Learning to live dairy free (because of my newborn)

by Natalie McBrideFeb 01, 2020

Learning to live dairy free (because of my newborn)

It took us eight weeks from birth to learn our daughter had a dairy allergy. Eight weeks of way more than sleepless nights. She wasn’t just fussy, she was inconsolable. It wasn’t just spit up, it was vomiting. What should have settled her, just didn’t. Eight weeks or fifty-six nights…

Now you might think, “Well, gee, those symptoms make it seem pretty obvious.”, but in the blur of postpartum, all I knew was that something wasn’t right. With so many frequent pediatric visits in those first few weeks, we kept trying to get to the bottom of this. She was gaining weight like a champ, so she wasn’t hungry. Everything else was checking out beautifully for her development. One visit he did a very simple fecal test. She happened to have a soiled diaper so he took a small swab and applied it to a litmus test and after two minutes, the results were already available.

Dairy allergy = lifestyle change

Our daughter had microscopic blood in her stool. This meant she had an allergy to one or the other or both of the following proteins that actually pass through breastmilk: dairy and soy. (If you want to learn more, Kelly Mom is a heaven-sent resource especially for breastfeeding mommas.) If I wanted to continue breastfeeding, I had to change my diet immediately. It would take at least two weeks for the dairy to leave my system and then leave her system, so we could check again for the presence of microscopic blood.

If the worst experience breastfeeding my first daughter couldn’t stop me, this lifestyle change certainly wasn’t going to stop me. I could do it – even if I did have a weakness for fine cheese boards, pizza and ice cream. I was going to learn a lot about how much dairy was a part of my daily eating habits. When I went out to eat, I had to scour the menu even more than before. When we made dinner at home, we had to be sure we were careful of our ingredients.

Don’t look back

While I didn’t need dairy-free substitutes, fortunately for me, this happened at a time when more dairy-free options were available. It was kind of amazing how far the grocery offerings had come. Even after breastfeeding, I won’t go back to regular Ben & Jerry’s ice cream; their dairy-free options are absolutely amazing (Chocolate Salted ‘n’ Swirled for me)!

I definitely felt health benefits from going dairy-free. The most notable was nasal congestion. I’ve always had trouble with my sinuses. Now, whenever I got a stuffy nose, (#littlekidgerms plus #nosleep) it was so much less severe now that I was dairy-free. My stomach also didn’t ache after eating cheese, because these were non-dairy/plant-based alternatives. Is it the same as “real cheese”, no way – but it’s amazing how similar it is and when you’re desperate for pizza – it fills the void!

On the right track

Two weeks later, I brought a soiled diaper to my pediatrician for them to test again. #sonotawkward The microscopic blood was gone, which confirmed her dairy allergy. This was a relief to finally know. We’d been spending sleepless nights so concerned about what it was that was causing our newborn such discomfort. Fortunately we were already on the right track to helping her feel better.

One of my girlfriends who is also a certified lactation consultant asked if I was still eating chocolate. I told her only dark chocolate because it doesn’t have milk in it, to which she gently educated me that it does still have milk in it. There it went – my last food love! She assured me there are some really nice vegan chocolates available (like Unreal – it has become a favorite). She was right – and it has saved my cravings!

Sure enough, the vomiting went from slowing down to ceasing and only became normal baby spit-ups. The blood-curdling cries turned into peaceful nursing sessions where she was comforted and not in squirming anguish.

Trust your gut

All newborns are disoriented by their life outside the womb. Their cries are inevitable. Can there really be a difference in their cries? Absolutely. If you have a gut instinct that your newborn is in pain or that something just isn’t quite right – you’re not “just a rookie”; don’t pass it off as nothing. Ask for help. Or if someone asks how things are going – be honest! Be as descriptive as you can about all of the troubling symptoms so you can put yourself, and your baby, at ease.

Today’s Bold Momma

Natalie is co-founder of Baby Boldly, wife to James and mom to Abigail (4 years) and Mabel (1 year). Her passion (alongside pizza and chocolate) is with new moms and dads, striving to empower them for improved birth and postpartum experiences and changing the way society relates to new moms’ and dads’ unique needs.

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