Monday, October 26, 2009

No milk, no problem

One of my goals for this blog is to reach out to other people who are dealing with dairy allergies or intolerances. I don’t want to focus exclusively on it because there are too many foods I love that contain dairy (especially cheese…yum!), but I do hope to eventually become a resource for those who are forced into, or choose, a dairy-free life. I plan to give tips on great dairy-free products, ordering at restaurants, modifying recipes to make favorite foods dairy-free, and talking to kids about why they can’t have cake and ice cream at their friends’ birthday parties.

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.


  1. She licked the couch? Hahahahahaha!

    And that cake is very impressive!

  2. I am so happy to see the cake as Scott was telling me about it last night and how impressive it was!!! WOW it is great!!

    Grandma & Grandpa Mike keep hoping that Sydney will outgrow her allergy. When she comes to visit or I am visiting them, I have definitely turned into a label reader as I always fear I might give her something that contains dairy.

  3. Someone else that gets an itchy tongue!! I get it when I have a fever, it's the WEIRDEST feeling. If it happens to your daughter again, try giving her an ice cube or a popsicle, something frozen, that's what helps me.
    The things on your list of dairy vs non made me go 'huh!' at first but then I thought about how I make them myself - fried chicken uses buttermilk in the breading, but frosting usually uses oil/Crisco (bleah)... but roasted turkey?! WHY would you use any sort of dairy in roasted turkey?! Bizarre.

  4. THANK YOU. I have been denying/avoiding the fact that my little ones (three and 19 mo.) have dairy allergies. For the (third?) time, I let my boy have yogurt and ... dumb. His skin turns purple where the dairy touches him and then his poop... lord. He never seems fussy though... ANYWAY. Can't wait to hear what you can suggest!



  5. The kiddos are gonna love that CAKE!! very cute!

  6. Beth - have you taken the kids to an allergist? They might be able to help you determine whether it's a true allergy or just an intolerance. Although usually an immediate response on the skin indicates an allergy. The best thing to do is to just cut it out of their diets completely for a few weeks, then try adding a small amount back in and see if you notice a difference. I hate that there's no better way than trial and error, but unfortunately there doesn't seem to be.

  7. That is some cake! I'm assuming you used a mold and some decorating tips... did you take classes? My mom does a lot of cake decorating but she's taken numerous classes. Funny, I could've sworn this summer Sydney ate cheese, would you have given her non-dairy cheese at your mom's?