Monday, October 22, 2012

Dairy: This Is the End

I feel like it has been a long road of nursing with George. From those first two months when I knew that something was wrong with my baby but couldn't figure out what it was, to the decision to eliminate all forms of dairy from my diet, and then throughout the next six-plus months of adhering to that decision, it really has been interesting. I know more about milk proteins like casein and whey then I ever knew I could, and I have learned that milk is in an enormous amount of food. And now, here we are; the first line of Adele's new superfly James Bond song has been repeating in my head all afternoon and evening: "This is the end."

Poor George before I cut out dairy

Do you know the feeling of carrying in heavy groceries that you know you're about to drop? You feel them slipping from your hand so, if you're like me, you pick up the pace dramatically to try to get every step underfoot possible before the peanut butter and lunchmeat hit the floor (okay, maybe it's just me. Maybe I load my grocery bags too heavily.)? Well, this is where I am with the no-dairy diet. These days, every week underfoot is considered a victory to me. In the beginning and middle of this journey it was fairly easy. When the pediatrician looks you in the eye and says that your son has a better chance of overcoming this allergy if you will just eliminate cow milk from your own diet and continue to nurse, rather than putting him on alimentum formula, how do you not choose this for your child? So, the choice was easy. Sure, I had weeks that were hard, like when those Doritos Locos tacos first came out, when I drink disgusting black coffee, and when I think of Pioneer Woman's Potato Leek Pizza. But I can say that I honestly held strong with no slip-ups, except for once when George was four months old and I ate a single hush puppy that I knew had milk in it, just to see if such a minute amount would make a difference (He was covered in a rash the next day and ended up needing prescription steroid cream. Yeah, this kid really has/had an allergy.). Now, these moments of weakness are coming every day. I am starting to feel consumed by the decisions about food, thinking about dairy versus non-dairy, and thinking about the foods that I crave and cannot eat even in moderation. The absurdity culminated the other day when I caved in and put a dairy item (a McDonald's french fry, if you must know) into my mouth, chewed it, and then spat it out. This hasn't even been one of my cravings, and now here I was impulsively shoving a fry into my face, feeling like a fool, and then spitting it out and brushing off my tongue with my paper napkin! Other people must have thought I had a problem, and they were probably right.

Add to this the physical stress that I know my body is under. I seriously don't know how vegans do it. Since the day I checked into the hospital to give birth to George, I have lost 65 pounds (including George himself); 34 of these have come since the day I decided to go dairy-free. I just can't keep the weight on, which doesn't sound like a problem but is not characteristic of my frame. Not sure if it's my imagination, but I think my teeth feel a little different. And the kicker was at a doctor's appointment today when the dermatologist told me that the itchy, bleeding rash I have had on the palms of my hands since April is undoubtedly a result of having eliminated dairy from my diet. She advised, "Your baby will be okay. I suggest that you take care of you so that you can keep taking great care of him."

Happy George now

So this is the end. Next week, Sommer and her lovely family are visiting, and we have a delicious meal planned at our favorite Mexican restaurant. The pediatrician told me to eat dairy on purpose when George turns nine months old (which happened last week) so that we can see where he stands, and I have been planning this meal for five months: chips and queso, and sour cream chicken enchiladas. Lifting that fork to my mouth is going to be one of the harder things I have done in recent years; after having so vigilantly watched every single morsel going into my mouth for seven months and reading every ingredient label so closely, now I'm going to put the allergen there on purpose. Hopefully, George has grown out of his allergy, and I can incorporate dairy back into my diet while continuing to nurse. However, if George shows signs of reaction, I will go back dairy-free for a week or two, just long enough to wean him, and he will then be put on formula because I just don't think I can do this anymore.

I feel racked with guilt about this decision. I feel nearly certain he will still show allergic reaction, and that I'm going to have to guide my baby to a bottle rather than my breast from now on. This honestly breaks my heart because we both love to nurse, and I love the benefits that come from breast-milk, like extra immunities. But the price just seems higher and higher to me these days, and so I'm hoping that ten months of breast milk will be enough in the end.

Friends, do you have thoughts?


  1. I weaned both of my kids at 10.5 months. It wasn't anything other than their emerging independence. Mommy was less portable than the sippy cup, so I became unnecessary. It was hard to be 'let go' but it was also freeing. I enjoyed my time nursing, but my kids seemed to be more cuddly after we weaned and it was more special because it was a choice, not just for food.

  2. As a Mom, I think this is one the hardest challenge we face. We want to give and give and give but if we have nothing left ourselves then we have nothing left to give (and even then we still feel guilty about it). You're not a robot, you're a person and you have certain basic requirements. If you don't take care of yourself, like the doctor said, then you can't take care of your family. You have given George a great start and now he's able to eat more and more foods other than nursing or formula and with time will only get less and less dependent on liquid calories the older he gets. I think he could only thank you and appreciate what you've done--your best.

  3. You are an absolutely amazing mother and one of the strongest people I know! It only took me 5 weeks (8 weeks total) with Brenden to realize that breastfeeding was NOT for me. The depression and anxiety it caused, as well as the bleeding, cracking, mastitis and thrush, was too much. I wanted to enjoy my baby and I wasn't. Then, the eczema started. He had a dog and egg allergy that made his entire body break out with itchy, rough red patches. So awful! And I blamed myself for quitting breastfeeding because I don't have that allergy and I could have helped him. At 3 yrs he was tested again and had grown out of all of it. With Lauren I figured out in 12 hrs that breastfeeding wasn't going to work again. (I eventually realized that they both had an extra piece of skin between their teeth and top lip. OUCH) Again, I felt guilty when her allergies showed up (milk and peanuts). However, I'm hoping she'll grow out of them like her brother.

    I understand your guilt, but girl you have done SO MUCH! 9 months of breastfeeding is huge! He's happy and healthy and you deserve some chips and queso!

    Big hugs!