Indi (our totally awesome daughter) has a cow’s milk protein allergy.
She’s also allergic to beef, including beef gelatine. (And soya.) Basically, the whole cow doesn’t agree with her! The bones, the flesh, and the milk! Here I present you with 23 truths of parenting (and breastfeeding) a child with allergies. How many can you relate to? Leave a comment if I’ve forgotten one!
1. There Are Always Emergency Snacks
In two years I can count the number of times I’ve left the house without emergency food and drink supplies on one hand. When I haven’t got a snack stash on me, it’s because we’re probably on our way to buy food at the corner shop a minute away.
To feel calm about a situation, I have to be prepared for all eventualities. So much so, I like to feel able to feed a thousand children and adults at any given time, even if I’m going out somewhere to eat!
My husband smirks when I draw a snack from my handbag with great speed and pride. But, when I’m able to distract Indi with a snack after trying to explain to tell her she can’t have the thing she wants because it will make her ill, he soon changes his tune!
2. There’s Always A Full Change Of Clothes, Right Down To The Socks
Luckily, poonamis, which are one of the signs that Indi is reacting to something, are an infrequent occurrence at the moment as we have a handle on her allergies. Like lots of other non-allergic kids, they have struck at the most awkward of times. I always remember when we were driving to France. It was so bad we had to throw a whole outfit away before we even left the country. Even the socks. We awkwardly changed Indi on the front seat (leather, thankfully), bagged it all up and chucked it in the bin at the Eurotunnel!
3. You’re On High Alert For Food On The Floor
It’s pretty much impossible to tell a crawling baby who sees everything on the floor as fair game not to put things in their mouth. That’s why you’ve got to train your go-go-gadget arms to sweep up even the smallest of allergen-ridden morsels. I find soft play centred and kids parties are the worst for this!
4. You’re Scared To Let Other People Look After Them
There are only a handful of people I can really trust (you know what, there’s probably not even that many) to look after Indi. When you are not used to looking on the packets of foods all the time, it’s easy to assume a food or drink is ok, and forget that even a little bite can cause symptoms.
5. You’ve Listened To The Phrase “Oh, so they’re lactose intolerant then” So. Many. Times.
Nope they’re actually ALLERGIC to COW’S MILK! There is a difference. The amount of times I’ve had to correct people is frustrating.
6. Finding Out A New Food Is Safe To Eat!
The sheer delight felt when you come across something allergen free that you never thought would be. Then the stockpiling of said item begins!
7. “Just A Little Bit Won’t Hurt”
This statement has got to be the most hurtful thing that anyone can suggest. No, Debbie. If that was actually the case, then my child wouldn’t be allergic to it. A statement like this makes you feel like you’re making it all up. For fun. Yes, cos it’s so fun having a child who’s allergic to stuff.
8. Being Handed The Gluten Free Menu When You Say Cows Milk Protein Allergy
The UK are getting really good at establishing the difference between certain allergies, especially high-street restaurants like Zizzi, Pizza Express and Ask.
When you go to a smaller place like a cafe or soft play centre, I’ve found it’s quite often a different story. I recently went to a soft play centre where the manager was being great about trying to provide some food for Indi, but she was unfortunately so inexperienced with all allergies that in the end Indi was served cheese flavoured crisps and a piece of ham for lunch.
10. Secretly Eating Banned Food When Your Allergic Child Isn’t Looking
Hanging out the fridge, stuffing in leftover pizza and trifle is my fave pastime at the moment.
11. Having Research Skills Better Than The FBI
Going somewhere new? Been invited to a kids party? Oh the joys of having to make calls/emails to establishments to see if they cater for those with a cow’s milk protein allergy, and if not, asking if you can bring your own food.
12. Telling Your Other (Non-Allergic) Child To Go And Eat That Somewhere Else
Usually my kids get served the same food, but sometimes, when one wants something the other can’t have, it saves a fight, and a load of upset if I split them up.
Fin has been known to eat a mini trifle at the top of a slide in secret where Indi couldn’t get to him when she was younger. Now Indi understands why her diet is different to other’s.
13. Avoiding Parties
A buffet full of food they can’t eat. Yay. It’s stressful, especially when your teeny toddler is grabbing handfuls of wotsits from the table.
14. Having To Explain Yourself All The Time!
Especially if you’re breastfeeding an allergic child. One of the most annoying things is trying to explain to someone why you can’t eat a certain group of foods when you’re not allergic yourself. Why are you eating a vegan meal? Why can you not just have soya milk in your coffee? Oh cos I’m breastfeeding a child who has a cow’s milk protein allergy. Then the questions really start!! Oh leave me alone!
15. When Well-Meaning People Bring Food Gifts That They Can’t Eat
Whether we like it or not, people WILL forget about the allergies. I say this with no malice, because I understand the world does not revolve around my kids. I even forget about my bezzie’s nut allergy all the time, so I myself am a culprit of this. But bringing milk chocolate as a treat for my child with a cow’s milk protein allergy really sucks when I have to explain to them they can’t actually eat it after all.
What I think is worse, is when one child gets given a lovely treat (say at Easter), and your allergic child gets nothing, because they “weren’t sure what they could have…” That one hurts.
16. Wiping Down High Chairs And Tables When You’re Out In Public
When Indi’s cow’s milk protein allergy was severe (rash on touch, vomiting etc), we had to be very careful about this. It made me feel like I was overprotective Mum who couldn’t have their precious baby sitting in a high chair that hasn’t been scrubbed. People watching me do that in the past must have thought I was bloody mad!
17. Having To Prove Over And Over Again To Childcare Establishments That They Have A Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy
A number of times I’ve had to provide up to date letters from our peadiatrition PROVING that I’m not just imagining Indi’s symptoms. I do get why they ask, and they have to have the relevant paperwork, but with the way you have to wait a gazillion years for a proper medical diagnosis and when allergy testing is not very accurate, it’s sometimes not as easy as providing the written proof. In a year, I’ve had to fill the same form about 3 or 4 times now at Indi’s nursery.
18. Praying That This Time You Will Get Past The First Wrung Of The Milk Ladder
We’re not there yet, and I really hope that within a year Indi can start to tolerate her current allergens. I’m dreading her starting school with allergies, but we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed.
19. Going On Holiday With Kids Is Even Harder Than Normal
Indi is now 2, and usually we would have been on a holiday via plane somewhere by now. Because of her cow’s milk protein allergy, my anxiety hasn’t allowed me to book anything, and we’ve done driving holidays to self catering villas in France so far.
We do this because we can pack the car with all her safe foods, and don’t have to declare it over the border. Not speaking the language, and having to try to explain about a cow’s milk protein allergy in an all inclusive restaurant is just not worth the stress right now.
20. Throwing A Party With Everything Your Child Can Eat
Multiple times have I felt enormous pride when providing a full buffet of food that I don’t have to worry whether will cause a reaction. I can just enjoy hosting our party, and let Indi take bites out of everything without having to be hovering over her!
21. Is That A Reaction? Or Is It A Bug? Or Teething?
Sometimes I can’t tell if something is a reaction or a bug. Sometimes you just have to let it be, and not try to micromanage the situation or overthink it.
22. Becoming Very Loyal To Food Establishments You Know You Can Eat In
Saves hassle, saves contacting in advance or stalking menus. If you know you like the food, and it’s safe to eat, I say it’s cool to become their best customer.
23. Feeling All The Feels When People Make An Effort To Provide Free From Food
When invited to someone’s house, I always feel like a massive pain in people’s arses about our allergy needs. I always offer to bring our own food or do a course to take some pressure off, but when someone takes it upon themselves to look up special recipes or where they can get certain ingredients safe for a cow’s milk protein allergy, it really makes me feel special.
I have one particular friend who made me and my family a load of allergen free meals when we had Beau. I think only allergy parents will appreciate that that was just the best gesture ever.
I realise that to people who don’t have this kind of thing to consider on a daily basis must think we’re bloody mad, but it’s our reality. Also, I have only experienced an allergy as severe as vomiting, hives and swelling. To those who are living with life-threatening or multiple allergies, you really are amazing!