This week is food allergy awareness week, and Sawyer and I just donated 197oz of dairy/soy containing breast milk to the Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas, whose mission is to improve the health and survival of critically ill infants through donor milk. I’m a huge advocate of breastfeeding (I nursed Liv until she was almost two years old when I became pregnant with Sawyer) and all of the health benefits it provides for babies (although in the end, fed is ALWAYS best).
When I first started my breastfeeding journey with Sawyer, I had oversupply and assumed that was why he kept refluxing, refusing milk, and crying. After visiting a pediatric GI doctor, we discovered that Sawyer had a dairy and soy allergy. In October of 2018, I stopped having all dairy and soy and our son became a happy, pain free baby. I recently tried reintroducing dairy to him, and he broke out in severe hives all over his body for multiple days. We now have an epipen just in case we should ever need it.
I’m often asked why I don’t just stop breastfeeding so I can go back to eating all the foods I love, but I figure that Sawyer and I are in this together, and I have no intention of abandoning him. In the beginning it was definitely a struggle to find foods to eat that I actually enjoyed. Surprisingly, it’s more difficult to find soy-free foods than dairy-free. Did you know that vegetable oil used in tons of restaurants is just a moniker for soybean oil? There were so many things I didn’t know and unfortunately learned the hard way through slip-ups and a miserable baby for a few days after. I’m hoping these tips can help those with dairy and soy allergies to navigate the food world a bit better:
- Allergens are often hidden, tucked away into foods that you wouldn’t assume contain them. For example, soybean oil is not just limited to edamame, tofu, and soy sauce. It’s often found in bread, teriyaki sauce, non-dairy (pareve) desserts, breadcrumbs, vegetable oil, etc. Always read labels and look for the bold letters at the bottom of the ingredients that say CONTAINS (insert allergen). Play it safe and learn to read all labels and ingredients
- It’s all a mindset. If you go in strong knowing that you’ll have to alter recipes here and there and will not be eating the same foods you previously did, it’s pretty manageable. I recently went to a first birthday party at a restaurant where the food was already made and out on a buffet table. Because I couldn’t alter anything, I settled for fruit and made the best of the situation.
- I find it’s also very helpful to carry allergy-friendly snacks on me at all times so I’ll never get to the point where I’m hangry. If I eat before a party at home, I know I’m good to just enjoy the party without worrying about what to eat. Snacks I always have on hand that are allergy-friendly are: Enjoy Life mega chunks (dairy free chocolate!), Garden Lites banana chocolate chip muffins, Ella’s Kitchen nibbly fingers, Skinny Pop organic sea salt popcorn, Stretch Island fruit leathers (naturally sweetened), and applesauce pouches that I steal from the kids 😉
- Here are some alternatives that I found for common dairy and soy products: Elmhurst oat milk (instead of dairy milk), So Delicious coconut milk yogurt (instead of dairy yogurt), avocado oil (for cooking with instead of vegetable oil), coco aminos (instead of soy sauce), Earth Balance olive oil buttery spread (instead of butter), Sir Kensington’s avocado oil mayonnaise (it’s soy free unlike other brands), and Dave’s killer bread (soy-free).
Hope this helps anyone battling allergies. I personally developed a tree nut allergy as well as an allergy to certain fruits in college, so it’s been something I’ve had to adapt to over the years. It definitely becomes second nature after a while, so hang in there! 🙂