My 4-year-old has multiple food allergies and we have been doing food challenges for over a year now. Here’s the story so far.
We’ve successfully reintroduced wheat, legumes (peas, beans and pulses) and eggs. Woohoo! This has opened up so many options and made life so much easier.
We are currently working our way through the milk ladder. We started back in May last year, made it up to Step 4 (scotch pancakes) and had a bit of a wobble and stalled for a bit. We found that she was ok with small amounts of the food but too much would give her loose poos and tummy aches, bad enough to disrupt her sleep. So we hung around there for a while, making sure to keep giving her foods from the first 4 steps regularly. Luckily once you get to Step 4 there are quite a lot of options that open up.
Now we’re moving on again and we’ve been working through Shepherd’s Pie, Lasagne and Pizza. I’ve found these stages really difficult for a few reasons. First of all, she’s not used to eating things with cheesy sauces and she hasn’t wanted to try lasagne or macaroni cheese. And my 7-year-old does not like to try new foods so she’s not been happy either! So, if I’m honest we haven’t really stuck to the milk ladder. Shepherd’s pie was easy as we’ve been used to eating a dairy free version. We’ve given her chicken kievs with cheese sauce in and that was fine. I’ve always given her pizza with dairy free cheese on top, and she didn’t even notice when I switched to normal cheese!
Plus, I’ve been really worried about it as it seems like such a large amount of dairy to give her – bearing in mind she used to react to dairy proteins in my breastmilk as a tiny baby! It’s quite hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea that it’s ok to give her this food, after so long of having to be really strict and avoid it completely. At the same time, I’m trying really hard not to make a big deal about these new foods because I don’t want her to be worried about it and start refusing to eat it.
Along the way I also gave her normal crepe type pancakes by mistake, the type that are only cooked for 1-2 minutes on each side. Thankfully she was completely fine, and as she really likes them, I’ve carried on giving them to her regularly. I worked out that these contain more milk than a child’s portion of lasagne and are cooked for a shorter time, so now I feel confident that she’s ok with foods containing cooked milk.
Anyway, all was well, just a few more grey hairs for mummy! So the next step was Milk Chocolate (Step 8). I gave her a small amount of chocolate buttons 2 days in a row, and all seemed fine. I did notice a few spots come up around her mouth on the second day, but they weren’t hives, just tiny little spots. Then on the evening of the second day she threw up, and carried on being sick all night. The trouble is, I don’t know if this was a reaction or a bug, and the only way to know for sure is to try again in a week or two when she’s feeling better. I’m really not thrilled about the thought of having to give my little girl something that could cause another night of vomiting!
When I was given the milk ladder, I saw the 12 steps, with 2 weeks on each step and thought, oh great we can get through this in 6 months – but in reality it’s been such a slow process. We have to wait for her to be free of all coughs, colds or any other kind of virus, and then make sure we have a day to start the next step where we’re not too busy so I can keep a close eye on her. Obviously we’ve not wanted to do it around birthdays, Christmas, holidays and other special occasions either. Then when we've had a suspected reaction we've had to wait 3 months before continuing. In reality it's taken us 9 months to successfully complete 7 steps, with 5 more steps still to go.
I feel frustrated that we’ve stalled again, but looking back we have worked very hard and made so much progress in the past year. She is growing and developing well and has a balanced diet, so there is no rush to get to the end of the ladder. Plenty of people live without eating dairy by choice, so it’s not essential, but each step of the ladder we can achieve is a bonus. With patience and a positive attitude, we will get through this!
Have you started the milk ladder with your little one? What has your experience been?