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, cookies...it'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 up...pizza 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.