Saturday, April 21, 2012

Going Dairy-Free

Have we talked about how absolutely in love I am with George? This child gives me the warm fuzzies even when I think about him. His adorable little old-man face is just about too much for my heart at times...which is why it was so easy for me to make a recent decision about the foods that I eat.

I'll explain. Little Georgie has had problems with his skin from about the first week of his life. Numerous trips to the pediatrician, four rounds of steroid cream application to his face, head, chest, and neck, and countless hours of my knowing that something is wrong, but not knowing what, has led us to present-day. His pediatrician, Betty Harmon, has told us time and time again that his skin is sensitive and we have to be CAREFUL with what he contacts; perfumes, scented lotions, clothes that have had dryer sheets/fabric softener/haven't been double-rinsed are all off-limits to him. And yet after our family has switched soaps and lotions, detergents and habits, that hateful old rash just keeps coming back to his precious cheeks the day after his last steroid application.

It should be noted here that I am nursing George, and he is not on a formula diet. About a month ago, a friend of mine who is a lactation consultant suggested that perhaps he has a food allergy. She initially suggested a dairy problem and said I should possibly consider giving up dairy for a couple of weeks to see if his skin clears up. I began doing internet research on dairy allergies and found that, sure enough, George's profile seemed to be consistent with some frequently-reported symptoms (rashes, diaper rash, excessive spitting up, and other gastro-intestinal issues). However, I wasn't quite convinced because, unlike so many of the babies that I read about, George is generally pretty happy, and calming his tears typically isn't a huge ordeal. The Saturday before Easter though, I decided to give the non-dairy diet a go.

Like most people that go dairy-free for a period of time, I made a ton of rookie mistakes in that first week! I knew I would be giving up obvious cow-milk foods such as butter, cheese, sour cream, and ice cream. Bye bye pizza. However, I had absolutely no clue that milk is in so many food items! I had naively assumed that if I went to Chick Fil A and ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with no cheese and specifically requested no butter on the bun, I would be in the clear. EEEH! WRONG! To use Chick Fil A as an example, there is milk as an ingredient in the bun itself, the chicken (both the grilled and fried varieties) under goes a milk wash, and the fries are also NOT dairy-free! Okay then, big mess-up. A closer look at the ingredient labels led me to realize that so many items, from spaghetti sauces to dinner rolls to many breakfast cereals to doritos to toaster strudels all contain either milk, milkfat, whey, casein, sodium caseinate, lactoglobulins, and other various no-nos.

It takes a while for the milk to get out of my system, and then to get out of his as well. The long and short of it is that, despite some of my mess-ups, on day five of the no-dairy regiment George's skin began clearing. Day six was even better, and days seven and eight were glorious! His skin was as clear as it only is during steroid treatments, and they were scrumptiously kissable (okay, they are scrumptiously kissable even when they are rough and broken out, but they were SMOOTHLY scrumptiously kissable!). Then, I accidentally messed up a few more times, and increased my soy intake (which may also be a contributing problem) and boom! Here comes the mean old rash again. Currently he is broken out, but I have a much better grasp about the strict limitations of this diet now, so I am hopeful that we will again see an improvement in the near future. An appointment with Dr. Harmon last week led to both of us agreeing that a dairy allergy in conjunction with sensitive skin certainly sounds possible if not likely, and she instructed me to eliminate all dairy and limit my soy intake. I will do this whether or not I continue to see improvement until he can undergo a serum test at the age of six months to confirm or reject all of this. I am looking forward to my coming weight loss (I've already lost four pounds on this!), and I am also looking forward to the cooking and baking challenges that will certainly accompany this new lifestyle. But mostly I am looking forward to the hopes of George feeling and looking much, much better.

We'll be talking about this more later. You'll get updates on his progress and I'll share our culinary innovations as well. Good night, friends!

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