My Kid is Dairy-Free (and Here is Why…)

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dairy-freeAbout five years ago, when our first-born was about a year old, she started to suffer from chronic ear infections. By ear infection number four, we visited our ENT to test her hearing and discuss our options (tubes being the most likely option). 

To our surprise, our ENT suggested taking our daughter off of dairy cold turkey for two weeks straight. He explained that many children have trouble with dairy beyond typical gastrointestinal symptoms. One of these troubles can be an over-abundance of mucus in their bodies, which can contribute to ear infections.

In all honesty, I walked out of the ENT’s office thinking our doctor was a quack. 

But, we threw caution to the wind, took a trip to the supermarket, and bought all of the dairy-free options we could find. Our 14-month-old was not the wiser and gladly ate anything we put in front of her.

And, much to our surprise, she didn’t have another ear infection for the next three years until she turned four years old.

Per our ENT’s advice, we reintroduced dairy at age two, but very minimally. Full glasses of milk, yogurt pouches, and cheese sticks were given sparingly.

This past year, when she was five, we moved to a new town with a markedly different climate, where she entered a new school. Unfortunately, this kind of change often results in lots of illnesses. She was not spared. Virus after virus turned into infections that traveled down to her chest. There were antibiotics of increasing strength, inhalers, and many missed days of school. 

Among numerous trips to various doctors and batteries of tests, we went back to our trusty ENT, who again suggested taking her off of dairy, cold turkey, for the same reasons. 

We cleaned out our refrigerator again. Bye-bye to milk, yogurt, and cheese. We worried this time around that our picky five-year-old would revolt against her new dietary restrictions, and we would have an epic battle on our hands. But she surprised us, embracing her new diet and even reminding us to please pack the non-dairy cheese in her lunchbox.

She has been sick multiple times since her most recent dietary change (thank you, new town, new school, and new germs). But, her body has been able to clear its own mucus without the need for antibiotics and inhalers every time.

If someone else had told me this story a few years ago, I would have rolled my eyes and mumbled under my breath something about earthy-crunchy nonsense. But, having lived this with my own child, I am now a believer. We have avoided invasive medical procedures by making for our child, in the grand scheme, a very small lifestyle change. And as an added benefit, our home is now full of delicious vegan food that I was previously too ignorant to know existed, and now all four of us are healthier for it.

And, for full disclosure: yes, she still gets to eat a slice of pizza or cake if she goes to a birthday party. We are so careful with her diet daily that these small exceptions have not altered the positive effects we have seen over the past few months.

The moral of our story? Stay open to options you may have dismissed or looked down upon in the past. I can’t say where we would be today had we been too stubborn and closed-minded to try something new. 

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Hilary was born and raised in New York City. She moved to Connecticut after college to go to graduate school, where she met her husband Dan on their very first day. She now lives in Ridgefield with her husband and their two rugrats, a daughter C (born 2013) and a son L (born 2015). She works from home as an attorney, which would be completely impossible without coffee (for mom) and television (for the rugrats). She spends most of her free time (when there is any!) reading, drawing, and listening to lots of music. You can find her over at https://www.instagram.com/apinchofsaltus/, where she documents the humor of life through all things colorful.

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