I’ve been fortunate in regards to food allergies, and I’ve never had to worry about what the food I eat contains. The only experience I have had with food allergies has been through people that I have met but even then you never truly get a real insight. Some allergies and intolerances are mild causing unpleasant symptoms and others can be deadly. Having consumed dairy my whole life without any issue I was about to find out what it was like living with an allergy or intolerance thanks to having to go dairy free whilst breastfeeding.
I had Hugo three months ago now, and from the moment I became pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed. Previously I had breastfed my first son Henry, and despite the odd bump in the road, the experience was hugely positive. I breastfed Hugo from birth, and things have gone really well in regards to my milk production and latch. Honestly, I really enjoy breastfeeding and see it as the perfect time to bond with my baby and just enjoy being present in the moment.
Initially, while my milk was coming in, we gave Hugo a top up formula feed. The idea behind this was to help give my body a break. In those early days of breastfeeding newborn babies continuously feed to build up the milk supply. This is a good thing however it takes a toll on your body when all you want to do is sleep! The formula feed meant that I had a short break where I could relax or indulge in some much-needed self-care, and it worked at the beginning at least. Soon I noticed that Hugo was struggling with gripping pains, trapped wind and colicky symptoms. He was also constipated, and you could see he was in some pain and discomfort.
Investigating the Problem
We went to the GP a couple of times, and we concluded that the one formula feed just wasn’t agreeing with his digestion. It made sense because he had breastmilk the majority of the time to suddenly have a formula feed thrown in could cause issues. I made the decision to drop the formula feed and try exclusively breastfeeding to see if that helped. At first, there was a genuine improvement, but Hugo was still struggling. It seemed at times that he was just in so much pain and nothing I did could help. He wasn’t sleeping much, and he just seemed genuinely unhappy.
I did what every sleep-deprived parent does in this situation, and I hit google and found a few forums with stories of mums in similar situations. Some people suggested altering my diet at cutting back anything that wasn’t considered ‘plain.’ So that’s exactly what I did, and for the next two weeks, I didn’t eat anything that could potentially cause any issues. My diet consisted of plain porridge, chicken without seasoning and carrots. Having researched foods that can irritate a baby while breastfeeding there wasn’t much else on the list! Despite my best efforts to eat only plain foods, Hugo was still incredibly unsettled. I didn’t know what else I could do, but I absolutely hated seeing him in such pain.
It was my husband Ollie that suggested I go dairy free and cut all dairy out of my diet. It was the only thing I hadn’t tried, but there was lots of evidence to suggest that some babies just struggle to break down the proteins in milk. Having reached a point of pure desperation I made the leap to eliminate dairy from my diet entirely. Within days Hugo seemed to change from an unsettled baby who was apparently in pain to a happy and smiley baby. Could dairy really have had such an impact on him?
I didn’t realise quite how much dairy I consumed at first, but it’s often hidden in things you wouldn’t think – like barbecue sauce. Sometimes it’s only in certain brands, so it’s important to check every label every time. Since I have cut out dairy, it has been eye-opening to me, and it’s given me a real feel for what people with food allergies and intolerances much go through each and every day.
It’s simple things like ordering a coffee when you are out and about. You are relying on someone else to get it right and not contaminate your drink. Most places are really good, and if you ask them about what products contain dairy they can usually have documentation to tell you, but some smaller establishments don’t, and I’ve even been told: “It only contains a bit.” Unfortunately for little Hugo even a bit causes him issues as I have found when I have consumed something without realising it had dairy in!
How Did I Find It?
Surprisingly I have found eliminating dairy easier than I thought. There are substitutes for most dairy items that although taste different is still quite nice. The hardest part is remembering to check everything thoroughly in advance and picking places to eat out at that have dairy free options available. I think because I know how much pain and discomfort eating dairy causes Hugo it’s much easier.
Dairy Free Forever?
Issues with cows milk proteins are really common in young babies, and most of the time they grow out of it before their first birthday. In some instances, it develops into intolerance or allergy and only time will tell how Hugo will be affected. For now, I’m going to continue a dairy-free diet, and when Hugo is older, we can look to reintroduce some dairy to see how he copes.
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