There are days my heart sinks when Addie my four-year old asks me, “Mommy, can today be a cheat day?” It is hard to tell your child they can not eat the foods they enjoy. We know as adults just how much of a struggle it can be to see foods we love when we are dieting. But for a child, it is pure torture sitting next to another child as they enjoy and savor each lick from that ice cream cone you can not have. Or what about walking into a pizza joint and smelling the pizzas coming right out of the oven? It is a slap in the face that there in one right inside her Daddy’s store we have to smell each time we visit.
Although she has had a struggle with dairy since she was born, there was a time period where she seemed to do really well handling dairy. During that time (from when she was about 2 1/2 to almost 4) she was able to eat without restrictions but was having quite frequent UTI issues. After several visits to see a specialist at Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, it was determined that her body can not breakdown the protein found in the dairy. When we are very cautious, her body does well. Even if she cheats for a day, she pays dearly.
She was about three months old when we were able to determine it was dairy that was hurting her so badly. Once I stopped eating dairy, she became such a different baby. She stopped vomiting and crying all the time. It wasn’t long after Bethany was born that she started sharing some of the same traits as Addie did as a baby. After about eight weeks, I took the plunge again and stopped eating dairy. Again, no magic, just a much happier baby.
The reality is, almost everything you can purchase to consume has dairy in some form in it. Seriously, you would never think it is in so many products! For me though, I was relieved. That they share a dairy allergy? No! But that their issues could be resolved by simply abstaining from a certain food, yes! No medication was needed, no surgery, just no dairy! I can handle that, but can they?
For a child to accept they can not eat something that everyone else has can be difficult. You have to find a balance and not go overboard. Addie is old enough now to understand why she can’t have foods with dairy in them, so that helps. She knows how her body feels if she eats it. She knows the pain she will have to deal with if she does, so usually she is quick to say no but there are times she is tempted. Those are the days that she asks, “Mommy, can today be a cheat day?”
To help her (and myself currently as I am breast-feeding) deal with not being able to eat dairy, I try to be prepared. It helps that we both share the same diet, so she is not the only one. But it can still be a challenge! Cooking and baking at home isn’t an issue, it is simple to adjust a recipe to be dairy-free with swapping out dairy with a few of my favorite ingredients (almond milk and coconut oil), it is being on the go that can be a challenge. The solution, be prepared!
I could tell you that I am always prepared and always have the right things always at the right times, but I would be lying, so I won’t. I can however tell you I try. I try to make sure I always have snacks on me that Addie can have. If we are going to be somewhere that will be serving cookies, I try to make sure I have some that Addie can have with me, so she can enjoy snacks at the same time others are.
On occasions we may be eating out, it can be a challenge. Granted some restaurants are amazing with their food allergy menus, others not so much so. If I know we will be dining out with friends, I try to locate the Restaurant menus online to see if the ingredients are listed, if not I will try to call ahead to find out our options. It is much easier to have it worked out ahead of time so it doesn’t draw more attention than is needed.
For both the girl’s sake, I wish they didn’t have to deal with a dairy allergy. I wish they could go through life being able to consume what would be considered a “normal” diet but that isn’t the case. If the biggest obstacle I have to help them overcome is that we have to purchase a dairy-free chocolate or that they have to drink Almondmilk in place of dairy milk, I can totally handle that!
I am a firm believer that our attitude to how we approach a situation is often the outcome. If you are negative going into a situation, the outcome usually carries a negative undertone. If you have a positive attitude, usually the outcome tends to reflect that as well.