Sunday, March 01, 2009

Allergy woes

I think I mentioned in my 12-month appointment update post that I had asked the doctor to test Makayla for a milk allergy, which the doctor reluctantly did. (Why I have to keep convincing these doctors that I, their mother, DO, in fact, KNOW my children, is beyond my understanding.) The doctor was far more surprised than I was when she called to report that the results came back showing that Makayla is, in fact, allergic to milk. While she's not currently anaphylactic to milk, this type of allergy does have the potential to turn into anaphylaxis, with no warning, so the doctor did prescribe an Epi-Pen, after I asked for it - again, WHY did I have to ask for it?!

The thing is, even though I really did figure she was allergic to milk - it was hard to ignore the bleeding diaper rash after eating yogurt and cheese, the bright red eczema on her face after eating dairy, the red ring around her little bottom, the constant reflux acting up anytime she ate dairy - I hadn't really spent much time thinking about what a positive test would mean for us. It's one thing to say, okay, so she can't have milk, yogurt, cheese. Those are pretty easy to cut out, and cow's milk is easily replaced with rice milk (or soy milk, if you so choose; i chose rice milk for a myriad of reasons). I had even briefly acknowledged, somewhere in my mind, that this would mean I would need to start reading labels on foods, to check for milk. Two things I didn't really spend any time thinking about? Eating out. And breastfeeding.

I'll talk about the breastfeeding first, because it impacts eating out too. Makayla is still nursing, wholeheartedly, and actually probably still gets the majority of her calories from breastmilk rather than from solid food. She is not ready to wean, nor am I ready for her to do so. The doctor said, yes, I need to cut all milk out of my diet too, if I plan to continue to breastfeed. So now I can't have milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, coffee creamer, frozen waffles, or a slew of other things that made up my diet as of 3 weeks ago. I miss cheese. Chicken enchiladas without the cheese? Not the same. Soy sour cream? Not the same.

My first obstacle - finding an acceptable coffee situation for the mornings!! I'm used to using half-n-half, flavored creamer, or the Tassimo cappucino discs for my coffee. All of those are now off limits. "Non-dairy" creamers? Yeah, they're not ACTUALLY non-dairy...they're just lactose free, but they still have sodium caseinate in them, which is from milk, and therefore they are off limits. Soy milk - hate it. Rice milk? Too thin, and by the time I get enough in my coffee to make it light enough, all I taste is rice and no coffee. After a week and a half of trial and error, I finally settled on almond milk mixed with espresso. It's not ideal, but it will do for now.

So not only do I have to read labels on everything - and I DO mean everything - for Makayla, but also for myself. This past week, we had dinner at a friend's house. She was making taco meat with taco seasoning. I asked her to check the ingredients for milk, and she was incredulous to find that sure enough, there was milk in the seasoning. Milk is hiding in everything - bread, onion rings, seasoning, soup,'s crazy. There's also the issue of cross-contamination - when a product doesn't actually have milk in it, but it is made on equipment that is also used to make milk products, or is made in a facility that makes milk products. So far, I am ignoring cross-contamination warnings. Until and unless we see a reaction from a cross-con issue, I'm not taking it that far.

And then, there's eating out. Grabbing a bite to eat on the go has taken on a whole new challenge, because now I can't just stop anywhere and order whatever sounds good. I need to go online first and check their ingredients lists to see what on the menu is safe for me to order...and if I don't, I'm taking a chance on getting a 16-year old who doesn't know and doesn't care at the drive-thru when I ask, "Does your bun have milk in it?"

This week, when we were out shopping, Anthony wanted a little personal pan pizza from the food counter at Target, so I got it for him to eat in the car. He doesn't eat the crusts, and Makayla was starved. We got home, and what I SHOULD have done is run upstairs to get online and check Pizza Hut's website to see if there's milk in their pizza dough. What I did instead was give Makayla the crust and ate some myself, figuring, "The cheese is off...what are the chances there's actually milk in the dough?" After she ate, I put her down for a nap. When she woke from her nap, she nursed, and then promptly threw dough. I checked their website, and sure enough, there's milk in their pizza dough. That night she was up half the night with bad reflux. Way to go, mom.

It also creates challenges with regards to being around other kids...heck, even around her own siblings. Anthony has actually been great about making sure to leave his milk sippy cups either on the kitchen table or in the refrigerator, and he understands that milk will make Makayla sick. He also understands that she can't have cheese, yogurt, or other foods with milk in them. But Mackenzie's formula is dairy, and I have to make sure to not leave her bottles down where Makayla will reach them. And playdates - ack! They're suddenly a scary phenomenon, with little kids and babies walking around with bottles of milk-formula and sippies filled with milk. Makayla is QUITE the bottle/sippy thief, too, and will pick up whatever she finds and drink it. The same day of the pizza dough incident, we were at a playdate, and Makayla got hold of a bottle with milk-formula in it and put it in her mouth. I don't know if/how much she drank...but she got a double-whammy that day.

Another part of the fun is we now get to keep a food journal for her - and for me, since I'm nursing. Everything she and I eat and drink gets recorded - FUN!!

I do suspect that she had a reaction last week to eggs. I gave the girls some egg salad one day, and I'm pretty sure that's the first time Makayla's had eggs directly. The next morning, the bright red eczema was on her cheeks again, and I know she didn't have any dairy the previous day. She's going to need to be tested for eggs.

On a positive note, I have discovered two delicious things that I may not have ever disovered if I didn't have to go dairy-free! One is the new Berry Chai Tea Infusion at Starbucks. I've tried it both iced and hot, and I think I prefer it iced. It tastes sweet and juicy and spicy and the flavors are so intense. I told my friend it tastes like "Christmas in a cup." The other is Ciao Bella Blackberry Cabernet Sorbetto - YUM!!! Wow! The first bite grabbed me - it is SO intense and full of flavor...I highly recommend it!

There are many kids who have MANY more allergies than just milk, and I know that this is NOT the end of the world. It will take time to adjust and settle into our new way of doing things, and it will take time for my taste buds to adjust to different foods. But I also just wanted to vent a little and keep you all updated on what's going on in our little part of the world.


Sally said...

I'm so sorry that you are having to go through this :-( I can't imagine. You might check out Oreo's. Not that they are healthy, but I don't think they have milk. It seems to me I was in a classroom one day and they were having treats and one of the little guys had oreos istead of whatever the general treat was...and I think it was because of milk. I guess Makayla probably couldn't eat Oreo's yet...but you could :-)

Jen Clark said...

ah, yes, you are correct - i have been eating oreos!! :) also, one of the brands of brownie mix - pillsbury, i think, but don't quote me on that - is milk-free, and i've been making those. and the smores sandwich cookies at target - market pantry brand - are milk free. and i found some milk-free chocolate chips so i can make my own cookies. and i did find some yummy vegan cookies (which, by nature of being vegan, are milk-free, as well as egg-free), but they are ridiculously expensive!

Mama Parker said...

You are such a good mommy! Of course us parents know our children. Sometimes I think that doctors think we informed parents make their jobs harder.

It would be so easy to "throw in the towel" and stop breastfeeding because of the milk allergy but you want what is best for Makayla and I think that makes you such a great mom!

Also, like you mentioned, you will probably discover all kinds of foods that you wouldn't have otherwise if you weren't eliminating milk from you diet.

.:Heather:. said...

I am really proud of your commitment! I don't know if I could do it Jen, I think I would've weaned. You are doing so so good!!!

Love & hugs!

Anonymous said...

Never rains but it pours. I am going to hook you up with my daughter in law, Kim. Our Madison has milk allergy. We discovered this when I gave her her first bottle of formula after exclusive breast feeding for 6 months. Instant reaction and severe. Has the epipen and she has already done lots of research. Madison does hair twirling stuff also. Just catching up with you. Was in Atlanta playing with more babies. Hang in there, this is not the end of the world although it feels like it sometimes. Marcia

Anonymous said...

Ahh, milk allergies. They are not fun. I can totally relate as my daughter has severe milk allergies. I've been in the hospital three times and used the epipen twice, once successfully on myself. By successfully I mean it hurt like hell and I really didn't mean to do it. Eating out, I don't even bother. I've had nightmare experiences and tend to pack like I'm never going to see food again for an afternoon trip. Have you traveled yet?! That's a pain in itself! Whenever I'm somewhere other than home its always ten times more work. On the upside they do have a vegan creamer from trader joe's if you're interested, its soy creamer and you can't really tell its soy, then there's the wild wood soy creamer again completely vegan, no caseinates, awesome thick creamy substitute. Add a little bit of vanilla extract and it's better than flavored creamer! There's so much to know and do, but I have amazing milk free recipes for birthday cakes and easy foods if you're ever interested. You can get my email from Marcia! Kim


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