It has been almost three months now that my diet has been more or less dairy free. Shortly after Sorenne turned two months old, she became plagued with eczema. Her pediatrician never recommended I change my diet, as he was satisfied that she continued to gain weight, but I couldn’t stand watching her turn red and try to scratch herself with little hands that she could barely control. A friend of mine, and many articles I read, suggested cutting dairy. My first reaction was – that will be the end of nursing. I am a cheese addict, I love butter, and really, dairy is one of my main sources of protein. Soy is fine – but giving up cheese? How cruel can life be?
I eventually decided that cutting dairy for a couple of days would not kill me, and Sorenne did seem to get a little better. But Doug and I were really not sure if it was the dairy or any number of other variables in our daily life that could be affecting her. I had changed detergents and soaps and made sure she wore only 100% cotton material in the meantime.
The first two weeks of avoiding dairy were very difficult. Giving up cheesecake was almost painful, but I eventually found substitutes and cheated a little here and there when necessary. Sorenne had flare ups that I attributed to a dairy allergy, but we really have no way of knowing for sure. Sorenne doesn’t complain – neither does Doug – and I brought this challenge entirely on myself. After I discovered tofutti cream cheese and (yes it’s gross) veggie cheddar, quitting milk no longer seemed like such a big deal. I noticed I’m generally less gassy (pleasant for everyone around me) and Sorenne vomits significantly less.
For the past week Sorenne’s skin has been almost entirely clear. Today, while contemplating the dairy-free brownies I was about to make, I realized that living dairy free is a challenge I enjoy. I still salivate thinking about Roquefort, but I lived without most of my favorite cheese throughout my pregnancy due to the risk of listeria. (At least now I can eat pâté without much worry.) Finding substitutes has been somewhat enjoyable with some pleasant side effects. For those who cannot enjoy dairy due to serious allergies or lactose intolerance, the diet may feel more like a burden. Worse yet, it’s scary to not know if an allergen has contaminated your food when you’ve been careful to protect yourself or your child. I’m fortunate to have a choice and a knowledgeable partner tolerant of my neurotic parenting.