We fell off the milk ladder

This week I had planned to start the Stuntman on a journey up the ‘milk ladder’. Despite this post’s heading, we didn’t actually fall off – we never even made it onto the first rung. For those not up with the lingo, the milk ladder is a step by step process that aims to desensitize sensitive little tummies that are intolerant to the proteins found in milk. There are specific recipes that go along with each step, with the amount of dairy increasing and the amount of cooking decreasing as you progress. Baked goods that contain dairy are more easily digested than raw dairy products, and separated milk solids (such as those used in flavouring) are often harder on the tummy than straight dairy (which is cushioned by fat). The milk ladder was developed by allergy specialists taking all of these factors into account, and has been proven to be a very effective way to reintroduce dairy into an intolerant little one’s diet. Apparently.


Milk Ladder

We worked with a paediatric dietician to develop a specific plan for the Stuntman, incorporating his likes and dislikes, as well as my style of cooking. The plan was to start on the first rung this week, moving up the ladder over the holidays, with the end goal of him being able to tolerate some dairy in time for him to start kindy early next year. So I had menu-planned, shopped and scheduled my baking days – I was feeling pumped, and ready for the challenge (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Well, best laid plans and all of that…. we went to a birthday party on the weekend, and, despite me watching him like a hawk and rugby tackling him on several occasions to remove ‘unsafe’ foods from his sticky little hands, he somehow ingested something that has caused him to react.

I don’t know what he ate, it could’ve been any number of things. I extracted a couple of tiny teddies from his monkey-grip at one stage, and also had to stop him from table-topping the leftover birthday cake. He was intrigued by the fairy bread, and I saw him eyeballing the Oreos (which are dairy-free, but unfortunately contain soy) with open adoration.

The poor little guy was overwhelmed by the food-laden table, and worked hard to avoid me and my offerings of ‘safe’ ham sandwiches and the paleo chocolate cupcakes I’d brought with us (which were delicious if I do say so myself!). He was very cranky with me for spoiling his fun, and I felt awful denying him the treats that all the other kids were enjoying.

But obviously he managed to cram something into his little gob, because by Sunday night he was exploding out of his nappy and a right grumpy little bugger. Monday morning he had a little vom, another disgusting nappy, and no appetite, and the same on Tuesday (with the added bonus of three screaming-wakes through the night). Followed by more horrid nappies, and the appearance of big dark circles under his eyes (which could be due to the multiple overnight wakes, but can also be a sign of allergy/intolerance). The foul nappies, puking and waking up screaming overnight are his classic ‘reaction’ signs.

I feel so badly for him that he still reacts so violently to even just the tiniest amount of ‘something’. He’s 16 months old, I really thought (hoped) he would have grown out of it by now! Each ‘accidental challenge’ takes me back to the early days before we discovered his intolerances, when he would projectile vomit after pretty much every feed (“happy chucker”? I don’t think so!!), have foul, mucousy nappies several times a day, and be generally miserable a lot of the time.

It’s hard not to feel like a really crap mum when something like this happens. It is my responsibility to monitor what he eats, and to keep him safe and healthy. It feels like a big, fat #mummyfail.I have to say though, it is virtually impossible to patrol what goes into a toddler’s mouth; food is often the least of my worries. This morning we had a moment of utter panic as I realised he’d managed to get the battery cover off my little kitchen timer, and the tiny lithium battery was missing, presumed eaten. Luckily, the little bugger had just tucked it up between his cheek and gum, saving it for later like a squirrel saves nuts. After much squirming, squealing and protesting, and several bites to my fingers later, a trip to the Emergency Room was averted.

The Stuntman has also been known to eat the usual toddler things like rocks, sand and dirt, and is partial to a nice bit of chalk every now and then. Crayons, playdough, blue-tack – all on his regular menu. He loves to chew on the plastic earbuds on ear phones, and he just can’t get enough cardboard. If he hasn’t licked, tasted, chewed or mouthed something, then he really hasn’t experienced it at all. He’s a bright, curious, inquisitive little guy, and telling him he can’t have something just makes him want it more!

I’m hoping that the symptoms of this latest reaction are nearing their end, but for now we’ll have to postpone our journey up the milk ladder for a little while, and wait until whatever it was has cleared out of his system.

Fingers crossed for next time.

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