Monday, October 26, 2009
No milk, no problem
When my daughter Sydney was six months old, I gave her milk-based formula for the first time. Within minutes, hives started sprouting up around her lips and chin. I thought maybe it was related to the nipple on the sippy cup, possibly a latex allergy. But within 15 minutes, her entire body was covered in hives. She threw up about an hour later, and threw up at least two more times after that. When she was tested by an allergist, it was confirmed that she had an allergy to cow’s milk.
I was instructed to remove all traces of dairy from her diet. This meant that I would not only have to avoid the obvious, like milk, cheese and yogurt, but I would also have to start decoding labels, looking for words like “whey” and “casein” and “curds.” I have to say, all of my label-reading has taught me a LOT. Even after 2.5 years, I am still continually surprised by which foods do or do not contain dairy. Here are just some of the foods that have confounded me.
Oreo cookies are dairy-free.
Many pre-made cake frostings are dairy-free.
Many taco seasonings contain dairy.
Almost everything on the menu at Chik-Fila except the fruit cup & waffle fries contains dairy.
The roasted turkey at Boston Market contains dairy.
Some pre-packaged cinnamon buns are dairy-free.
Some canned chicken noodle soup contains dairy.
I could go on and on…
Unfortunately there is no cure for a milk allergy, except hopefully time. There are varying statistics about when and how many children outgrow their allergies. Here is a recent statistic I found, based on a study of 800 children with milk allergies:
• 19% outgrew it by age 4
• 42% outgrew it by age 8
• 64% outgrew it by age 12
• 79% outgrew it by age 16
When Sydney’s allergy was first diagnosed, I was hoping she’d be part of the group that outgrew her allergy early. Sydney just turned three, and her allergy is still going strong. Just the other day, she accidentally grabbed her sister’s milk-filled sippy cup and took a swig. She immediately spit it out, and then spent the next 10 minutes scratching her tongue. She was even licking the couch at one point to try to get the itchy tongue feeling to stop.
While I still hope she outgrows it relatively soon, it’s become part of life for us. I call her allergy a blessing and a curse: a curse because it’s inconvenient; a blessing because it has forced me to look closer at the foods my kids eat, and also forced me to be creative in the kitchen.
One thing I’ve discovered is that almost any dish that is not primarily reliant upon cheese as its main ingredient can be made into a dairy-free version. So life without dairy is definitely not void of pleasure. If you need reassurance of this, check out the cake I just made for Sydney’s birthday (shameless self-congratulating, I know….but I slaved over that thing for 4 hours, so I need to pat myself on the back a little).
So if you know anyone who has kids with dairy allergies, or is allergic to dairy themselves, please send them my way. I'd love to trade ideas & tips, and would also be happy to guide anyone who is new to this and overwhelmed.