This is the third in a series of interviews designed to highlight the many reasons people might have a dairy free diet and how dairy free fits into their lives. The interview is with Samantha Parsons, a parent of three, two of which have cow’s milk protein allergies.
Thanks very much Samantha for taking the time for this interview.
First of all can you tell me how old your children are and what allergies they have?
I have 3 children 2 of whom have a cows milk allergy. Daniel is 5 and Matilda has recently turned two. How did you first find out your son and daughter had an allergy?
With Daniel he was just over one when we first started to see a connection between his food and his sickness. So he was confirmed as allergic to cows milk by 18 months. Tilly was pretty much from a month old maybe 6 weeks old. What did you find most difficult about putting them on a dairy free diet?
Reading labels and learning the names of the milk variants. And being young they didn’t understand why other kids were having stuff and they couldn’t i.e. kids parties or their friends’ parents handing out chocolate and they would have to give it back. So I’ve taught my two to ask if it has cows milk in it before accepting anything or to come and ask mummy.
If your child is school-going, do you find school events difficult – school tours, cake sales etc.?
Yes I did find this hard. Daniel is now at full time school and the school cannot offer him school meals as they cannot guarantee his food will be dairy free. Also they said he will be offered things like custard and yoghurt just the same as all the other children. So I make his packed lunch. His older brother who is not allergic is also sent with a packed lunch.
How do you handle parties for your little one?
Daniel is now at an age where I do let him make the choices. So I make sure he has things to eat maybe pack a sandwich but most of my friends know he can’t have dairy so they do try to make sure there’s something he can eat which I think is really good of them. Also if he really wants to eat a couple of chocolate fingers, I let him make the decision on the understanding that he will get tummy ache later. I feel he’s getting old enough now to understand and take a little responsibility.
He recently went to a friends party with another friend of mine as I had a poorly one at home. He didn’t ask for any of the chocolate etc. he asked an adult about the crisps and when the cake was cut he insisted he took it home to check with mum. I was so proud he had taken charge of his allergies.
Do you have a supermarket or health store nearby which stocks the foodstuffs you need?
Yes I am able to get most things for my children although I do cook from scratch a lot and I do bake too. Being a stay at home mum gives me the time to make stuff and freeze it for another day.
Do you find your family and friends understanding?
Yes and no. I find my family don’t respect it enough and seem to think they are “treating” them to stuff I don’t give them. It’s like they think I’m being mean by withholding it. My partner’s family just don’t get it and still buy them chocolate for example “I got them a milky bar – that’s ok isn’t it?” I just say yes and thank them now and it gets put away for months before finding its way to the bin, when the kids aren’t looking of course.
My friends are fab and make every effort to involve my kids in everything even at the expense of their own kids. If we all go on a day out they won’t let their kids have a Mr. Whippy we make sure all the kids have ice lollies. Just so Dan and Matilda aren’t singled out. I’ve never asked them to do it they take it upon themselves. So my kids feel involved and just the same as everyone else.
How do you find eating out with a child with allergies?
it can be difficult but now I just ask and maybe ring ahead if possible. I do generally take a pack lunch for the kids it just saves me worrying and getting frustrated.
Did you and your family go free from also?
No I haven’t neither does my partner, his daughter or our eldest boy. We have cow’s milk and Dan and Tilly have soya. We generally have dairy free margarine for everyone so we can relax when it comes to makes sandwiches. No worrying about if I have used the right margarine etc. and because we eat mainly meat and vegetable dinners or spaghetti bolognese or casseroles and I cook from scratch I know it’s dairy free. If I make pies I make the pastry myself, making sure it’s dairy free.
Sam says: My name is Sam. I’m 30 years old, I live in Wolverhampton with my partner Tony and our three kids -Toby 8 Daniel 5 and Matilda ( Tilly) is 2. I also have a step daughter Brittany who is almost 18. Dan has been dairy free since the age of 1 and Tilly pretty much from birth. I’m not sure why the youngest two are CMPA and Toby isn’t I guess it’s just one of those things. All three pregnancies were fairly easy and all three were c sections for one reason or another.