Friday, 2 October 2015

So you're breastfeeding dairy free... some things you may be missing out on!

Hello there, fellow dairy free Mum!


Who even knew that cow's milk protein could pass through your boob juice and into your baby, eh?? I certainly didn't, before 'Baby' turned up allergic to the stuff!

How are you feeling today? Positive, upbeat, ready for a challenge? Or hanging on in there by the skin of your teeth and not sure you even want to carry on? 

It's alright. Either way, I won't browbeat you to carry on, the choice is always YOURS, but this post has been written with YOU in mind, to help you on your way! 

1) Some Encouragement

  • Well done for giving it a go, at the very least - not everyone who is faced with this challenge will (for whatever reason, but again no judgement here).
  • Some people might think you're a bit weird. Ignore them. It's nothing to do with them. This is between you and your baby! 
  • By going dairy free yourself, you will be well equipped to know which foods will be suitable for your dairy free child - should your bubba still be dairy free when it comes to weaning.

2) Calcium 

If you eliminate dairy from your diet as an adult, you need to make sure you keep an eye on your calcium intake. If you're a breastfeeding mum, you need around 1250 mg of calcium a day. Initially, I was advised to use a calcium supplement, but as I researched products and foods containing calcium, I began to take more control of my calcium intake through my diet. 

So for example, if a glass (roughly 200ml) of your dairy free milk substitute (unless it's organic) contains around a third of a normal person's daily amount of calcium (700 mg a day, so 250mg in a glass) then you can probably pretty soon work out ways of including that in your daily diet. For more ideas on how to get calcium through your diet, follow this link. But, if you are going to do things this way, make sure you stay on top of it and don't let it slide!

This orange juice is fortified with calcium

3) Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also important, because Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Calcium supplements and most dairy free milks usually contain this already, but there are plenty of ways of obtaining this through your diet as well as through sunlight. If you'd like to know more, please see this post

4) Milk Substitutes

If you're going dairy free, you might be wondering what on earth you're going to do without milk. Don't worry, there are plenty of other options, all of which can be used in pretty much the same way as normal milk - although some have a few oddities! So, for example, although I generally prefer almond milk (I use unsweetened almond milk in my savory dishes), Koko coconut milk generally makes a better custard - just because it thickens better!

There are a range of milk substitutes out there, see here. They can be found in the longlife milk aisle or in the chilled section, alongside the milk, in most UK supermarkets. 

A range like this, will only be found in larger supermarkets.

Some notes of caution:
  • Most mammalian milk proteins are very similar, so if your child is allergic to cow's milk protein they are highly likely to be allergic to other mammal milks too (sheep/goat etc.) 
  • Lactose free milk has had the sugar removed, not the protein, hence it will still cause a reaction in those allergic to cow's milk protein.
  • A2 milk waffles on about different proteins, but cow's milk protein of any variety is unsuitable for anyone allergic to cow's milk protein. 
  • Rice milk is not advisable as a main milk drink for children under the age of five, so should also be avoided by breastfeeding mums. This is due to the levels of arsenic that naturally occur in rice. Personally, I don't consider this a loss, as I don't enjoy it. 
  • Organic dairy free milk is not supplemented with calcium or any other vitamins, so if you're relying on dairy free milk for calcium, just bear that in mind!

For a more detailed breakdown of the nutritional values of various dairy free milks see here.

5) Butter... well, OK, marg! 

Okay, nothing tastes quite like butter - you've got me there, but there are some passable margarines out there, which you can use in much the same same way as any other margarine! My personal favourite is Pure Sunflower Margarine - found alongside all the other margarines in the supermarket. 

There are others - Vitalite, Stork Block (not tub version), and some supermarket 'own' free from versions too. There's a new coconut based margarine by Koko, which is stocked by some branches of Waitrose. I tried it out at The Allergy Show in London, and it was certainly palatable.

Marks and Spencer's version.

Beware of brands that are also made with sunflower or olive oil, but are not dairy free - there are some out there!

6) Cheese

Cheese was probably the one thing I missed the most, when I first went dairy free! If, like me, you love your cheese, you may not find your perfect substitute, but the one that most people seem to enjoy is Violife. 

These days the 'original' version can be found in major branches of Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Holland and Barrett, as well as many Health Food Stores, and if it's cooked or toasted, I don't mind it too much! It does come in various other varieties too,(including Parmesan), but you may have to try online for these - check out Alternative Stores, for a wider range.

This one is very popular!

In the US, Daiya is the one to watch out for - I've heard it is now available in one or two places in the UK, so keep your eyes peeled, you never know!

Just remember that Vegan cheese does not have the same amount of protein as normal cheese. Its nutritional value limited, compared to 'normal' cheese, so I tend to use it for flavoring other dishes (e.g. sprinkled on a home made dairy free lasagna). Don't expect it to contain much calcium, either!

Vegan cheese does not melt in quite the same way as 'normal' cheese. It tends to melt better in sauces, but on pizza or toast you may be disappointed. Some mozzarella-type cheeses, like Mozzarisella, melt best and the Violife pizza version is pretty good too.

One last thing, some people like to use nutritional yeast as a cheese flavouring. You can buy it in Holland and Barrett or health food shops. It smells like well-worn socks and doesn't really do it for me! You have been warned!

7) Yogurt

If you're okay with soya, you will be fine - you'll be able to find Alpro soya yogurts in most supermarkets and a child-friendly fromage frais in Tesco. A good Tesco Extra is, quite frankly, best place I go for chilled dairy free subs, unless you get Ocado in your area, or live near to a good Vegan store, or a Health Store like Whole Foods Market in London. Holland and Barrett are fast catching up though - so if yours has a chiller, check them out too!

Familiarise yourself with the Free From section in the chilled aisle at Tesco.

If you can't have soya, look out for coconut yogurts like Co-yo (Waitrose, Tesco, online with Ocado) or Pudology (Ocado and Holland and Barrett). Holland and Barrett also sell 'Wot no dairy?' long life yogurts, which are made with pea protein instead, as well as Xotic, which is also made with coconut, is and long life too.

My personal favourite! This flavour is sadly not available at Tesco.

Be careful though, there are some apparently  'dairy free' alternatives that are produced on the same line as milk products. They are often, annoyingly, placed alongside dairy free products and marketed the same. Read labels carefully. If your little one is as sensitive as mine has been, and you eat them, you run the risk of a reaction via cross-contamination.

Both the soya and 'Wot no dairy?' yogurts are fortified with calcium, but the Co-yo and Pudology are not!

8) Ice Cream

As the temperature outside begins to hot up, you may wish to cool down! Fortunately, there is plenty of dairy free ice cream out there - just don't expect to find it sold alongside your Mr Whippy! My personal favourites are sold in Waitrose and are made by Almond Dream, but my little one loves Swedish Glace, which is soya based and found in Waitrose and Tesco.

Sadly not available, when out and about!

That said, Tesco have recently hit the dairy free jackpot, with these gluten and dairy free cornettos. They're in the Free From freezer section at Tesco. I can highly recommend these!

If you're out and about, keep your eyes peeled for sorbet or Gelato - some of these are dairy free, but not all, unless you got to Boho Gelato in Brighton (new one opening soon in Weymouth)! Alternatively, if you're near a Holland and Barrett with a freezer section, you may be lucky enough to find a small tub, containing a single serving of Booja Booja ice cream (made with cashews). I've not tried it as I can't eat cashews, but I've heard its delicious!

Booja Booja mini tub

Holland and Barrett also sell Perfect World ice cream, also pocket sized and made with cashews.

9) Cream

Wimbledon is fast approaching and what are strawberries without... cream!? If you're okay with soya, there's quite a few soya creams out there, on the supermarket shelves, including a squirty one called Schlagfix. If not there's always Oatly or Alpro rice cream (okay, I know I said no rice milk, but that's on a daily basis, a little rice cream now and then shouldn't do any real harm). In Tesco and Waitrose, you can now also get a small carton of coconut cream, by Alpro. 

Similar to single cream.
Alternatively, you can put a tin of coconut milk in the fridge for two hours, whip it up, then add some vanilla and sweetener to taste. OR, I've found Co-yo Original makes a rather nice accompaniment for fruit.

10) Chocolate

As a woman you are practically duty bound to love chocolate! There's plenty out there, but it costs a bit more than the normal variety! I prefer Moo Free, which is also soya free and is sold by Waitrose and Sainsbury's (the larger stores, anyway). 

For a special treat I can definitely be persuaded to demolish a box of Booja Booja chocolates (Waitrose) or Cocoa Libre, check out their online store and stockists here! For more ideas, check out these posts.

11) Cake and biscuits

Oh yes, you can - indulge that is! There are cakes and biscuits in most Free From Supermarket aisles, although not so many in Tesco as in Sainsbury's I find! However, if you check some of the 'normal' packets, you can find some that are milk free! I used to love Respect Organics Carrot Cake (Tesco and Sainsbury's). The only reason I don't eat it anymore, is because I'm now gluten free too! 

I promise you, this tastes good!

These cup cakes, from Sainsbury's, I haven't tried, as they weren't around before I was gluten free, but they look good!

'Vanilla Fairies' by 'Emma's Country Cakes'

And if you've a little ones birthday coming up, check out the celebration cakes in the supermarkets, because quite a few are made without dairy. The Disney 'Frozen' cake available in Tesco and Sainsbury's, is just one of them!

As for biccies I used to love Hobnobs and my little one loves Waitrose Essential Chocolate Bourbons. Check out our 'Fave Products' page for more!

12) Cafes!

If, like me, you need your coffee, well this is an essential! However, you may want to go a little easy if you're breastfeeding! Just remember that the caffeine will go through you and keep your kiddo awake too! 

Most cafes stock soya milk and Starbucks now will serve coconut milk (for an extra 40p) - certainly the big chains, anyway, but be aware that if your baby is very sensitive to cow's milk protein you probably will have to give those lattes, cappuccinos and hot chocolates a miss - unless they have a machine dedicated to dairy free types, that is! Otherwise, however carefully they clean the spouts, traces of milk protein will most likely make their way into your coffee (see here for an explanation). I now stick with a black Americano (with a trace of sugar to take off the bitterness) but have seen people take in their own little bottle of milk!

In terms of snacks and nibbles in these places, Costa's mini gluten free cherry bakewells by the till and some of their wrapped gingerbread biscuits are made without dairy. Cafe Nero have coconut bars near the till, but don't expect anything like that in Starbucks - crisps, nuts and fruit bread without the butter are your lot there! We used to order out little one the sausage bap - it said it was dairy free, but some traces must have made their way through, possibly whilst being heated on the grill, so we don't take that risk anymore!

This bar is a bit crumbly but quite tasty!

If you can find a Coffee 1 near you, they sell a few dairy free cakes, although there's not much else on the menu that is dairy free, the other thing to be aware of is that they're not individually wrapped, so you run the risk of cross-contamination. I've also heard that Sainsbury's and Waitrose cafes will allow you to pick up free from products from their aisles and pay for and consume them in the cafe area, but there's none of those near me!

13) Eating out

So you're dairy free right now, but you still want to eat out, don't you? And, if you're careful, you still can! Of course you'll need to plan ahead a little bit before you go out. We usually start by checking out restaurants online - many chain restaurants can offer you something, although there's not so much choice as you may have been used to! 

In recent months, a website was launched called 'Can I eat there?' which works on the basis that members recommend places they've eaten that have been safe for them. This is a great idea, but you still need to check out a restaurant thoroughly, before you eat. I have found that restaurants can vary - even restaurants where you've previously been okay can still get things wrong. In my experience it's often down to the staff on the day. 

More information on eating out dairy free can be found on this page.

14) Baking & Cooking

A whole lot of stuff becomes daunting when you first go dairy free, one of which is cooking. Suddenly the rules appear to change. You need to check labels carefully and discover what dairy free substitutes will do for you. I well remember being gobsmacked by the fact that chicken gravy is often made with milk, that spaghetti bolognese is sometimes made with milk and that jam could be made with butter. Who knew?

You might find this post on dairy free baking quite helpful as well as this page which lists some of our favourite dairy free products.

When it comes to finding recipes, I've found that although you can buy expensive cookbooks or free from magazines (I've bought loads over time, which I hardly use), actually you can find a recipe for most things, just by looking online. This page lists a selection of other blogs which you may find useful.

If you're looking for dairy free cooking sauces, check out Tesco Free From section - they even now have a ready-made dairy free white sauce!

15) Celebrations

Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day etc. means chocolate and all kinds of other goodies. There are dairy free alternatives and this page can help you find what you're looking for - so you don't have to miss out.

A few other little top tips for you:

1) Shopping

When I first went dairy free, food labelling was done a little bit differently, to how it is now. You will need to check every food label for 'milk' usually written in bold. You do still need to keep your wits about you, as one food manufacturer didn't think goat's cheese need to be labelled (as it wasn't cow's milk) and another listed yogurt, but didn't highlight that it was made with milk. 

Depending on how sensitive you/your little one is to milk and milk traces, you may also need to watch out for items that say they 'may contain' milk. This post explains why.

For tips on where to find your dairy free essentials (and luxuries) see here.

2) Medications

Medication can sometimes be made with dairy. Always remind your doctor/pharmacist and ask them to check anything that is prescribed/recommended for you/your little one.

3) Soaps & Lotions & Other Stuff!

Cleopatra famously bathed in milk and in modern times milk is still considered good for the skin. It's worth knowing that a LOT of soaps, shower gels, hand creams lotions, potions and even some washing-up liquids are made with milk! You may need to be aware of other words associated with milk, such as whey and casein, when you check through ingredients labels.

Just to warn you, although you may not be abstaining whilst breastfeeding, wine might also contain milk - believe it or not, it's used for clarifying the wine (as is egg, funnily enough). However, you may be pleased to hear that it's not always the case!

4) Probiotics

There's been a huge wealth of research recently into how allergies may be due to the kinds and lack of 'good' bacteria in our gut. It seems strange but true. Very recent research has shown that formula with this good bacteria added to it, has appeared to help overcome allergies in allergic babies (see here for article). 

If you're breastfeeding, your milk is packed full of probiotics anyway (see here), but scientists are still carrying out research into whether lactating mothers might be able to take probiotics to boost the probiotics in their milk and help their allergic little ones. You can't add just any probiotics Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG seems to be the most beneficial, but they've not yet reached the stage where it is regarded as a treatment.

5) If you slip up...

It's not unknown, slip-ups can happen. Somehow you eat/drink something with milk in. If this happens, and if your baby is quite sensitive, it will go through you and affect your baby. Don't beat yourself up about it, but there are some things you can do about it. 

It goes against the grain if you want to solely breastfeed, but it could be best for baby if you express your milk for a day or so, and formula feed instead. There are some dairy free formulas out there (see here), which you have to get on prescription. If you can get your doctor to get you an advance prescription, these will speed things up in the long run, as pharmacies don't tend to keep stocks of it and it can take a few days to order the formula in.

6) The mechanics

Any purely practical help, regarding the mechanics of breastfeeding, I would suggest getting in touch with La Leche League (their counsellors are excellent), or checking out Kelly Mom, a website from across the pond, with really great advice.

Well there it is, a whole load of stuff for you to consider! It's taken me some while to put all this info together - things I wish I'd known at the outset and some of which I've had to learn the hard way. And here's me still hoping I've included everything and still wondering what else I've missed! 

Hope you're not too overwhelmed by it all. It will get easier for you I promise!!

Be kind to yourself - the chocolate is pricier than normal, but actually...
I think you NEED, nay DESERVE it!  ;)

7) Finally...

Some advice from Carina Venter specialist pediatric allergy dietitian shared via Twitter:

  • No need to change diet during breastfeeding (except where allergen affecting child passes through breastmilk)
  •  Aim to breastfeed for at least 4-6 months
  • Introduce food from 4 months, but don't delay beyond six months
  • If from a high risk family and breastfeeding is not possible or insufficient, use a partially hydrolysed  formula or extensively hydrolysed formula (as prescribed by a doctor).

Happy Breastfeeding!! 

Related posts: 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Time to order your Kinnerton Advent Calendar!

Time to get your skates on folks!

If you saw the post about Kinnerton Advent Calendars the other day, you will know that their dairy free Advent Calendars are limited edition (only 500 are made). If you didn't see it, you need to know the following:

  • They are the ONLY dairy free chocolate Advent Calendar that will feature the following characters:

  • At £6.50 each, they are not the cheapest dairy free calendars, but proceeds go to the Anaphylaxis Campaign.

  • This year Kinnerton will personalise them, with your child's name.
  • They are dairy, gluten egg and nut free.
  • You have only got until 19th October 2015 to get your order in.
  • Payment will need to be made via Pay Pal.

If you have got yourself on their mailing list - using the 'Contact Us' form on their website, you should have got an email today, giving you the opportunity to order one of these calendars, if not, and you want one of their calendars, I'd get on there quick!

If you need a calendar that is soya free, these are not the ones for you - unless you're okay with soya lecithin. Technically, those with a soya allergy should be okay with soya lecithin, as the protein (which is usually the allergenic bit) has been removed, however, some still can't tolerate it, so exercise caution and seek advice from your Health Care Professionals, if you are not sure.

I will be posting about other dairy free Advent calendars before long (as I have done in previous years), some of which will also be soya free,but am posting this one early, due to the deadline!

Best Wishes for a Happy Dairy Free Christmas!!


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

What happens when your dairy free kiddo starts taking risks...???

Well I never thought I'd compare my daughter to a recovering alcoholic - well definitely not at the age of five anyway, but there you go...

It's not that she has developed a chemical dependency exactly, but she's suddenly developed a bit of a devious streak - that is rather out of character with her usually honest little self. Normally, she can't keep a secret from Mummy, but now she is also showing signs of denial and of course, it's all related to her milk allergy!

I find myself a bit bewildered, really, as I've tried to be open with her about her milk allergy and explain things as much as I can, so I thought, that for her age, she was kinda clued-up - as much as she could be - but recent events have proved me wrong!

'Mummy,' she said to me the other day, 'I had a dairy free custard cream at school today. It was nice!'

My ears pricked up a bit. 'Oh,' I said, 'really, are you sure? I've not come across any dairy free custard creams,' I said. Actually, I'd forgotten that the Lovemore Custard Creams are dairy free -also gluten free, egg free and nut free - but I always forget about them because they're made of soya flour (which I can't have) and also because they aren't that easy to get hold of (except via Holland and Barrett online, see here).

'Oh yes!' she replied airily, 'it was! And I really, really liked it!'

'Hmm!' Thought I. 'I don't think so!' Suspicious? Moi??

'How has your tummy been?' I asked. This, I thought, might help me understand a bit more about what's going on here. 

'Well,' she replied, 'I had a bit of a tummy ache, but...' she recovered herself most adroitly, 'it was because I was too hot, and I always get a tummy ache when I get too hot.'

GRRR!!! Too hot!! No!! Being too hot has never caused her a problem like this before!! 

I realise that she's on to me and lying to cover herself!! She knows I'm likely to start say the biscuit can't have been dairy free and that I'm likely to take some form of action to prevent her having one again. Having clearly enjoyed the biscuit, she's trying to head me off at the pass - 'cos although it may have caused her discomfort, as far as she's concerned, it was worth it!

This isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened - the most notable occurrence to date was the result of her having tried 'real'  pizza with 'real' cheese at school last year. Watching her friend's enjoy 'real' pizza had prompted her to ask for some. Somehow, someone in their wisdom thought that, even at the age of five, she must know what she's allowed to have (or not have) and therefore gave it to her!!

Well, theoretically, she probably did know, but chose not to - if you get my drift!

Cheese being much further up the milk ladder than a well-cooked biscuit, the resulting tummy cramps were far more severe than we've experienced in quite some while. Confusingly for me, instead of the usual diarrhea, she was constipated for several days. Itsuspected milk, but could prove nothing. 

The true cause only came to light because eventually kiddo complained to me, most indignantly, that someone had prevented her from having pizza for lunch... 


Good job, she's got a Non-Ige mediated allergy and is not anaphylactic, then!!!! Even though she'd experienced crippling stomach pains (that were strong enough to cause her to cry out involuntarily and double up with pain in Waitrose) she was in denial and was desperate to have more pizza - simply because she liked the taste of it! 

This pizza's dairy free!

'Well,' you might say, 'so all that happens is she gets a tummy ache, it's not going to kill her, what's the problem?'

Thing is, the first noticeable reaction (to a small amount, processed and cooked - we're not talking a full-on uncooked milk exposure here) is the tummy ache, followed now, it seems by constipation, rather than diarrhea, BUT unchecked I've noticed (as I watched helplessly through most of last year, when school said she wasn't having dairy at school, even though I knew she must be having some somewhere) that let alone the fact that it causes extreme discomfort, her immunity drops, she looks kind of greyish, tired, washed out and starts catching every little bug that comes her way - meaning she's not on form. Basically it detracts from her well-being and constrains our movements (you can't go anywhere/do anything when she's crippled up with pain).

Now obviously, this has all been discussed with school, and I think I've communicated with them as carefully as I can, about it all, but what I find tricky is that I'm still relying on staff who don't live with this on a daily basis - staff whose knowledge, understanding and experience of this is therefore more limited than mine. If their knowledge fails, I really can't rely on her (at the age of five) either to know the difference or even now to keep asking the right question - 'Is it dairy free?' Because now, she has begun to realise that by being dairy free she may be missing out.

DOH!!! That wasn't part of the plan! 

I've heard of allergic teenagers taking risks - due to peer pressure and the like, but a five year old?!? Not for the first time, am I hugely grateful that her Non-Ige milk allergy is non life-threatening!! If they were, I suspect I'd be withdrawing her from school!!

However, at the end of the day, the good news is that her reactions are not as strong as they used to be, so onwards and upwards! Cue a new milk challenge - she was due one anyway - well once her stomach has been given the time to recover a bit!!

Related Posts:

Is this an allergic reaction?

Living with Cow's Milk Allergy - how I try to keep the 'Dairy Free Baby' milk free!

Challenging Baby

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Kinnerton Dairy Free Advent Calendars

Don't know if you're new to being dairy free. I well remember the first Christmas I was dairy free. I was SO relieved when The Hub found that I could still eat chocolate! The first dairy free chocolate I ever ate was a bar of dairy free Kinnerton. Unused as I was to dark chocolate (I usually prefer milk chocolate). I soon adapted and grew to love it!! 

If like me, you love your chocolate and you're looking for a dairy free Advent calendar, well there will be more options hitting the shops before too long, so don't panic, but if you're particularly interested in Kinnerton (not the normal Kinnerton ones, you'll see them everywhere, but they're NOT dairy free), you can only get the dairy free ones via mail order direct from Kinnerton and they only make 500. 

These are the ONLY dairy free chocolate Advent calendars to feature well loved children's characters (see below for the range) and this year, they are prepared to personalise them with YOUR chosen name!

The other thing you need to know is that you need to get your order in by 19th October (2015) which is why I'm publicizing them ahead of my usual dairy free Advent calendar round-up (see here for last year's post). They're £6.50 each and £5 of the money is donated to the Anaphylaxis Campaign (what a great cause).

If you'd like to get your hands on one of these, make you sure you visit their site and use the 'Contact Us' form to get yourself on their mailing list (probably the sooner the better). Alternatively, keep watching this space for further details!

Related Posts:

Oo! Ah! Christmas Chocolat 2014

Dairy free ways to decorate your tree

Tasty Treats

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

FAQ's: Is this an allergic reaction?

'Is this a reaction?'

It's one of the most frequently asked questions on online food allergy forums. 

Am I the only one who squirms slightly, when these pop up?

I completely understand why people ask these questions. As a mother myself of a child with a Non-Ige mediated food allergy I've been in that place where something-is-happening-and-you-don't-know-what any number of times!! The worry you go through, the need for answers, can become all consuming - even when the reaction is not in the least life-threatening. Something is happening to your child which is unpleasant and you immediately feel the need to understand/stop/control/prevent it from happening again! 

It doesn't help that these potential reactions often take place at inconvenient times - you know; in the evenings, in the middle of the night or at weekends, when getting hold of anyone can be quite tricky - especially someone with the expertise to help you! 

You need reassurance, understanding or maybe just a shoulder to cry on. You may have had a poor night's sleep or are having trouble keeping up with the washing or any one of a number of other things could also be pressing on your mind/attention. One other sudden, unexpected urgent thing on top of it all just seems too much to deal with. That's when people often turn to allergy forums/websites.

A lot of the contributors on these sites/forums are very experienced mums who have dealt with food allergy over some time. Some of them are also medical professionals (bonus!). You can learn a lot from them about suitable products, recipes etc. and forums can be a great place to safely rant/let off steam!! BUT one needs to be careful! Not all contributors are as experienced as others or medically qualified, so I get quite anxious when I see people ask the 'reaction question'. A photo might be offered  of a child's rash (some clearer than others), or a picture might follow of a poo-filled nappy. 

Pictures of rashes aren't always that clear! They're quite hard to photograph!

The problem I have with this is not that someone's shared the picture (although I often wish that some people would be a little more discreet about how they go about it - try to display children's private parts - you don't want to encourage the wrong kind of attention), but that it's really quite difficult to tell what could be the problem just from a picture of a rash or a nappy, or because a child has been sick or had a bout of diarrhea. This is because the symptoms to an allergic reactions can be so similar to a whole range of other illnesses - some as simple as a virus, which just needs to run its course, or a tummy bug, which still isn't great, but still just needs to run its course. 

I get concerned because despite the fact that most of these sites carry disclaimers, people seem far too ready to listen to advice from someone they've never met and I've often seen good advice disregarded over advice which I would consider not so helpful (please note, I'm not saying don't do this, just be careful). Yes, I know you don't always get the help you need even from your local Doctor - we got through two local GP's, who didn't spot the symptoms, before getting our diagnosis when we went private - but online forums are just not the ideal place to arrive at a diagnosis! Doctors will need to go through various assessments before they reach a verdict - they'll need a bit more info than a few pics! 

If you're new to all this and want to know where to start, you may find the 'Is it cow's milk allergy?' website helpful. It can give you some guidance as to what symptoms to look for and how you can go about getting a diagnosis. Their assessment sheet, is particularly helpful - it could be a very useful piece of evidence to take along with you, when you visit your GP.

If you're not new to all this and are just not sure if your child has reacted to something they ate today or even yesterday, the truth is this: if it's a delayed reaction the answer may not come immediately - it could take some time (days, weeks or maybe even months) to really work out where the problem really lies. 

So how can we tell, or get some idea as to what's going on?

Well first things first, if you suspect your child has had an allergic reaction that is potentially life threatening, you should use an epipen (if you have been prescribed one) and then call an ambulance. If you don't have an epipen, call the ambulance straight away! See here for more details about what to look for (and what to do) from NHS Choices.

If, like us (with 'Baby's' Non-Ige mediated milk allergy), your symptoms do not require immediate medical attention, then having cleaned up the initial mess and/or administered any necessary medication, then as much as we might like it to be sorted NOW, I'm afraid it's not that easy. I've found you usually have to kind of sit it out, wait for things to settle down, or for something else to happen. Often, else happening or even not happening can help you work out what's going on. 

So, for example, one time when we gave 'Baby' a scheduled food challenge at home, it took a while for symptoms to develop. She had a bit more wind than usual and her stools gradually changed colour and became looser, and she got the odd tummy ache, which then faded away. To begin with, I wasn't sure if it was the malted milk biscuit we had given her that had caused the problem or not, so let the challenge continue, to see if things would calm down. However, as the reactions became more intense and her botty began to get sore, I knew that I needed to stop. Although she was clearly tolerating milk better than she had previously, it became obvious to me that her body was not able to progress any further, it would just get worse. In all, this process took a couple of days.

I've found the best thing, if you suspect some specific item of food caused the problem (more obvious, I know, when undergoing a planned food challenge), is to remove it from your child's diet (unless it's gluten - see why here). Whether your kiddo is under the weather or experiencing a reaction, it's just not the right time to experiment with anything new. You need to stick to foods you KNOW are safe and wait for their body to settle down and recover. There's no point making them sicker, by giving them more of the same!

Then a few weeks later, keeping everything else 'safe' try again. If the same reaction occurs, then you may well have found the 'culprit'. At this stage, contact whichever healthcare professional (GP/Health Visitor/Allergy Nurse/Dietitian etc.) is overseeing your progress and discuss it with them (I have heard from some people who feel that they have been discharged from local services before their allergy has resolved or before they feel ready. If this has happened to you, and you still have concerns, you it would be best to go back to the GP, or find a new one.). If however, your little one appears to be fine with that food item, when it's presented to them (over three or four days) or, if it's not a scheduled 'milk challenge' and you've no idea why it's all happened, then maybe it's time to consider the following:

1) Are there any bugs going 'round?

Sometimes, when I have thought that 'Baby' has perhaps had a reaction to something, it has turned out to be a virus or tummy bug. The symptoms may be similar. Once when she had a sore throat and a tummy ache I was rather confused - her allergic reactions had never included a sore throat! I hadn't realised that there were glands in the abdomen.  

It's extremely easy for little ones to pick up tummy bugs. They crawl around on the floor and stick all kinds of things in their mouths. Unfortunately its par for the course with little ones. Its bound to happen sooner or later!! Then, unfortunately, it's a case of 'What can't be cured, must be endured!' 

Current advice in this instance is keep your child at home (this is important for up to 48 hours following the last issue of vomit/diarrhea to prevent spreading it around), keep them hydrated and feed them if they're hungry - keep it fairly bland though! See NHS Choices for more information.

Something else to consider, even if there are any bugs going around is the following...

2) Do the symptoms match the pattern of previous reactions?

The difference, with 'Baby,' is that if it's an allergic reaction her observable symptoms have usually taken place within the twenty four hours following an exposure to milk. Anything that continues beyond this (in our case, but not in all cases), is a bug, as far as we are concerned! So use your knowledge of how your little one tends to react.

For 'Baby' her reactions in the early days were intense tummy cramps, wind and diarrhea, within an hour or two of ingesting something which contained milk (and a very sore botty, from the diarrhea, when she was in nappies). But of course reactions can change, so this isn't a completely reliable measure! 

This caught me off guard recently, as I hadn't realised that 'Baby's' tummy was coping with milk more easily than it has done previously. So the intense tummy cramps were evident, but occurred much later - maybe five or even six hours later. Also the tummy cramps weren't followed by diarrhea. Her stools were still that distinct yellowy colour that always followed previous reactions, but instead, she appeared to tend towards constipation. 

Something to remember is that reactions can also become more intense - if the individual is unwell, or stressed or following exercise or has drunk alcohol (adults only, of course) or is affected by hormones (ladies, if it's you, consider your time of the month/pregnancy etc.). Also reactions can be different if it's an allergic response to another type of food.

3) Have you been out and about?

We manage things so well at home now, that most slip-ups occur when we've been out and about. It may follow a meal out at a restaurant or a cafe - in which case you can soon work out where things went wrong! However, whenever you're out and about you can come into contact with milk or its traces all too easily. 

Once (I am pretty sure - we'd not been anywhere else that day) 'Baby's' reaction stemmed from contact with traces of milk from a supermarket trolley (you see lots of kiddies eating all kinds of stuff whilst they're perched in the seats of these, I saw one spilling Actimel all over himself in one just today)! Hence I always take my wipes everywhere I go now - I religiously clean trolley handles apart from anything else, you'd be amazed at how dirty they can be! And, if we're eating out, I try to establish which restaurants/menu items are safe for 'Baby' before we go and communicate with staff about her milk allergy. But, even when you think you've covered your bases, life can throw you a curved ball. Looking back at days/times/events can help you here!

I've mentioned this before, but, when 'Baby' was younger she kept having tummy aches an hour or so after leaving a particular baby and toddler group ('Baby' was actually an articulate tot by this time, so she could actually give me some idea of what was happening inside her). After three or four weeks of this  I finally worked out that it was a particular day and time and that it must be because in this group children were allowed to wander around with food (sticky cakes were provided) and were leaving traces of their food (containing milk proteins) on the toys. It may have been minute, but it still caused my little one to react! Not everyone is as sensitive as this, so it might not be a problem for you, but it's as well to be aware!

The answer was to wipe 'Baby's' hands very thoroughly before eating, so she didn't transfer any traces to her food, and wash them thoroughly once we got home. If I stuck to this she was fine. Whilst at the group I also had to be vigilant - to make sure she didn't put anything in her mouth. Fortunately, for us, she's never been much of a one for doing that! 

Another time this helped was when I realised it was my trips to cafes like Starbucks and Costa that were causing the problem - about an hour or so after I left 'Baby' would have a severe tummy ache, even when she had been asleep in her pushchair the whole time and not touched/ate/drank anything there. My conclusion was that she must be reacting to the milk that had become areosolized when it had been frothed.

To test my idea, I eventually decided to just pop-in and grab a take-away coffee. If I did this the tummy aches stopped.  This was confirmed when one day The Hub decided to sit in with a coffee (did he think I was imagining things) and her tummy ache came back!  He did this a couple of times before he became more convinced. (This kind of reaction to milk is thought to be rare, but I have heard/read of other cases of the same (see here), so it is entirely possible. But I wonder if it has been under reported.)

More recently, timing helped me work out that 'Baby' had been exposed to food containing milk whilst at school. I knew because each time it occurred she had an intense tummy ache at more or less exactly the same time of day. It was always around 5 pm. At this stage apart from the snack that I always gave her after school, I knew that the last thing she had eaten was food from school (every child at her school has to have school dinners). 

It's harder to track what is in your food, when you're eating out and about!

Frustratingly this took a lot longer to solve, as there was no obvious pattern to this one, apart from time of day (it didn't happen every day) but also because other children at school had been having tummy bugs, which clouded the issue. It was only once we started a new term, with no new tummy bugs doing the rounds, that I could be sure that she hadn't picked up something from someone else! 

It's definitely much harder to solve this kind of thing when your child is spending time in another environment, particularly when you can't be there to help manage it. A food diary (see below) can help, when you can't see an obvious pattern, but my attempts to keep a food diary in this situation were frustrated because (from what I could gather from 'Baby') the menus published by the school kept changing and didn't match-up with what she was offered! Once the school became aware of the problem and put a better tracking system in place to prevent it happening, funnily enough the intense tummy aches stopped! 

4)  Is there a pattern as to when reactions occur?

Keeping a food and symptom diary can help isolate problems. It helped us, once, when 'Baby' was much younger. Food and symptom diaries are time consuming (particularly if still breastfeeding - you need to include your intake too) but can be a valuable tool for identifying a problem. 

Basically you track everything your the allergic individual has eaten/drank (including medication) and keep note of any potential symptoms that occur. Recording visible symptoms with photographs can also be helpful. If kept carefully over a week, or maybe longer, you should hopefully start to see a pattern emerge.

It might look something like this (sample of one day):

Food/Drink Ingested
8 am

Cheerios with
Soya milk (75mls)
Water to drink

10.30 am

Two small rice cakes
Four slices banana
12.30 pm

Half Tuna Sandwich
(Pure, Hovis Best of Both/Hellmann’s Mayo)
Handful of crisps*
3 slices apple
Small glass orange juice
Tummy pain between 2.30 and 4pm
3.00 pm

None (tummy still hurting)


Homemade Shepherd’s Pie
Robinson’s Jelly & Swedish Glace (Vanilla)
Water to drink

Anything to add:
100mls soya milk 6.30pm
Diarrhea around 7pm
Wakeful: 11pm, 2am, 4.30am

NB. Don’t forget to include milk feeds (if still breastfeeding), *brands of food and any medication.

If you prefer a more techie approach, there are apps like this one (I've not tried it, by the way) that can help you record what's going on.

4) Is there something you've missed?

Sometimes we've found that we haven't checked our labels properly, or taken it for granted that something is safe, only to find that it isn't - this was much more common in the early days of 'Baby's' allergy. The first time this happened it was a packet of salt and vinegar crisps. I just hadn't expected to find milk in those (I still had a lot to learn)! It was only once the reaction had occurred that I began to ransack the cupboard to examine all the ingredient labels on everything I'd eaten that day and discovered where I'd gone wrong!!

Another time, we discovered that it was jam (butter had been used to clarify it) that was the problem! Check home made or artisan-style jams for this - I've not seen it on any jams in supermarkets (hence I had never imagined it could be a problem)!

Click on this link for the full story!

5) Could it be a 'may contain'?

If your child is reacting and you've ruled everything else out, look at products which carry 'may contain' warnings or which could potentially have been made alongside milk products (for example chocolate and ice lollies that you know have not been made on specifically dairy free premises). 

Remember that 'may contain' warnings are not legally required on food labels, so some products may look safe - no milk listed in the ingredients or even hinted at in a 'may contain' warning - but they may still actually have picked up a trace, during the manufacturing process, which could cause a sensitive allergic individual to react. 

Not all individuals with a milk allergy react to small traces, it depends on how sensitive one is, but they have definitely been a problem for us in the past. It is becoming less of a problem in baked goods, now that 'Baby' appears to be tolerating a certain amount of baked milk, but milk that has not been baked so well is still a problem, therefore I would not risk products such as chocolate, yogurt or ice cream which 'may contain' traces of milk.

Clink on this link for a previous post for more details about 'may contain' risks.

And finally...

If you think you've isolated a problem that you didn't have before, please make sure you discuss it with your health care professionals - doctor, dietitian, etc. I know from personal experience that this isn't always as easy as it should be - some are more helpful/better informed than others, but hopefully they'll be able to help you confirm your suspicions. 

It's important to do so, as otherwise you/your little one may end up living on a more restricted diet than is necessary and miss out on vital nutrients. It may also affect the medications that you could be prescribed. But also, when it comes to registering your child at school, if you declare an allergy, they'll often ask you for a letter from your Healthcare Professional regarding your child's condition. Take it from me, getting appointments etc. can take some time, so it's better to have it all in place in advance!

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