Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dairy Free Quandries


This is our VBS week and we are having our classes in the evening - for both kids and adults. We have combined our VBS with another congregation, but holding all the activities in our building.

Witt's regular bible class teacher asked for suggestions regarding dairy-free treats for the kids. (Such a considerate teacher!) I gave her a couple of ideas, but told her that Witt probably wouldn't be there a lot since it is at night and goes well past his 7:30 bedtime. She relayed all the information to the other teacher that would be helping her (from the other congregation).

Last night was the first night I brought Witt. We all met in the auditorium first and when class time came, his teacher asked if she could bring Witt to class; that was fine with me so I let her. However, I went down to his class a few minutes later just to check on him and saw that there was a little girl three seats down with him holding a big sippy cup full of white liquid. Without even thinking about how to ask politely or how I might come across, I pointed and asked, "Is that milk?" The mother didn't respond, so I asked it again - a little louder. She heard me this time, smiled, said "yes" and went about her business. At this point, my mind is racing for the best way to inform her that we have a dairy-free nursery. Luckily, Witt's teacher interrupts and suggests we move Witt a little further down. The mother comments that the little girl just had her supper, needing a little drink.

Now let me stop here and say, the mom did NOTHING WRONG. There were plenty of times I brought Will and Nathan to church with a big sippy cup of milk and thought nothing of it. Milk is what you give kids. I understand this. I feel awful that I possibly made this mother feel ostracized for bringing milk. I will be apologizing to her for that tonight (if she's there).

HOWEVER, I still need to keep my child safe.

After class, there were cookies to eat. A good friend of ours was holding a bag of chocolate chip cookies and eating one. She put the one back in the bag and asked to hold Witt. I had to tell her no because of the cookies. [Again, I feel like an over protective mom and a crazy person to the outside (non-allergen) world.] Shortly after that her husband comes over wanting to hold Witt. She tells him no because he had cookies. I feel even smaller. Granted he didn't have cookies in hand (that could be easily snatched by Witt), but there was possible "milk debris".

Later in the evening, I talked with another parent that has a child with a peanut allergy. I asked how they deal with it. He plainly said that when they saw the peanut butter cookies come out the night before, they left. But, how do you do that with milk, butter, cheese, chocolate... it's everywhere. We can't live in a bubble or load up and leave every time it is present... can we?

Is it even possible for people to understand that don't have children with food allergies? I'll admit, I was quite ignorant before Witt. I understood that peanuts can kill and that some people can't even be in the room with a peanut. But milk? I had NO IDEA!!!

No idea that touching Witt after handling milk would hive up his little body:

These pictures were taken prior to our knowledge of the allergy. I have no pictures to share of what he looked like after ingesting milk... he was busy on an ambulance to the ER.

So, I'd love to hear from you moms that deal with food allergies daily - how do handle day to day situations like this?

For those of you without food allergies, how do you feel about other mom's asking you not to bring certain foods near their children? How do you feel is the best way to handle the situation?

I don't feel like I handled everything as well as I could have and I'm feeling kinda low today; thanks for all your suggestions in advance. :)

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Amy said...

Ah, such a familiar scene.

My situation is a little different, I am the children's director at our church, so I pretty much have control over the areas my allergy girl are in.

Here are some things we did upon starting our current church:
-explained that she could NOT be in the same room as milk. Although milk allergies aren't the SAME as peanut, my girl (& your boy) have a sensitivity similar - in that just being touched/contact will have a I usually liken it to peanut & people seem to get it more. My girl has even had wheezing when she's right around people eating certain dairies (doritos).
-posted a sign on her door 'ALLERGY WARNING: NO MILK PAST THIS POINT' if you need one of these, let me know. that thing to do to 'regular' families is to keep it a consistant importance. we also use ALLERGY WARNING: TODAY'S SNACK IS ____. And even tho I already know the snack (I'm usually the one to buy it!), it's another way to show the other parents that it is an importance.

-even before i held this position at church, i asked if i could be the snack coordinator & be in charge of buying the snacks for the whole childrens' dept. that speaks volumes to the people in charge that you're not just a pain in the butt over protective parent, you are wanting to help...and that yes -- it really is that important.

I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU MEAN. And yep, we have just packed up & left, in some pretty ackward situations. But you are your child's advocate & YOU will be the one watching your child gasping for air or wiping off their hives & giving them benadryl & watching them fall asleep in the middle of the day, etc.

As far as the whole, someone's kid "needing" their milk. I think that's a bunch of crap. First of all, I think that's gross - milk does not travel well. Secondly, as human's, we don't need cow's milk as much as we all think we do (I have opinions about that, but that's a whole book I could write). The little girl should've had water or juice. And don't feel bad about your reaction. Her mom would've had the same reaction. And I truly believe that she should've been asked to take the cup & leave the room w/ it.
I try to be really proactive about stuff. When we're asked over for dinner (rarely happens) or for a party, or when we go out to eat... we ask ahead. We explain the situation kinda like, "Well, I'm not sure - here's the deal..."
Usually people are happy to oblige.

He looked just like my girl when my hubby ate an ice cream sandwich while my daughter was in the bath tub. She came out running & ran to him. He did the whole whirling her up in the air & then we noticed that everywhere his fingers touched her, left red & white welps.
I'm happy to say, I truly believe her 'sensitivy' has decreased. She did afterall, survive a year of preschool with the other kids eating snacks unsafe for her.
So = there's hope.

I feel like I just rambled rather than offering you true advice. And sorry for the novel!

Amy said...

I just re-read & saw many a typo - sorry, my kids were climbing all over me.

Nowheymama said...

First of all, I know how you feel. Truly. I don't even know where to begin, but here we go.

We, too, have a dairy-free, nut-free nursery at our church. To make it easier for everyone, we simply say that no food is allowed in the nursery that isn't approved (by me or the nursery director). You can say this in the nicest, most apologetic way possible, pointing out that you aren't always there and that Witt simply isn't old enough to read labels--ha ha, keeping it light.

I am not saying this was an easy change to bring about. A mother brought cookies for her child's birthday one Sunday. We told her she was welcome to serve them in the kitchen area but not in the nursery. She blew up and left the church. For good. (Obviously, this is not a normal response.) But over time everyone has come to understand that this is an unbreakable nursery rule.

I think part of the difficulty now is that Witt is simply too young to speak up for himself, so there has to be a "zero tolerance" rule in place. As my Katherine (who is only 6) has gotten older, she can be in the same room with dairy (like at preschool or Kindergarten) and she understands that she needs to stay away from it. Do I worry about the cafeteria next year in first grade? You bet. But we're taking it one step at a time. I think the most important thing is to teach the *child* to avoid the allergen--they often have a much better understanding than adults!

As time goes on, I am less and less worried about offending others. I still try to say things as nicely as I can, but we are talking about my child's life. You can eat your cookies elsewhere and get over it.

And, you can see why my friends always laugh when they ask for advice and I say, "Sure!" I'll be quiet now.

Anonymous said...

Oh Becky, I've btdt too.

My family thinks I'm nuts because I'm so careful. But my mom once dipped her pacifier into her diet coke (um, why does she think this is ok in the first place) and Megan ended up all blotchy. Maybe from the caramel color? I don't know. But that help *my family* understand.

As for random strangers at events. They don't know, they don't care as much as we do about our kids. You did the right thing and got into "mama bear" mode to protect your child. No one can fault you for that.

I've been avoiding things lately where we might come across situations like this. I'm just not comfortable enough to take the risk.

I have started her on a different sippy cup than what we typically had used at home. Maybe I'll put a sticker or ribbon on it to distinguish it from others. I plan on teaching her (she's too young now) that this is ONLY her cup and she can only drink from her cup.

We get the contact welts too. Ironically my 4 and 5 year old can handle washing after eating and before touching the baby than adults can.

Super B's Mom said...

Aw..((((HUGS)))) to you, Becky. That's a very frustrating situation. I totally understand how you feel and like we talked about Saturday, parents who don't deal with this have NO IDEA what we go through.

It puts a new spin on the whole "ignorance is bliss" concept. Parents who choose not to educate themselves on the subject feel they have no responsibility in the matter. What could be easier than that? But in turn, that puts more strain on those of us who have no choice but to face the problem.

I like the point Amy brought up about advocacy. WE are the ones responsible for these precious little lives and so what if we have to step on a few toes to keep our boys safe.

Just last week, our hospitality committee met at work to plan an employee picnic. I mentioned that we should inspect the grounds for fire ants now so we can take care of the problem before the event. Everyone laughed at me and joked that "Aren't ants part of a picnic?" And I bluntly said, "I would prefer not to spend my evening at the emergency room with a sick child while the rest of you enjoy your picnic, since he is highly allergic to fire ants." There were no more jokes after that!

It's obvious that you realize that nothing is more important than keeping our babies safe. And if it takes shaking up the comfort level of other parents to accomplish that - then so be it. I like the idea of signs that warn of the specific allergy. Then, if a parent ignores the obvious warning posted on the door - then they deserve a good dose of reality anyway - mommy style. :)

Keep your chin up, girl. You're doing a GREAT JOB!!

Unknown said...

I am blessed because my children do not have any allergies. Having been a teacher, I had kids in my classes that were allergic to many things, so I always had to keep an eye out when anyone brought a special snack. The school that my girls attend now is actually peanut-free. No one is allowed to bring peanut butter or peanuts in any form because there are so many kids with severe peanut allergies. The fact that someone could actually die or go to the emergency room far outweighs my children's need for a peanut butter sandwich. So, I can't imagine why anyone would have an issue with keeping other children safe and healthy. It just doesn't make sense to me.

Tori said...

Are the kids at VBS the same ones each time? Or are their rotating/new kids each time? If it was a static community (ie, no changes), I would ask the Director to send a note home to all parents (that you could draft) explaining that "some kids" in the class have severe allergies to the following foods: xyz and that the VBS is taking a policy of no-dairy in an effort to protect these kids. (you could provide the photos if people need to actually SEE what happens). The letter could give a 10 day window of opportunity for comments/concerns to be raised. During that time, if a parent objects, then some sort of accommodation could be made for either side. If nobody expresses concern, then I believe the VBS would be within their rights to say it is now "official" and that they did their due dilligence in seeking parental input/feedback. Then you and the teachers would have a strong basis on which to act.

Hope that helps? Good luck to you!


Julie said...

My sister recently turned 40. Her hubs had a surprise birthday party for her. I helped to get the party together and requested no nuts be at the party. (I am sure this was not passed along as the girls who set up the cake, mints, nuts would never have put my child at risk. In defense of my sis's hubs - the nut request was probably forgotten - he is a sherrif deputy and working on a homocide - I am sure he forgot.)
Anyway, I was talking to my mom and she mentioned the nuts. I became on alert - I am so paranoid about the nuts! Anyway, Mom just suggested that we keep the baby (age 2) away from the nuts. She thought all would be fine. We on the other hand knew we were not comfortable with the nuts and the baby being in the same room. We chose to not take him to the party. Daddy stayed home with him. When asked where Cody was, I simply replied - Cody has a life threatening allergy to peanuts and tree nuts. We did not feel comfortable bringing him knowing there would be nuts on the table. We were concerned that people would want to hold him, possibly passing along trace of the nuts to him. There was also the possibility of him "finding" a nut and injesting it. I added, "We really don't want to spend the night in the emergency room!"
Everyone accepted my statements and understood.
You can never be too careful and I think you handled your situation very well. People with children who have food allergies MuST always without exception STAND up for their child - regardless of what others' think. Unless people have a child with food allergies, they simply do not understand.
As far as sippy cups go - there are bands that you can place on your child's cup with name. You can purchase them at
I love them and use them on my little guys sippy cups and also used them on his bottles.

Tamara said...

I wish I had some good advice for you. This is such a struggle. I had a similar incident recently where the class snack contained seeds (this is not against policy, but my son is allergic) and I handled it poorly and made the other mom feel badly. In retrospect, I wish we would have left quietly or just given my son 100% of my attention for the rest of the time. He does not seem like he is as senstitive as Witt is, I've not noticed a reaction when someone just had some residue on their hands, only when he actually touches or eats it.

I will say that you just have to accept that some people will think you are crazy and overprotective no matter what you do. I would try not to think about that. You know that he reacts to residue on hands, so even if others are skeptical, try to be confident that you are doing the right thing for Witt.

I'll think about this some more and try to comment again. You raise some good question, some of which I have been avoiding addressing, but I really need to handle for our family as well.

Jess P. said...

You've got some great comments here. I would definitely ask the church to post a sign saying that this room is a milk free nursery. That way you're not the bad guy if it happens again. If the church has a no milk policy in that room, that should be the end of the story. NO ONE should bring their own snacks in that are not milk-free (or not pre-approved). Could you work out a list of approved snacks that are ok to bring? I don't know any kid that won't take an apple or grapes if it's snack time and they're hungry! :)

We went to a early childhood class for awhile with my two girls, but when people kept bringing snacks with milk in them (ice cream cups?) after I talked to the parents about safe snacks, we just stopped going. The day that did it for me was when we had goldfish crackers and I was on my hands and knees picking up after everyone's kids (while the other moms sat and hung out) so that my then 13 month old wouldn't get any. I decided I couldn't put Lily in that situation any more.

When we go out to eat at someone's house I always ask if there is something that I can bring for Lily. Same thing with birthday parties - I'll bring a dairy free cupcake and our own pasta salad. Whatever it takes so that Lily can enjoy herself and that neither of us have to worry. We don't have contact allergies, so we can be a little looser about what's in the house.

I think the key is communicating with all the parents. Let people know why the room has to be milk free and what happens if your son eats milk. If I tell people my daughter gets open bleeding sores on her butt, they're much more likely to take a moment to read the labels. :) With Milk Allergies, people get it confused with a lactose intolerance and think it's really no big deal. Either the teacher (with your help) or the church needs to stress that this is a big deal.

Anonymous said...

Oh, bless his sweet little heart! As a Mom, it is just so awful to see those hives on him!
Our issues are just sensitivities, so I don't have to worry so much about it, I guess. I am the one with the more major problems (gluten), but I can even tolerate cross-contamination okay so I've never been in that situation. So I don't have any answers for you. I just wanted to tell you my heart goes out to you today and I'm sorry you are having a "low" day. My two sons are about the same age as your littlest two, and it is tough enough for me without having to worry about avoiding MILK of all things! I will pray for you today.

Libby said...

Yup, I've been there, too! After a close call with a table covered in peanuts at my son's school, I persuaded the principal to adopt a "no food or drink in commons areas" policy, i.e. hallways, playgrounds, etc.

You're doing a good job keeping your child safe. The social niceties are far less important than Witt's physical safety. Take care, Libby

Kayris said...

Have you read the book, Food Allergies For Dummies? My best mom friend's son is allergic to wheat, eggs, milk, nuts, peanuts and shellfish. For awhile, he was also allergic to soy. The book was written by one of the top experts in the field. He also happens to be my friend's son's allergist. She said it has been extremely helpful. Oh, and he has asthma too.

In some way, I think you DO need to be the mother of a food allergic child to get it. My son used to be allergic to milk (vomiting for hours), so I totally get it. That's why when my friend comes over, I vacuum, dust and mop, scrub all table surfaces down and do an inspection for stray Cheerios. Because if her child had a reaction from my house, I'd be terribly upset. And I totally understand why she gets so angry when some mom at the library lets her child walk around at story hour trailing goldfish crackers and Cheerios behind her, when story hour has a no food rule.

My son thankfully outgrew his allergy, but during the 9 months he ate a dairy free diet, I learned a lot. There's a fine line between being your child's advocate and going too far. Also, people don't really understand food allergies. My friend's family continues to tell her that all she needs to do to cure her son's allergies are to give him small amounts of the allergenic food at a time! Despite the anaphalaxis that has sent him to the ER!

Good luck!

4funboys said...

wow... that is really tough!

It's all about people not knowing, not understanding... and trying to balance the two.

I remember a class party that turned... UUUUgly, because of a situation like that. I'll never forget it... it was a "healthy" strawberry treat that was brought for a b-day party of 1 of the kids.

Here's what stood out to most of us... how graciously the mom handled it. Her patience, and understanding was profound, considering how sick her daughter got. What an awesome opportunity for you to have a great testimony in handling such stressful circumstances.

Becky @ BoysRuleMyLife said...

THANK YOU so much everyone! It was so nice to open my inbox to find so much support!

I was able to apologize to the mother last night and she really didn't seem to think there was a big deal - so maybe I wasn't as big of a bonehead as I thought I was! :)

Jeff and I are going to talk with the elders and propose an approved snack list for the bible classes.

I'm still not sure how a dairy-free nursery will go over as so many people bring a bottle of milk for their infants... we shall see.

Thanks again!!!

Tamara said...

At our church, on Sunday mornings, there are rules in place for allergies that seem to work pretty well. I think the youngest age group must allow bottles of milk-based formula but that room only goes up to mobile, when they are moved.

After that, no parent provided snacks are allowed (except if your child has allergies) Also no cups of milk are allowed either. Every single week the only snack given is Ritz crackers and water. It is great!

Our church also has midweek bible studies and for some reason they don't follow the same policy. I had to check each week what the snack was, luckily the teacher in there was great.

All this to say that having policies like this in place is not unheard of and makes things simpler for everyone as expectations are alighed.

Andrea said...

We only have sensitivities around here but even so, I understand your troubles. Just today my sil brought out the cupcakes for the cousins (6 of them including our kids) and didn't understand that I really meant "NO!" when I said it!

First, you should NOT ever worry about offending someone with this issue. You must protect your kids! They do not understand and will continue to be ingnorant if we don't let them know what a trheat that some foods can be for our kids!

Ask for the kids' rooms to be DF and for an approved snack list. If a life threatening issue is not enough motivation for your church to make his room safe for him, you should consider moving.

Label all bags and sippy cups and snacks with his allergy info. Make flourescent stickers that say "No DAIRY please - It can send me to the ER!" and use them on his shirt and bag when he is in the care of those who are unfamiliar w/ his needs.

I know that having to plan ahead, pre-cook foods, have snacks on hands, and deal with ignorant people is hard. I know... But be diligent in your prayer. The Lord will give you the wisdom, strength and guidance that you need to protect the boy that HE allowed to have this serious allergy.

Hugs from me to you!

The Joys of having Boys said...

I think that you did the right thing protecting your little one. I have a little bit of a different situation. My two youngest boys have eczema that is inflamed by ingesting certain foods. But I noticed with my baby that I can avoid those certain foods and he was still breaking out and he also had welps on his torso which looked similar to your babies pictures. I have been baffled by this and now I am wondering if he possibly has a diary allergy. He drinks Almond milk, but has had cheese here lately. I am kind of thinking out loud here. I guess if there is anything you could tell me about it that could help me in figuring this out. Did you go to your pediatrician to get diagnosed or did they send you to an allergy specialist???

Mary@notbefore7 said...

There is plenty of good advice here, so I have nothing to add. I just wanted you to know I was thinking about you. I can't imagine having to experience this. We have no food allergies and I am only learning what it is like via friends.

I truly was one of the "ignorant" parents, not intentionally but only because I have never been around kids with allergies to food.

Amy's advice about "not just being a pain in the but.t, but helping" was GREAT! Too often I have been in groups where the parent of the allergic child has done NOTHING proactive to help out.

This year, the one parent sent home a "safe snack" list for the entire preschool. It was GREAT. I appreciated SO MUCH not having to read the labels and fear missing something. If you aren't trained to think about it, you do forget at times, even not meaning to do so. It was so nice to look down the list adn pick the snack.

Be proactive and Be the advocate for your child. Keep it up. Most "reasonable" moms should appreciate you bringing it to their attention.

Anonymous said...

I am currently nursing my 4-month old, and we just found out that he has a milk-protein allergy. I have been placed on an extremely restricted diet, until his system can calm down (blood in diapers, leading to a biopsy of his colon - at FOUR MONTHS!!!) I think you're perfectly fine to be protective of you son - I am! If an allergy is to the point where even handling the allergen and then your baby causes him to break out - then I wouldn't think twice about telling someone 'no, you can't hold him' when they've been handling the allergen. If they don't understand - try and explain it to them, but I don't think anyone will understand unless they are living it. I thought it was funny - your blog about 'does the WHOLE family have to be milk-free?', my whole family has told me just to stop nursing the baby. This thought never crossed my mind, why would I stop doing what I think is best for him simply because it is less convenient to restrict my diet? People just don't understand, like I said.
Anyway, keep up the good work!

Hannah's Mom said...

Thanks for directing me to this post, Becky. I know I'm not the only one that deals with this, but sometimes it feels like I am.

I totally understand not letting someone hold or touch your child because of what they have touched. I know how you feel extremely overprotective, and wonder if you're going overboard. However, the truth is it's necessary. It's just hard to remember that when no one else around you is doing the same.

Other people just don't get it, that's for sure. But, honestly, can we blame them? I wasn't any better than them before Haley came around. I wasn't ever confronted with a child with allergies before Haley, but I'm sure I would have thought they were going a little overboard, if they told me I couldn't even touch their child after eating a cookie. When I get frustrated with someone not understanding, I just have to remember that before Haley, I didn't understand allergies, and I wouldn't have understood the situation, either.

I think (definitely my opinion) that dealing with a severe milk allergy is harder than a peanut allergy. It seems that everyone bends over backwards for peanut allergies because they are so serious, but when you bring up a milk allergy, they all equate it to lactose intolerance. They just don't understand that it can be just as serious as a peanut allergy. People also like to reassure me by saying things like, "oh, everyone outgrows a milk allergy before they turn 5." or something like that. That is just not true, and while I hope for Haley to outgrow her allergy, I don't count on it.

Thanks for being open, Becky! I've really enjoyed our boggy friendship! :)