How I raised my lactose intolerant daughter

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“She drinks milk, right?” this was a question that I heard with an alarming regularity, both from peers and other parents alike when my daughter began her solid intake.

“She drinks milk, right?” this was a question that I heard with an alarming regularity, both from peers and other parents alike when my daughter began her solid intake.

Whether my 8-month-old drank sufficient milk seemed an apt conversation starter, a gentle reminder, a passing concern, a clever nudge to see if I am struggling with my motherhood duties and heck, even a national ladies’ pastime! Day in and day out almost everyone who would come to visit us and even the relatives on phone would want to know my bubs’ milk intake with more religiosity than perhaps their own daily rituals.

My answer to all these may-be-valid, but intrusive concerns was a big resounding NO. An answer that would make jaws drop. While some aunties shuddered at my callousness, others (most rudely) pointed out how it will lead to my babies’ weak bones and affect her wellbeing. Amusingly, no one bothered to know or understand the real reason I did not give a drop of ‘real’ milk to my baby after I weaned her off.

The real reason- I have a family history of lactose intolerance.

The sight of milk, with no offence to anyone, makes my stomach curdle because it reminds me of those few instances where I took milk and fell horribly ill immediately after. Interestingly, I also got married to someone who suffers from the same intolerance.

Offer my husband a glass of milk and you will have him running to the bathroom for two days. (I don’t know about matches made in heaven but our union sure seems to be the work of some ‘anti-milk’ God in action!)

milk adulteration

The story is true for most of my immediate family, including my siblings and my mother. So for a long time, before we had a baby our house was a literal no-milk zone, which did sometimes lead to embarrassing situations where we couldn’t offer chai to unexpected guests.

We never ever consumed milk in its original form but pass on tubs of ice creams and yogurts to us and we will eat like there’s no tomorrow!

Expert advice

So, even though as adults we were never chastised for missing on that ‘manna from heaven’ called milk, things began changing when I had a baby to rear. Since I had the same fears for my baby as she did show initial resistance and signs of intolerance towards taking kindly to any other milk than her mama’s, it was time for me to consult a doctor.

I was lucky to have an extremely understanding pediatrician who counseled me that it was absolutely all right to bring up a lactose intolerant baby without milk. He informed me how in fact it can add up to my baby’ developing palate if I introduced to her various milk substitutes and milk-based preparations.

Happily de-bunking the myth that a baby who doesn’t take milk in its natural pure form is losing out on all the nourishment, I devised my own smart recipes and ideas to make up for the calcium requirements.

Here are some tips that I followed which can help fellow moms in my situation:

1. Chaas, our bedtime friend: We swapped the customary glass of milk, while reading storybooks with a glass of chaasc. Yes, that wholesome buttermilk that reminds us of holidays in Punjab! My daughter loved it and we were assured that she’s going to bed well fed.

2. No milk breakfast: For breakfast, while I experimented with porridge, poha, eggs and the works, I always tried to sneak in at least a few teaspoons of flavored yogurt to round it off.

3. New lunch mates: Paneer became our new mainstay for lunch and we had it almost 2-3 times a week. The fact that the grown-ups were also eating the same paneer bhurji or paneer tikka made my daughter more receptive towards her lunch and dinner.

4. Experiments galore: The quest to find interesting substitutes turned out to be extremely gratifying. I learned to make various smoothies with almond milk, flavoured kheer, Greek yogurt fruit bites and hung curd parfaits. The habit has stayed and both my husband and I have discovered a whole new world of ‘other’ milky treats. It’s not uncommon for us now to ask for that homemade tzatziki dip during most meals.

5. And here’s the big daddy of all tips: My experiences also taught me that while it was still easy to find kitchen substitutes and great recipes (thank you, chefs on the Internet) but what was not so easy was to overcome the unadulterated advice that came our way. While I did spend a few nights tossing in bed, crushed with someone’s less-than-kind remark on how children brought up without milk develop problems, I learned eventually to zone myself out of uninformed knowledge.

So, next time, if you are unsure of anything take an expert help; for rest of the unsolicited expertise just smile and say that I am following my doctor’s advice and I am sure he/she knows best. Be firm and polite because the way you know your baby, trust me, no one will ever.

 

Republished with permission from: The Indus Parent

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