Little Miss P spent the first few weeks of her life screaming. She was sick. A lot. You expect some milky overflow, but it seemed to really upset her. I'd sit up at night listening to our tiny baby girl in her Moses basket gagging, spluttering, snorting, grunting... Every time I picked her up to feed her, I discovered her baby grow sodden with sour milk.
But that was normal right? Newborns don't sleep well. Babies are always sick.
Then one night she screamed all night. She was inconsolable. Everything she ate, came back up. She wasn't just upset, it was like something horrendous was happening that she couldn't explain. Mummy cuddles couldn't make it better. She was distressed, I was in tears. I woke Hubby sobbing, totally powerless to help my little girl. In the end she screamed so much that she pushed her belly button out.
At our 6 week check our GP diagnosed her new 'outie' as a small umbilical hernia and for the first time raised the suspicion that she had a lactose intolerance. I was primarily breast feeding so an intolerance hadn't crossed my mind... I was told to exclusively breastfeed for two weeks, and to cut dairy out of my diet immediately. Having never had any need to watch my diet (aside from a highly successful spell at Slimming World) I became a fanatic label reader overnight... And slowly my little girl started sleeping more soundly, her tears dried up, and my washing machine wasn't working as hard.
Four months down the line her belly button has settled back in and I'm really in the swing of lacto-free.
I know it can feel like a minefield when ylu suddenly have to avoid foods so I thought I would share the top 5 products that have helped me to transition to a world without lactose.
1. Arla Lactose Free Semi-skimmed milk
When I first left the doctors surgery I thought that lactofree meant I needed to essentially go vegan. I swapped out all my milk, yogurts, cheese for soya and nut alternatives. Whilst the yogurt was good, it quickly became clear to me that I hated almond milk in tea... I was desperate. I then discovered Arla. Real milk that has somehow had the lactose removed! My tea no longer had the tell-tale oily residue at the bottom of the mug, and my morning coffee was back to normal. That small change made a huge difference psychologically - I could do this.*
2. Arla Lactose Free Semi-skimmed UHT sachets
(Okay, so maybe this should be 1A as this is essentially the same product, but I think it deserves its own shout out.)
One of the lovely things about maternity leave is making new friends. Taking your babies for playdates and grabbing 5 minutes for Mum with a quick coffee and natter. Whilst the big coffee shops have soya milk, there's always the time when a lacto-free isn't available, or when you're visiting another Mum and they only have 'normal' milk in the fridge. I keep these little sachets always in a dedicated pocket in my changing bag - UHT so they don't need refridgerating they are always on hand to add to one of those much needed coffees.
3. The Foodie Market Almond and Raisin/ Peanut and Chocolate Chip Cocoa Brownie Bars
The thing that I've missed out on the most since going lacto-free are puddings. I was always someone who would flip to the back of a menu in a restaurant to check out the desserts before selecting my main meal. Whilst I've found that a lot of the big chains suck at catering for dairy-free, some independent coffee shops make their own stock and often have an option available, but sadly I've found that I've had to miss out a lot. And when you're breastfeeding you want that extra calorie hit!
So these bad boys have been a life saver. I actually make a special trip to Aldi for them. They aren't in their free from section, but they are shelved with their healthier bars... they are nice and chewy and chocolatey with a satusfying crunch from the peanut/almond. Yum yum yum.
4. CocoLoco Coconut Oil
I've always loved baking. But it took me a little while to realise that being lactose free meant I'd need rethink my usual baking habit. How do you cook without milk, butter, yogurt etc... coconut oil had worked amazingly for me. It can be really expensive, but again Aldi has come to the rescue with a large jar for just over £3. Since switching to the coconut oil I've had 3 people ask for my brownie recipe! If you're lucky, I'll write up the recipe and will share on here too.
5. Oreos and PartyRings
So technically these are two different things but what I love about these classic biscuits is that they are not specifically dairy free! They are found in the 'normal' aisle! Hey, and it's not a party without Party Rings!
* It should be noted that lacto-free and dairy free are not the same. Having lactose free products may not be sufficient if a dairy intolerance is suspected. Always work with your GP