I never really thought I’d miss cheese. I mean, I love cheese. I think most people do. But I’ve been operating on the belief for several years that milk isn’t really good for you, seeing as it’s meant to nourish a baby cow. So I didn’t really think I ate much dairy until a few weeks ago when I decided I had to give it up.
Ada, the little rascal, it seems, may have a cow’s milk allergy. I noticed that she always seemed to have this red, irritated ring of skin in her diaper area. Nope— not diaper rash. The girl doesn’t wear diapers during the day, at home. And she wears cloth when she is wearing them, except at night. I do disposable her at night so that we can just all sleep ’til morning without too many interruptions.
So I found out that a chronic diaper rash is a good sign of a food allergy in babies. And a breastfeeding mother can control that by eliminating that food from her diet. So great, I thought.
No cheese, check. I don’t drink milk, check. No yogurt, check. No butter… check. I can use smart balance. Vegan smart balance that is. When you begin to cut out dairy you suddenly find out that it is in EVERYTHING. It’s in margarine, in the form of whey. It’s in every item at McDonald’s. It’s in every packaged food and restaurant that doesn’t list the food as non-dairy.
The joke is that I had been upping my cheese and yogurt intake in an effort to keep my weight up while breastfeeding. A breastfeeding woman burns about 500 calories a day producing milk– at least that is the oft cited statistic that must come from somewhere. And so for me, I’ve found it hard to nurse and keep up my weight.
Apparantly, my body had really been enjoying those mozzarella snacks inbetween meals and at night, because that is what I am craving!
Most people’s first thoughts are that I don’t have to give up yogurt, because its cultured and the proteins are digested by enzymes. Then the next thought is that I could have lactose free products.
Nope nope nope. Lactose intolerance has nothing to do with a milk intolerance in babies. Baby’s tummys, by nature, produce lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose, or milk sugar. Milk intolerance has to do with the fact that dairy contains a protein that is hard to digest. Rather than this protein being digested well in the stomach, it remains a long chain protein and passes into the bloodstream this way. That causes allergic reactions, like skin reactions, abdominal upset, etc. People can be intolerant to soy, gluten and eggs in a similar way.
Anyone can feel free to correct me on this, but this is my general understanding of the issue, as a newcomer to the world of food allergies.
It’s interesting though. It’s interesting that misinformed medical doctors over the years have told women that their babies are getting sick from the mother’s milk or that the babies are lactose intolerant. I think it is probably more true, but less understood, that the baby had an allergy to something the mother was eating.
Lactose intolerance only happens when lactase is not there– and babies have it for their very survival. It disappears in many people around age 4 or 5, leading to a lactose intolerant adult.
A baby that is actually sick from the mother’s milk happens about 2 percent of the time and is due to an actual metabolic disorder. I wish more mothers and doctors knew this.
A woman can also have over-active letdown, or too much milk. This is something I suffered from, and what this does is cause what can be referred to as a “temporary” lactose intolerance. It goes away once the baby digests that meal. When a woman has too much milk, the baby only receives the first milk that comes out, the foremilk, which is all lactose. The baby’s tummy isn’t big enough to get the hindmilk, which has all the fat. So there isn’t enough lactase at that particular moment to digest all that sugar and the baby gets a tummy ache.
It’s not really lactose intolerance but it can mimic the symptoms, and maybe that’s why people think their babies are lactose intolerant and they aren’t really. True lactose intolerance just doesn’t happen until later in life.
Too much milk as a problem goes away when the mother’s milk regulates and the baby’s tummy gets bigger. But that’s another topic. It’s not really directly related to this.
I just started thinking about it again since being introduced to this whole food allergy world. How many women must give up the priceless privilege of nursing their baby because of misinformation that their milk is making their kid sick? And how many of them would be perfectly happy to simply eat less dairy, or soy, or eggs if it helped the kiddo out during the first year?
I remember one day a woman came up to me nursing Azita and told me how she weaned her kid at 3 months because the doctor said her milk is making her kid sick. She didn’t want to, but she thought she had to. Obviously, it’s something that many pediatricians still don’t know much about, and its a shame.
My peditrician was very supportive of me giving up dairy and agreed with me completely that the chronic rash and upset tummy preventing her from napping well probably stemmed from a food reaction. Ada was quite small on the growth charts and her doctor said that once she begins digesting my milk better, because I’ve cut out dairy, she should gain more weight.
So I feel good about following my intuition and beign proactive about not just assuming she has a little diaper rash and was just more fussy on some days than others.
But if I didn’t pay attention to my kid as well as I have had the bounty of doing since I stay home with her all day, I don’t think the doctor would have caught it either.
If she was just losing weight and I hadn’t thought about my milk and food intake at all, the doctor might have suggested I begin supplementing with formula, which is a common suggestion when the baby is not as big as they think she should be.
And another thought, interestingly, is that Ada would probably be fine if I didn’t pick up on it. One of my friends whose kid has a milk allergy is off the charts in his growth, and the diaper rash was the only symptom. So this shouldn’t discourage a woman from breastfeeding– a kid may have a mild allergy and be fine, and most likely, won’t have one at all.
Man I want a calzone.