Keeping My Guard Up: Life as a Dairy Allergy Mom


diary allergiesFood allergies are hard. My oldest daughter was diagnosed with a dairy allergy at six months old. We discovered it when we tried to introduce formula and she had a bad reaction. For her first 18 months she was allergic to dairy and soy, so, basically, she only ate homemade food. She ended up outgrowing her soy allergy and is now just allergic to dairy.

When we started to navigate the world of food allergies, I didn’t realize the impact it would have on our lives. Once simple tasks like cooking, eating out, and food shopping have changed because of the underlying dangers for my daughter if she consumes any dairy.

Before we eat out I always read the menu online to see if she can eat anything there or if I need to pack her own food. Grocery stores involve reading a lot of labels and navigating through the list of ingredients is challenging. You would think a label would just say “contains dairy” but no. There are so many different phrases to watch out for:

  • may contain
  • traces of
  • shared lines
  • manufactured in the same facility

It’s intense and nerve-racking. Can a food allergy mom just run the labeling standards department? New label: Has dairy. Put it back on the shelf, k, thanks, bye.” 

Play dates and birthday parties require me calling the hosts and ask what they are serving so I can bring something similar for my daughter to eat; the standard pizza, goldfish, and cupcakes are clearly a no go for her. 

All the extra precautions and trips to the grocery store (like my 7:00 AM Safeway trip last Sunday for dairy-free cookies and frosting before a cookie decorating party) are all worth it so my girl is safe and feels included. All too recently I was hit with a hard reminder of what happens when I let my guard down for a minute. 

My daughter had her biggest allergic reaction at a friend’s house a couple of weeks ago. Our friends made a wonderful dairy-free meal so my daughter could eat the same thing as everyone else. Allergy moms, you know this is literally the NICEST thing ever when people go out of their way to include your child. When dessert came out, I didn’t check the package before serving it to my daughter – I’m not sure why. She took one small bite and had a reaction within minutes. The ice cream said lactose-free, which is not the same as dairy free, and it contained whey (milk). We were able to treat her reaction with Benadryl, but I had my Epi-Pens at the ready.

That night my husband and I took turns checking on our daughter to make sure she was breathing and no other symptoms appeared. The whole night I laid awake kicking myself for being so careless. Why hadn’t I checked the packaging? I could have prevented this. I am supposed to always be there for my daughter and this time I let her down in a big way.

The next morning and in the days following, my husband and I talked to our daughter about what happened, how it was so great that she told us right away when she didn’t feel good and affirmed this is why we don’t eat dairy at home. Bottom line, this episode scared her (well, all of us).

At my daughter’s recent parent-teacher conference the director told us that she has anxiety around snack time and always asks if there is dairy in anything. At first, it made me sad that she has to deal with this, but, at the same time, I’m so proud that she is aware of her allergy and looking out for herself when we aren’t with her. Her dairy allergy is part of her and a part of our whole family.

As someone who loves dairy, navigating the dairy-free world was a huge eye-opener. really helped me, especially this chart listing ingredients that may contain milk protein. To all the other mamas out there blocking the aisles of grocery stores reading all the labels, I’m right there with you!



  1. Hi Andrea! I’m a fellow dairy allergy mom from Scottsdale, AZ and I’m also a contributor for Scottsdale Moms Blog. Thanks for sharing your story. It resonates deeply with me and I’m standing with you, blocking the grocery store aisles.
    All my best,
    Jennie Love

    • Hi Jennie- Thank you for taking the time to read my post! If you ever have any dairy free posts and/or tips and tricks please send them my way 🙂


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