It all started on a Tuesday morning when our eldest son had blood in his poop. That's right, blood.
The poor guy had a dairy and soy intolerance that didn't rear its ugly head until about 2 months of age-- a common age when the body begins to counteract foods and substances that it can't break down. Unbeknown to us, dairy (and most likely soy, too) were gathered in his gut, eating away at the lining of his stomach (hence the blood).
So Praise Jesus we live in modern America and a dairy and soy intolerance are like a cake walk for a pediatrician, right? I'm pretty sure we called the doctor's office, explained symptoms, they diagnosed him on the phone, and it was like NO BIG DEAL when we came in later that day.
I, on the other hand, was a bit shaken. Sure, not at first. He was happy and growing (a lot). But I remember getting to work imagaining his little stomach feleing like crap and regretting every butter croissant, venti latte, and buttery baked goodie. Seriously. I took on the guilt of not only being a working mom figuring out how to shut off work at home, but the guilt of eating things I didn't know he was allergic to.
Despite the public's naive understanding of breastmilk, breastmilk is not an entirely my babies.
So, two years ago I re-hauled my diet and removed every single ounce of dairy and soy. I did the same exact thing after Teddy was born last summer.
Here are the nuts and bolts of removing/replacing dairy (and sometime's soy):
Learn How to Read Ingredients
Go Dairy Free is a game-changer book because there's a section devoted to debunking the ingredients on the back of processed food labels, explaining what is: 'totally dairy,' 'likely dairy,' and 'rarely dairy.'
Find Your Favorite Replacements for Your Favorite Foods
I'll throw some serious bows in search of Immaculate's double chocolate chip cookie found in the refrigerated aisle at Sprouts. They are the best, gooey chocolatey fix that I've found both ready to eat, without dairy and soy, and without the hassle of buying all the crazy special ingredients. Thumbs up to Amy's cheeseless, roasted vegetable frozen pizza too. I'm not a fan of fake cheese so when we want pizza, this baby hits the spot.
Be Prepared for Tons of Questions from Family and Friends
If your close friends and family aren't familiar with breastfeeding logistics and/or the basics of food intolerances and allergies, avoiding dairy because your breastfeeding your little one might come at them like a ten ton semi. Take a breath and just know that you're not alone in fielding the question, "So you can have butter though, right?"
Consider Making an Allergy Card
Finding dairy and soy accommodations can be harder than one might think when you eat out. A lot of restaurants rely on pre-made staples that have sneaky dairy and soy ingredients (whey, butter, soybean oil, soy sauce, soy protein), leaving you with a wilty salad and plain noodles. Having an allergy card can help empower you and your server to alert the chef to your allergies and put you at ease when you go out to eat with others. Here's the card I downloaded and filled out. In addition to the allergens, I added common foods with those allergens (i.e. butter, vegetable oil).
Pro Tip: Calling ahead to restaurants and talking to staff about suggested accommodations or looking at menus online beforehand can help make ordering and just being out in general a lot more enjoyable.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
Cutting out an entire food group home to both Haagen Daaz and Maple Bar donuts is not an easy task. Props to you for giving it a go.
If it proves to add too much stress or cost too much, or if it's just not your jam and you want your baby to have formula-- do it! There's no shame in any game as long as your baby and you are fed and healthy. I've done both routes (I stopped with Zeke at 4 months and I'm dragging my heels and still nursing Teddy at 8 months). Cut yourself some slack.
I hope the suggestions above are helpful if you've joined the band of women having to pass on the queso because of their sweet babies. If you're a dairy-free mama or if you've always avoided the goodness of cheese and butter, what tips do you have? Any favorite sources for recipes?
My last note: At the end of the day, going without cheese, butter, creams, and other dairy protein ingredients isn't the end of the world or that hard. Processed or unprocessed soy is what I found to be harder. We talked to an allergist and you can read more about it, but we believe 'Soy Lecithin' is OK. So when you look at your favorite processed foods and see soy lecithin, know that for some folks, that's OK.
Any lecithin is an emulsifier so nearly 99% of the time there's no allergen protein (in this case soy protein) that could cause a reaction. When you have an allergy or intolerance, it's the protein that really needs to be watched.
This note is just my opinion and what I did. This is not medical fact or medical advice-- I'm not a doctor.