Once upon a time in the land of brats and cheese, a mama and her baby set off on a long journey.
They’d sail through a river of green poo, trek through a jungle of doctor appointments and battle the big bad dairy monster in order to reach their destination: the land of (allergy-free) milk and honey.
Along the way, there were blood-curdling cries, painful kicks to the ribs and many sleepless nights.
But they made it.
We made it.
And we have survived to share our story with you, dear mama, in hopes that you will be equipped and empowered should you find yourself on the same long, exhausted milk-allergy journey.
Defining the Monster:
Milk Allergies 101
Before I delve too deeply into our story, though, let’s answer an important question:
What exactly is a milk allergy?
I don’t know about you, but I thought milk allergy was synonymous with lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is an inability to digest the sugar lactose. It’s extremely rare in infants.
Your baby probably doesn’t have it.
A milk allergy occurs when the immune system launches an attack against the proteins found in dairy (or other foods) because it thinks the body is in danger.
Experts estimate 6-8% of infants are allergic to one or more foods.
Not sure if your baby is one of the 8%? Read on, friend.
Green Poo and the Doctor Too
Our story begins at my son’s two-month appointment when we shared our concerns with our pediatrician.
He grunted and cried constantly. His diapers were explosive, green and mucus-y.
Breastfeeding had turned into an Olympic sport.
Despite all these feeding challenges, his height and weight were off the charts.
His daddy, who could be mistaken for a Chicago Bears lineman, cracks the same joke at every. single. appointment: “I wonder where he gets it from?”
I married a comedian.
Needless to say, our doctor wasn’t too concerned. She suspected he might have reflux and gave us a prescription. The possibility of allergies was mentioned as more of a footnote.
If he didn’t seem to get better, she might want to check his stools for blood. “Most people can’t see it with their naked eye,” she said.
There Will Be Blood
But two weeks later, in a Bed Bath and Beyond bathroom stall, my naked eye saw it.
A flood of panic came over me.
“This can’t be good,” I thought.
Within a half hour of dropping off the diaper at the doctor’s office (they have all the fun jobs), I received a phone call from the pediatrician herself.
Yep, that was a lot of blood. I needed to cut soy and dairy from my diet immediately. And it could take up to two weeks for us to notice any difference.
Battling the Big Bad Dairy Monster
I bid farewell to my beloved ice cream and jumped right into my new dairy-free life.
Sadly, it wasn’t enough.
Another two weeks later, my son was no longer struggling to breastfeed. He was outright refusing it.
The pediatrician had one more trick up her sleeve. She suggested three days on a hypoallergenic formula like Alimentum. If that didn’t work, we might be looking at multiple food allergies.
It was time to see a pediatric gastroenterologist.
Our Knight in Shining Armor
By the time we saw the GI specialist, both breastfeeding AND bottle-feeding were failing us. He just didn’t want to eat.
The doctor listened to our saga and told us that our son was a textbook case. We learned that allergy babies associate eating with pain and often refuse to eat as a result.
He offered two solutions:
- Switch over to an amino-acid formula like Neocate (the most hypoallergenic formula out there). He could almost guarantee it would fix everything, but it was super expensive, and I really wanted to breastfeed if at all possible.
- Try eliminating more foods from my diet. He suggested starting with wheat, then eggs, peanuts and shellfish until we noticed a difference.
We chose option #2.
The Land of (Allergy-Free) Milk and Honey
By four months, I had cut out all the foods he recommended, and we noticed a huge difference.
He was a whole new baby. Happy, healthy, content. I felt like I was meeting my sweet baby boy all over again.
Yes, there were sacrifices. Nursing was no longer an option because he had developed a fear of the breast. Instead, I pumped exclusively until he reached eleven months.
But we made it.
Most milk protein allergy babies outgrow their allergies by a year of age, and our son fit the mold. Today, he eats all sorts of foods with no issues.
We survived and lived to tell our story.
Do You Need to Fight
the Big Bad Milk Monster?
If you suspect you might have a milk protein allergy baby on your hands, here are five lessons to tuck away in your parenting backpack for the journey ahead:
1.) Know what to look for.
The most common symptoms include:
- Skin rash or flushed skin
- Blood and/or mucus in the stool
- Swelling of the face, tongue, or lips
- Excessive spit-up, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Difficulty breathing
2.) Be your doctor’s eyes and ears at home.
I am so thankful for doctors. They can help my babies in ways that I can’t.
With that being said, the doctor sees my child for fifteen minutes every few months. I am with him the other 125,000+ minutes.
Doctors rely heavily on parental observations and input. Help them do their job. Keep notes, ask good questions and stay in constant communication.
3.) Go with your gut.
If I could do one thing differently on my journey, I would have gone with my gut and asked for a stool test at our first appointment. It takes all of 30 seconds, costs pennies and could have spared my baby two weeks of pain.
Woulda shoulda coulda, right?
Friends, God gave us mother’s intuition for a reason. It’s not always right, but it’s usually pretty spot-on. Don’t make my mistake. Go with your gut.
4.) Do what works.
While you wait for answers, you still have to deal with a miserable baby.
My advice? Throw your expectations out the window and do what works.
Before I gave birth, I swore I wouldn’t introduce a pacifier. But then my baby cried…and cried and cried…and I had no other option.
No two infants are the same. You have to find what works for yours.
It’s all about survival, baby.
5.) Choose a Healthy Baby and Mama Over Milk Type
I wholeheartedly support moms who want to keep breastfeeding their allergy babies. If you are able, let me encourage you that the sacrifice is worth the reward.
Three quick cautions, though:
If you’re going to restrict your diet, do it under your own doctor’s supervision.
If your doctor tells you that your baby can’t afford to lose out on calories while you experiment with foods, then consider switching to formula. No guilt allowed.
Remember that your identity has nothing to do with what you feed your baby.
You’re doing great, mama! Now go and smooch that baby of yours.
Helping Each Other Fight the Good Fight
Every good Girl Scout knows that the key to a successful wilderness outing is to “Be Prepared” (a box of thin mints may also help).
I hope that my story has helped prepare you for the allergy adventure that may lie ahead.
I’m sure I’m not the only mama who has earned her “Be Prepared” badge, though.
Calling all milk protein allergy survivors!
- How did you survive your journey?
- Which tools did you have in your backpack?
Help another mama earn her badge, and share your story in the comments.
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