My baby's allergies

Sutton Mum Renee Davis explains how her baby daughter was diagnosed with food intolerances

Dairy: My love/hate relationship 

Even as a child I was never the biggest fan of dairy, and cut it out of my diet completely ten years ago in a bid to lose the weight I had gained while travelling Asia. It worked well for me and by simply replacing cows milk with soya and avoiding foods such as chocolate, cheese, creamy deserts, I lost about a stone in three months and felt fab.

After this time I continued with the soya milk and started eating little bits of dairy again, but became weary of having too much of it. If for whatever reason I went OTT I would pay later with stomach cramps, bloating, feeling sick and bad wind. Looking back I think I've always had an intolerance towards the stuff, but going against my better judgement I ate dairy freely when was I was pregnant with my firstborn Polly who is almost three. I was concerned about calcium for us both while I was carrying her, and had completely bought into the idea that dairy was the best source of it.

I exclusively breastfed Polly but a few weeks after she was born she started being sick after most feeds, and was later diagnosed with reflux. Lots of babies have reflux, but as I had it severely as a child and had to undergo stomach surgery at the age of five, I was understandably concerned. Polly also broke out in terrible facial eczema when she was around six weeks, and the only thing that would clear it up was hydrocortisone.

Our situation just didn't sit right with me, and my gut instincts were saying the culprit was the dairy I had been eating. Once again I completely cut it out of my diet, and it did us both the world of good. Alarm bells rang once more when we started weaning - it became obvious that Polly had issues with various foods as she would often throw up after eating or get a bright red rash around her mouth. I took her to the doctor countless times but was dismissed, being told that babies often have food intolerances and most grow out of them of their own accord.

Erring on the side of caution we made the decision not to give her cows milk to drink, and she went straight from the breast to organic rice milk at one. We felt she should be getting her nutrition from food at this point anyway and not filling up on milk, so she would have about 100ml in the evening before bed in place of her last feed. Between years one and two I was fairly strict with what she ate and didn't allow her to have much in the way of dairy at all, but years two to three have been much more relaxed. It's so difficult to deny a child in front of their friends and I didn't want her to feel excluded. I thought that as long as we didn't overdo it and stayed away from cows milk as a drink all would be fine.

Unfortunately this hasn't been the case for us. For the best past of a year Polly has had a large red sore patch of eczema on her cheek, as well as other smaller areas over her body, she also became a terrible sleeper, seemed constantly sick and developed a general whiney disposition. I had put it all down to the dreaded 'terrible twos', but it can apparently all be symptomatic of food intolerance.

At my wits end, I recently took her to see local allergy specialist Mary Roe who confirmed my suspicions were true. Polly is intolerant to dairy, corn and it's many derivatives (and there are many!), barley malt (another sneaky one), vanilla extract, banana, strawberry, orange and anchovy. As well as the suntan lotion, washing detergent and shampoo we had been using.

We're now following a strict three month elimination diet, and shall slowly reintroduce the problem foods after they have been fully excluded for this time. For the near future, the hope is that we will be able to build up a tolerance for them in the future so she is able to have tea at friends houses without any fuss, and won't need to eat differently from the other kids at nursery. Longer term, I'm told that most children outgrow food intolerances by the age of seven which is comforting but feels like forever at this point.

I believe that when it comes to your children you should always trust your gut instincts, but I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with people about food intolerance only to see them rolling their eyes. This has made me feel like I'm being paranoid and projecting my own issues onto my kids, hence why it took so long for me to actually get Polly tested. Only time will tell if she is able to tolerate these foods again, but if nothing else I'm hoping that we start seeing her eczema, sleep and general health improve in the coming weeks.

I guess the moral of this story is don't make the same mistake I did -  get your child properly tested if you suspect they have allergies. Also don't believe the hype about dairy being so great, there are plenty of other fantastic sources of calcium out there such as green leafy vegetables, almonds, tahini, tinned fish and sushi nori to name but a few. As for me, I need to start practising what I preach so have started being super strict again. I think it's time for our household to say see ya for good!

Read Renee's Recipe blog on Local Mums Online

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