Friday, February 11, 2011

Milk allergy

A couple of weeks ago, I was worried that Caitlin had a milk protein allergy.  I had just weaned her and had switched her to 50% cows milk.  She suddenly started waking up in the middle of the night screaming.  This happened several nights in a row.  We tried making her room warmer, tried backing off on the cows milk, tried ibuprofen.  She had no other signs of illness, other than more dirty diapers than usual...which fit milk allergy...and a million other things...or nothing.  The only thing that remotely helped was the ibuprofen.  Lee asked if I thought there was any chance it was just teething, but she did not act like she was teething.  Neither of our children have woken up in the middle of the night, for more than one night, due to teething, that I know of.  I decided to check her gums the next morning anyway.......4 teeth!!  One tooth had broken the surface, and there were 3 other tooth bumps.  We continued to give her ibuprofen before bedtime, and she immediately went back to sleeping through the night.

In the meantime, I had to make a plan in case it was a milk allergy.  It didn't fit the picture, but I wanted to be prepared.  Some people feel that cows milk does not need to be a major part of our diet.  While I agree, both of my kids are milk hogs, particularly around this age.  It is comforting and soothing to them.  They honestly get excited about a cup of milk.  So what was I going to do if I was out of breastmilk and she could not drink cows milk??

I gathered my options.  One was to keep nursing her (not an option, she was essentially completely weaned).  Two, toddler formula.  I do not believe formula is poison by any means, but it is not the healthiest option in my opinion.  Many formulas contain high amounts of corn syrup and other sugars that I am trying to avoid.  Then there were milk substitutes...almond, coconut, soy, and rice being the most common.  I have concerns about soy products containing phytoestrogens.  The evidence is controversial, but there are reports of it increasing cancer risk.  Although this is highly anectdotal, I have also heard that rice milk contains trace amounts of arsenic.  It also does not have much fat at all, which is a good thing for babies.  I could not find any dangers of almond or coconut.  They are probably the closest in nutrients and calories to cows milk.  I was not worried about calcium intake as that is pretty easy to supplement, but I needed something that tasted similar to milk and that would give her the fat, protein, and calories that cows milk provides.

In the end, we decided to continue increasing the amount of cows milk, and she tolerated it just fine.  She loves long as she gets her nightly ibuprofen fix.  All this to say, I feel much better prepared if I were to have to make a switch.  If you find yourself in this position, do your own research, but know that there are several other alternatives to cows milk.  Goats milk is also very similar to cows milk and much easier to digest.  There is a chance that if it is a true milk protein allergy that goats milk will also be allergenic.  However, if you only have an intolerance and cost is not prohibitive, it would also be a good option.

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