Food diaries, planning, researching and reading labels. This is what I have found to help me with allergies. People who don’t have allergies often don’t understand the importance of allergies or what someone’s daily life consists of when they have allergies.
I am a mum to 3 beautiful girls who have all had cow’s milk protein allergy, soy and egg allergies. I had never heard of these allergies until my eldest daughter was diagnosed with CMPA at 3 months old. It was a frustrating time back and forth to doctors, being told it’s colic and that you’re a first-time mum “we think your depressed”. This is very disheartening but as a parent you know when your child is in pain and needs help, so you need to be listened too. The second time in hospital a doctor saw my daughter in pain and saw the symptoms and said her son was exactly the same. He had a cow’s milk protein allergy. The doctor changed my daughters’ milk to Nutrimagen. What a difference it made! My baby was happier, more content and finally drinking her milk.
I didn’t find attending dietician appointments particularly helpful. Researching and talking to people with allergies helped us much more. I found they understood what we were going through. It has been a learning curve alongside parenting itself. I’d write down everything my daughter ate from weaning age and if any symptoms arose within 72hours then try a new food. Going through this is challenging. Being a new parent as well as teething, it’s a lot to learn but you’re not alone. Attending playgroups was hard if they just offered snacks with milk in or did crafts with food that had any of her allergies in. Sometimes I felt like crying as I didn’t want my daughter missing out. I soon learned to fill my bag or pockets with safe foods my daughter could have. We baked at home using safe ingredients and tried lots of new recipes.
When eating out we have been offered gluten free options that weren’t dairy free. We have been told things were dairy free when they weren’t. We often left places as they didn’t have allergen menus or known what was in the food. This made me feel quite angry and frustrated. Firstly, because we couldn’t eat out as a family and secondly, angry that people in the food industry are serving food and don’t know what is in the food they are serving and selling to their customers.
When all their friends are having ice cream from the local farm they have visited and there’s no dairy free alternative - that was upsetting. I felt like my child was being punished even though they hadn’t been naughty. They were missing out and it was the same with parties. You don’t want your child to feel left out or different. They want to do what their friends are doing. Trying to explain that to a toddler is very hard and can be confusing to them. My eldest daughter always picks things up now and says are they dairy free, can I have them? It won’t hurt my tummy will it mummy?
Trying and failing the milk, soy and egg ladders was hard but now I’ve learned to take my time with it, at our own pace, when we are ready. This is what I have done and after 4 years my eldest daughter got discharged from the allergy clinic and told to try cow’s milk, soy and egg. We are not at the stage of drinking cow’s milk. We prefer the alternative milks but now she can have it in her food. It has made a huge difference in her relationship with food and going out.
Allergies have taught us so much as a family and changed our lives. It certainly makes you a lot more aware of what is in food and how important allergies are. It has also taught me that people need to be made more aware of allergies and the severity of allergies. I really hope more places cater for people with allergies and more training on allergies is given to people who work in the food industry or that handle any allergens.
Written by Charli B
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