I haven't actually got any problems with eating dairy, but I found that when I cut milk products out of my diet, there was a dramatic improvement in Westbaby's reflux. He was far less distressed, much less sick, and generally a happier baby. His reaction to dairy now is much less dramatic, but it still makes him more unsettled and slightly sick. Milk Protein Allergy is different to Lactose Intolerance (the differences are detailed here): 'Lacto-free' products don't help because they still contain milk proteins, and cows milk protein is passed through breastmilk, so my diet directly affects him.
We've avoided giving Westbaby dairy since he started eating solids, and have tried to avoid giving him foods containing soya too. Several GPs were unconvinced by my suggestion (based on this) that his reflux was caused by milk protein allergy, however the consultant and dietician we saw at Alder Hey immediately attributed his problems to it. It initially felt overwhelming trying to eliminate dairy from our diets, and took nearly two weeks before there was a noticeable difference. It's inconvenient, but it makes such a massive difference to my child, so I feel that it's totally worth it. I feel a lot healthier as well, so I think I will restrict how much dairy I have even when I'm able to start eating it again.
When I first removed dairy products from my diet, I found that I cut out almost all fat and sugar. As virtuous as that sounds, my energy levels suffered enormously, so I quickly found ways to substitute things that would give me a boost. The main ones were Haribo, marshmallows, dried fruit (I particularly like the Urban Fruit bags), and Green & Blacks dark chocolate (G&B dark chocolate and Maya Gold occasionally seem to change recipe and include milk, so it's worth checking the ingredients every time you buy it), and fruit toast spread with Vitalite.
Milk has to be listed among the possible allergens contained in food products, so it's usually fairly easy to see which foods contain it (although it can be called so many different things that the actual milk ingredient can be pretty difficult to spot). I tend to ignore the warnings that food may contain traces of milk, or has been made alongside products containing milk (e.g. Cadbury's Bournville, and lots of Sainsburys own brand products), as I feel like manufacturers might just be covering their backs. (I might be wrong about that though!).
I don't tend to eat much processed food and enjoy cooking and baking, which has probably made it much easier to adapt to dairy-free life. Eating out has become much more complicated, and I feel awkward when other people have to adapt their cooking to accommodate me (although everyone's been great at supporting us). There tends to be a tin of flapjack, rice krispie squares or banana cake in our kitchen. I bought this vegan baking book to help with cutting out milk and butter, but most recipes can be adapted quite easily. I use Vitalite for baking and Stork blocks for pastry (Stork tubs have dairy in them). However, frosting made with these can be unstable, as I found out the night before Westboy's birthday when icing a large dinosaur cake, -eek! Several of my favourite cake recipes use sunflower oil, and Pure spread works for baking too.
Oatly (Oat milk) works well as a milk substitute in baking, pancakes, rice pudding, and on cereal. I haven't tried making a white sauce with it, and it's not good in tea and coffee, but i've learnt to drink those black. Rice Milk isn't suitable for young children, I'm not keen on the taste of Soya milk, and the new Alpro Almond and Hazelnut milks are lovely but contain lots of added sugar.
Some of the other useful foods that I've grown to rely on are:
Alpro dark chocolate (soya) desserts: for times when a chocolate fix is just necessary
Brownie in a mug: ditto!
Swedish Glace ice cream: really good non-dairy ice cream
sorbet: for when everyone else is eating ice cream!
Asda mint thins (sadly After Eights now contain dairy)& Bendicks mints
Hellmans Original Mayonnaise is dairy-free, but 'Light' versions contain dairy.
Tesco value bourbon biscuits (Asda ones contain dairy)
Asda smartprice Ginger & Rich Tea biscuits.
Asda fruit bread
Popcorn (the type you do in a pan) - one of our favourite puddings/snacks
Hovis Granary Original and Asda pitta breads are dairy-free and soya-free
I've found lots of things to replace cakes and desserts, but nothing to replace cheese. That's probably what's affected our family diet most, as our meals often used to contain cheese. Lasagne, macaroni cheese, tuna pasta topped with cheese, cheesy risotto, paneer curry, savoury muffins... I've stopped cooking all of those and many more. I miss grating cheese over baked potatoes and beans on toast. Ah, just writing this is making me crave cheese!
I find new things that we can eat most weeks. It's funny how restrictions make us more creative! This week's discovery was an awesome banana ice cream trick (worth trying even if you aren't on a dairy-free diet).
I'm hoping that this post will grow into a useful resource for anyone attempting to cut dairy out of their diet, and would like to learn some new things, so please leave any tips in the comments below. Thank you!