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What to do if you suspect a dairy intolerant baby

Posted May 17 2010 10:16pm

You asked the questions, now you have the answers!
I am doing another FAQ post that I believe is a very important topic: How do you know if your baby/child is dairy intolerant?

Here are two questions I have received on this subject:

Hello!! Love your blog!! Thanks for all the useful info so far ;) I'm thinking my nursing baby may have a dairy intolerance...I've researched a bit online, but still not completely sure. Any knowledge on this that you could share?

AND

I realize you are probably quite busy, but wanted to ask you a question. I'm trying to eliminate most dairy from my diet, and I'm wondering...what are the best ways of getting enough calcium without taking a supplement?  I'm nursing my son and I suspect that he may have a diary sensitivity...still not sure.  I didn't know if you could offer your advice! 

Unfortunately, and fortunately, I have no first hand advice when it comes to dairy intolerance in babies. J was never bothered by dairy nor did he have any allergies, and still doesn’t. (Knocks on wood) I asked my dear friend, Lyndsay , who suspected her darling daughter, A, of being dairy intolerant. She gives a very detailed response that I am sure will help any mother trying to decipher if their baby has a dairy problem. This is a very common problem in babies and should be dealt with as soon as you suspect something.

breastfeeding
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I reluctantly determined my daughter was allergic to dairy around 5 months of age; to this day, it’s unofficially diagnosed. Prior to that, I considered all other alternatives because I was in complete denial. ☺ My sister attempted to convince me, since it runs heavily in our family, but I still refused. I even had my pediatrician prescribe her two dairy different reflux medications swearing it was just that, silent reflux. At any rate, I finally came to this conclusion because from birth she was a very cranky baby and she was often hard to comfort. I passed it off as being over stimulated, which may have been some of it. She also developed mild eczema. Her stools became mucousy (i.e. snot-like), unlike the green, seedy breastfeeding poop. She was a crappy sleeper, during the day and at night. So I gave it a shot, I cut out dairy for a few days and immediately I noticed an improvement in her disposition and her sleeping. Her poop also began to look more normal and her eczema faded away. I had thought it was silent reflux because she often arched her back while nursing; this is a sign of reflux. However, I later learned a dairy allergy could mimic reflux. My pediatrician was always reluctant to diagnose, despite my repeated testimonies about her allergy. My pediatrician only considers a food allergy when blood is present in a child’s stool; this was not the case with my daughter, at least there was no blood to the naked eye. We are currently scheduled for allergy testing in 2 weeks because I suspect she may have more allergies than just dairy. Unfortunately, food allergies run heavily in my family.

symbol-dairy-free Cutting out dairy from my diet, since I was breastfeeding, was fairly simple. My sister and her youngest daughter were both allergic, so she was a wealth of information on substitutes and what to avoid. The food industry also makes it fairly easy to avoid popular allergens by listing any allergens underneath the ingredients list. The hardest part of avoiding dairy was giving up my beloved ice cream, pizza, chocolate, etc. ☺ But I survived, another 10 months, without dairy and my daughter is still sensitive to this day; although, I quit breastfeeding when she was approximately 15 months old. We’re hoping she grows out of it, its possible up to the age of 2, but given our family history we know she may not. To this day if she has too much dairy, because she can tolerate a tiny amount, she is cranky (make that, very cranky), her poop becomes runny again, and her sleep is interrupted (this is from the stomach cramping I believe).

At any rate, avoiding dairy, as I mentioned previously, is  quite easy. There are tons of diary-free/vegan substitutes for butter, sour cream, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and godairyfree even cream cheese! Finding these dairy-free foods are easiest in the health food, organic aisle of your local grocer. But, again, all foods now must list the ingredients and any possible allergens, so even if your organic selection is limited you can just read the ingredient panel to know if you can eat it or not. Cooking with substitutes was fairly easy too. And, you can find a dairy free recipe for most anything! I found one for green bean casserole and pumpkin pie, and both were delicious! Thankfully, my daughter did not react to casein (aka caseinate), which is a milk derivative, so I didn’t have to avoid that. She was also not sensitive to foods made on equipment “shared” with dairy products.

Eating out initially was difficult, but my husband and I rarely eat out, so it didn’t bother me too much. Over time I learned to do some research before going to the restaurant and if that failed, then I would just ask the waiter to ask the kitchen staff or chef. Some restaurants are better than others, and once you get the hang of what you can eat, it’ll get easier just to look at the menu and know what to avoid. Like I mentioned, doing online research before hand can make menu selection quick and easy. I often just Google whatever restaurant we’re headed to and “dairy free”. Most popular chains have something online about it or someone else has already done the legwork for you to find out what’s dairy-free/vegan.

Overall, it was not that hard to cut out dairy in order to meet my goal of breastfeeding for one-year. Most people thought I was crazy to put myself through that, but it was a small sacrifice for giving my daughter what I believed was best, breast milk. Most of the time it did not bother me, but every now and then I was became depressed about what I could not eat. However, I usually quickly snapped out of it because there are really a ton of good-tasting substitutions. I wish anyone in this situation good luck as it can be a challenging and frustrating situation, but it can be done. Also, don’t give up on your instincts about what you may believe is a food allergy; some pediatricians are better than others in diagnosing one based on parents’ self reports vs actual testing.

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Thank you so much, Lyndsay! It’s very important to act on your instinct, just as Lyndsay did. Dairy intolerance in newborns is more common than parents tend to realize, causing both the child and parents more pain and tears than needed.

Here are some valued online sources that I have read not only for dairy intolerant children but for adults as well:

Go Dairy Free is a detailed website that offers wonderful recipes, incite and tips.

Wholesome Baby Food was, and still is, my online go to site for baby/toddler food, recipes and ideas. Believe me, it’s a foreign subject when your breast feeding baby starts to eat solid food. I had so many questions and this site cleared them up for me.

Vegan Society has been a wonderful resource for dairy-free recipes. While Lyndsay is not vegan, she used vegan sources to find ways to make her beloved recipes dairy free, and to gain more knowledge in living a dairy-free life.

But what about calcium?
Calcium is very important in growing children and adult women. We were always taught that milk, cheese and yogurt gave us the recommended daily serving of calcium we needed, 1000 MG. Contrary to belief, there are more effective and healthier ways to receive calcium than dairy.

For vegan eaters: each item is 100 grams / 3.53 ounce servings

Tofu, processed with calcium sulfate – 683 mg
Soybeans, raw – 277 mg
Almonds, raw – 248 mg
White Beans – 240 mg
Flaxseed – 199 mg
Turnip Greens, raw – 190 mg
1 cup of broccoli – 178 mg

Arugula, raw – 166 mg
Figs, dried and uncooked – 144 mg
Kale, raw – 135 mg
Spinach, raw – 99 mg

Here is the source of this information; along with 110 more foods that contain calcium. I was very surprised to see so many seeds and herbs on this list. While you would have to eat an enormous amount to meet the amount of calcium listed, it is comforting to know that besides flavor, spices, herbs and seeds do more good than we may have thought!

Dairy does more harm than good, in my opinion. Contrary to belief, it has no effect on osteoporosis, contains unhealthy cholesterol and saturated fat, is linked to the growing diabetes rate, and so on. This is a wonderful article stating the effects of dairy.

True, it tastes good but just as Lyndsay explained, after not eating dairy you really don’t miss it. Plus there are alternatives to everything located in the supermarket. Milk, butter, cheese, yogurt and so on. You just have to open your eyes.

I really hoped this post answered your dairy questions. I plan to continue doing my research on the effects of dairy and share with all of you soon. I would also love to hear your thoughts on this, as well! Do you or someone you know have a dairy problem? Did your children?

Healthy Eating,
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