I was never going to be one of "those" moms. You know, the ones who only use cloth diapers, read labels on everything, and hover over their children. Then, my new son began having mysterious rashes and episodes of vomiting and diarrhea. For months, pediatricians told me things like, "Babies just get rashes", "It's just colic", and my favorite, "It's a laundry issue, not a medical one". Finally, shortly after his first birthday, the pediatrician looked at his file and said, "Hmm. He HAS had a lot of 'stomach bugs' in such a short time. Maybe we should send him to a specialist."
So began an almost two year journey of testing and frustrations. Nobody seemed able to pinpoint what was wrong with my little boy, and they mostly gave up on us. So, I did what I said I'd never do: I hovered and read labels and everything else I could think of, hoping to figure out what was wrong. I kept a spreadsheet of literally every thing my child put in his mouth, and every bowel movement he had, complete with timestamps and notes on appearance. Finally, I recognized a pattern. Any time my son had dairy or soy, he got sick. I took our findings to the pediatric GI specialist, who confirmed, finally, that our little boy likely had MSPI (milk soy protein intolerance). From that point on, I became a self-proclaimed label reader.
Later, when my newborn daughter began to have similar, but far more severe symptoms, I knew what to look for and what to do. Unfortunately, she ended up having an extreme and severe dairy allergy, so I had to become even more vigilant in label reading. We can no longer even have dairy containing food in the house. My husband and I switched to almond and coconut milk coffee creamers so that we wouldn't indulge in our morning caffeine fix, kiss her, and end up in the hospital.
I'm infinitely grateful for the abundance of dairy and soy free brands that make it possible for my kids to eat "normal" foods. They take their own lunches to school and often have to take a special cupcake or snack for birthday parties, but I'm thankful that they even have those options. To a parent just embarking on the allergy journey, I say: You are your child's greatest advocate. Stand for them, trust your gut, and never be afraid to speak up!