This week’s allergy story is with Vivienne whose daughter Niamh has a cow’s milk protein allergy. Thank you Vivienne for taking the time to talk to dairy free kids and share your story with other people affected by CMPA.
How did you first find out your child had a cow’s milk protein allergy?
Really it was within a day or two of her birth. She was always unsettled and was not happy unless she was being held, which of course we didn’t mind. She was always scratching her face too and was generally out of sorts.
I spent the first few weeks holding her upright every night sitting in a comfy chair in the bedroom, as this was the only way she would sleep. Niamh has been breastfed since birth but would only take small feeds and very upset after them. After 5 weeks I went to our GP who said it was reflux and she was put on medication for that, which did settle her a bit.
It really started to show when Niamh started solids and crèche around the same time, she was 7 months. She always seemed to have a bad cold and cough. We put it down to picking up bugs in the crèche and that it would settle in time.
Gut instinct told me it wasn’t. So I did some research on the Internet and dairy allergy symptoms ticked all the boxes. So back again to my GP and I was not leaving without at least a referral or plan to find out why our daughter was always unwell.
A plan was put together that myself and Niamh would cut out dairy for 6 weeks. Then we were to give her some goat’s milk and see if there was a reaction. Within 8 minutes of her taking a couple of sips of the milk a rash started on her right cheek and over an hour it got redder and hives started to show. Her nose runny and eyes all watery too. We went back to the GP who did a referral letter to a paediatric dietian.
At what age was your daughter when the allergy was first diagnosed?
Niamh was officially diagnosed with Ige Mediated dairy allergy three weeks after her 1st birthday. In the last week or two Niamh has had further blood tests and the consultant feels there is another allergy there and Niamh is possibly coeliac also.
How did you find the process of getting your daughter a diagnosis?
It wasn’t the easiest. Being a first time mum I felt like I was constantly going to my GP and leaving with a diagnosis that she had a viral infection but once we trialed cutting out dairy and she had a reaction, it went a lot smoother.
Is your daughter in childcare? How did you find leaving her in someone else’s hands when she has a cow’s milk allergy.
She is, she is in a crèche four days a week. They are fantastic. I was nervous but as there is a chef on site. I know Niamh’s meals are prepared in a separate space. Her place-mat and bowl are a different colour to the children that do not have any allergies.
Sometimes it can be quite difficult to diagnose and get support for allergies. Did you have good support from your doctor/allergist?
Yes, my GP is brilliant. I don’t have to remind her about the allergy when Niamh has to get a prescription. Or for me as I am breastfeeding Niamh.
What did you find most difficult about putting her on a free from diet?
Food label reading, especially before the allergens had to be highlighted. I bought several items I thought were fine until I got home. Also trying to find alternatives to the recommended norm you find in cookbooks and websites when feeding a young child.
Have you a favourite free from product?
I love the Saffron Green sauces. So handy and tasty especially when I haven’t planned the dinner.
Is there one product you wish you could find for your child what would it be?
I think there is enough available without her missing out on anything. Maybe dairy free pizza, as a treat.
Do you find your family and friends understanding?
They are now. Like us, it’s taken a bit for everyone to adjust and be more conscious of how to cook without dairy. Also about cross contamination when preparing and cooking food.
How do you find eating out with a child with allergies?
We don’t eat out very often but when we do I try to plan on where we go. I would check menus online and if necessary phone restaurants to see if there are any alternatives available.
Did you and your family go free from also?
I am dairy free as I am breastfeeding Niamh. My husband is slowly getting less dairy too, except for milk for his cereal and cheese. It just makes cooking meals a bit easier.
Thanks so much Vivienne for taking the time to do this interview. It sounds so familiar, the reflux and dairy allergy with similar symptoms and being diagnosed with one rather than the other to start with. My son had both but I struggled to get a diagnosis for reflux and then later to get a diagnosis for CMPA. Best of luck with the further tests, I hope if Niamh is coeliac that the change in diet will settle her. I haven’t tried those Saffron Green sauces, must get hold of them! Thanks again.
If you would like to take part in this interview series of real life allergy stories on dairy free kids, please drop me a line laura @ dairyfreekids.ie