dairy-free meals and they cook a meal that we can all eat and make enough to last us almost a week. I cannot adequately express just how thankful I am for their support in this journey. Were it not for those meals they so lovingly make, I honestly would probably just eat the same thing every night. It’ so hard for us to cook after work now that we have two kids and Kevin no longer works from home, so having this ready-to-eat food here has been amazing, especially as we are adjusting to life as a family of four and me going back to work.
I love my lattes, so I make them with almond or coconut milk now. My Starbucks order is no a coconut milk latte with either vanilla or gingerbread syrup. I also found almond milk creamer for my coffee that I keep at work.
I haven’t found a substitute for cheese, but I eat a ton of humus and guacamole now as well as honey mustard on my sandwiches. For salads I use olive oil and balsamic vinegar or I buy the few that are dairy-free. Zoe’s Kitchen has an in-house dressing you can buy that is dairy free and delicious!
RESEARCH & READ LABELS
There are so many wonderful resources for dairy-free eating. I like Go Dairy Free and MSPI MAMA (Pinterest is a great place for recipes too!) I’ve also become a pro label reader and have this “hidden dairy” cheat sheet saved on my phone.
Anytime I eat out, I first google the name of the restaurant or fast food place and check out their allergy menu. Go Dairy Free has a good list here, but you can also just google “name of restaurant + allergy menu” and find out that way what’s safe to order.
EAT ALL THE OREOS!
How can “milk’s favorite cookie” be dairy free? I don’t know, but by some act of God, they are and they happen to be my favorite cookie so I basically binge-eat them. Did you know that Girl Scout Thin Mints are VEGAN? I may have ordered
a few ten boxes.
REMEMBER YOUR CALORIC NEEDS
When you’re nursing or pumping, you need more calories to keep your supply up. I calculated that with the amount of ounces I produce, I burn about 800 calories a day just from pumping. So I need to make sure I’m eating often and enough to maintain my supply. That can be more difficult on a limited diet, but I have found it to be less limiting than I thought it was.
FOCUS ON THE GOOD
As I just said, going dairy-free was much easier than I imagined it would be. Yes, there is hidden dairy in a lot of things, but I eat a ton of salads with a protein and lots of veggies, Stacy’s pita chips with humus or guacamole, vegan or dairy free burritos (Amy’s makes good ones), UDI bread with turkey and honey mustard, fruit, peanut butter, nuts, many Kind brand bars are dairy free…basically I never feel deprived! (except when I see someone eat pizza or queso). Many flavors of the Kettle brand chips are dairy free so you can have treats too. I’m also obsessed with boom chicka pop popcorn (some flavors are vegan). Sure, you can’t eat milk, cheese, butter or yogurt, but there is a ton you CAN eat and I focus on that. We even make mashed potatoes with almond milk!
Seeing Lincoln improve so much over the last few months has been a blessing and though we still have some bumps in the road with some questionable diapers sometimes, he has come such a long way.
If you have any specific questions, please leave me a comment. If you’re a mom just starting out on this journey— just know that it gets easier and your baby will get better.