Friday, 29 March 2019

5 Tips to Survive Dairy Free Breastfeeding

Recently I was asked how I managed to survive dairy free breastfeeding for as long as I did, after discovering Matilda had a Cow Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) early on. As a mum you do whatever it takes to give your baby what they need, even if it means making some sacrifices yourself. Whether you plan on dairy free breastfeeding for two weeks or two years and beyond, the five tips below should hopefully help you on your dairy free breastfeeding journey. 

1. Establish a good support at home and online.

If you are going to give up dairy for your child's health, it helps to surround yourself with people who are understanding and supportive. That means surrounding yourself with those that won't keep offering you that slice of chocolate cake because 'surely a little bit can't hurt?' Well as you know, it does, and you need your family and friends around you to understand and accept that. In addition to having supportive family and friends, it helps to seek support online as well, either through support groups and forums or online social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You will soon find yourself overwhelmed by the number of mums going through the same experience as you and reading the success stories from those that have come out the other end, will provide the encouragement and hope you need to stay positive on those extra tough days. Instagram has a large community of 'Allergy Mums,' who you can lean on for support and inspiration. For example @cmpamum is a good Instagram account to follow as its documents a real mum's journey as she breastfeeds her son with CMPA. She tells you as it is, sharing the ups and the downs, which is refreshing in this world of filters and glossy, picture perfect instagram accounts. She also shares a lot of dairy free food options for yourself and your little one which is really useful for finding new dairy free products to try. Don't forget we are also on Instagram, just follow @growingupdairyfree for all our updates, including meal inspiration and dairy free products.

2. Stay can do this!

I know it is easier said than done, but stay strong. Don't let people pressure you into giving up dairy free breastfeeding until you feel ready to do so. You may have already found people saying to you, don't bother going dairy free, just switch to formula, it will be so much easier. If that is what you want, than go for it but if you want to carry on breastfeeding than stick to it, you don't have to give up. As someone who has done both, each have their challenges, you need to do what you feel the most comfortable with and not let other people's negativity get inside your head. When the time is right to stop for both you and your child, you will just get a feeling that the time is right. In the mean time, enjoy the close connection it brings, the calm moments amongst the chaos. You can read about my experience of when I decided to stop dairy free breastfeeding by clicking here.

3. Share your knowledge of CMPA.

Not only is it important to learn as much as you can about a Cows Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA), it is important that you also share that new knowledge with the people around you. How will others know what it means unless you tell them? If friends and family understand what it means to have a child with CMPA, they will be more understanding and hopefully you won't feel pressured into giving up breastfeeding or be given food products containing dairy when you visit for family dinners or lunch dates with friends. Help them understand the difference between an allergy and an intolerance, so they know the difference it can make. Click here to read Intolerance Vs Allergy for more information on the subject.

4. Learn your dairy free swaps.

Everyone has different tastes so you need to find what works for you. Thankfully with the rise of veganism, the number of dairy free products is widening constantly. In fact you will soon find there are lots of choices and you can find a dairy free version of almost anything (Check out my Quick Dairy Free Shopping Guide for some options to get you started). Make sure you choose a fortified milk alternative to help keep your calcium levels up. The closest I found for a good cup of tea was Oatly whole combined with PG Dairy Free teabags and Violife seems to be winning in the cheese alternative department. It is also important to find dairy free versions of your favourite 'treat' food, whether its chocolate, ice-cream, cake or crisps. This will help you keep your sanity, especially if others in your household are still eating dairy. It also helps to find your dairy free swaps for cooking your favourite meals, not everything has to change just because you are dairy free. You will find you can probably eat a similar diet just with a couple of dairy free swaps. This will also help you breastfeed for longer. It is also worth noting you will actually find more options down the normal aisles of the supermarket than the 'free from,' section. Lots of products are naturally dairy free, even some you wouldn't expect, not to mention they are much cheaper than the often overpriced specialist options.

5. Plan your meals

It is always best to be organised and plan meals ahead where possible. Not only does it save money, it also means you won't be caught out on days out. If eating out at a chain restaurant, look up the allergy menu online in advance to see your options. If eating at an independent restaurant, you can contact them by email, phone or, if local, pop in and find out if they can cater for your dietary needs. Know you are safe to eat before you go anywhere where possible, and for those moments you can't always plan ahead, keep dairy free snacks such as cereal bars etc out with you just in case you get stuck while out and about.

Monday, 11 March 2019

What are the Safest Childcare Options for an Allergy Baby?

In three short weeks, my maternity leave will come to an end and I will have to leave Matilda for  four days a week when I return to work. Every Mum knows how scary this step feels when you leave  your baby to once again enter the workforce, but when you add into the mix a baby with an allergy, this fear is heightened. In fact, it is frankly overwhelming. You have spent every minute since your little one was born, nurturing and protecting them, learning everything you can about your child's allergy so that you can keep them safe and healthy. Now you have to trust someone else to take as much care and pay the level of attention to detail as you have, that includes everything from hidden ingredients to cross contamination risk. They were not there in the days before you received your child's diagnosis, they didn't witness the level of suffering your child has gone through. They are not you and nor can they be. Only you can have 'mummy instincts,' for your own child. And so it made me question, what are the safest childcare options for babies with allergies?

Childcare Options for an Allergy Baby

As far as I am aware there are three main childcare options currently available in the UK. In this post, I hope to summarise all of them, highlighting the strengths and drawbacks of each.

1. Family Member

I am very fortunate, as when I had my eldest, my Mum decided to take early retirement so that she could look after my son so that I could return to work. If I wasn't able to look after my son who better than to care for him that my Mum? Two years later, they have a beautiful bond and now he has started Preschool, she will be looking after Matilda when my maternity leave finishes. My Mum is very supportive and although is not as aware of how to manage a Cows Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) in a baby as I am, she wants to learn, and next week we will be sitting down to go through everything. She has also asked for a list of 'safe,' foods (I will be printing off a copy of my Quick Shopping Guide) and a weekly meal planner, which I know she will stick too without fail. It definitely makes that return to work less stressful. Having a family member who is able to cover childcare, even if it is only for a day or two, not only saves on childcare costs, but is also brilliant as they have been on your allergy journey with you, right from the start. They love your child and already have a bond which reassures you that your child will be safe and well looked after. There is not the time restraints of working hours as with other child care options, meaning you can sit down and discuss your child's needs as long as you like, anytime you like and they will follow everything you need/want for your child. Most likely your child will also be looked after 1:1, which greatly reduces the chances of accidental ingestion and cross contamination. It is definitely the cream of the crop when it comes to childcare. That said, it only works if the person offering childcare is supportive and understands your child's allergy, if they are not this may not be the greatest of options for you, as it could put strain on your relationship if there are differences of opinion. Another possible drawback, one we found last time round when my Mum look after our son, was that because she looked after him during the week, we felt we couldn't ask her to look after him at any other point and with no other family nearby and our friends also having young families of their own, it meant we didn't have any babysitters if we wanted a date night. However, this was a small price to pay for having such great child care on hand.

2. Childminder

The lovely thing I have always felt about childminders, is that you child will be in a home environment. The quality of childcare can very from childminder to childminder but there are some outstanding childminders out there that provide a first rate experience for you and your child. I think with childminders it is important to find one that is a good 'fit' with your family. You will know as soon as you meet them whether they are right for you. They tend to have a small number of children to look after and all meals are prepared in a home kitchen. It would be easy for them to manage any cross contamination risks and they could provide your child with any dairy free snacks or meals you send or recommend for them. However, one of the drawbacks from having a child minder is that some childminders do not accept the Government 30 hour funding for 2 and 3 year olds. Which, if you are entitled to it, is a massive financial saving. Also, when your childminder books holiday, which can sometimes be in term time, there is no other staff to cover their leave and so you need to either take leave yourself or make other childcare arrangements for that period which can sometimes be difficult.

3. Private or School Based Nursery

Private or School based nurseries provide a very varied and stimulating environment for all children. The large class sizes also mean there are great opportunities for your child to extend their social skills and become more independent. All good and outstanding nurseries will put together a health care plan with you for you child, outlining their allergy and what steps should be taken if accidental ingestion should occur. Unfortunately, I know some people who have not always had the best experience with private or school based nurseries, in regard to allergies, however most should be very accommodating and if not there will be one out there that is. Nearly all private and school based nurseries now accept the 30 hours funding, greatly reducing childcare costs which is an added bonus. However, there are some drawbacks to this childcare option. Firstly, they do usually have a larger number of children, this naturally increases the risk of accidental ingestion as another child could offer your child something containing dairy without an adult seeing, especially as most nurseries deliver milk and fruit during circle time. Even with the best intentions and strategies, it is not possible to watch every child every second of the day and unfortunately, I have known accidents to happen. Also, there is usually a set menu for meals and it maybe harder for them to accommodate your child's needs.


All childcare options come with some element of risk, but if we are completely honest, there is also some risk when we are looking after our child on our own. We are only human after all. We can  make mistakes, especially when sleep deprived. All we can do, is be prepared, educate the people around you the best you can and have faith in all the precautions you have put in place.

What has been your experience of childcare and allergies? Good or bad, let me know. What worked best for your family?

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