Our Year with a Dairy Protein Intolerance by Amy Manos

When I reached out for guest bloggers Amy contacted and told me about her experience with her son and his dairy protein intolerance, and I was glad to share her story, because ours is very similar.  My daughter was diagnosed around 5 months old with a protein intolerance to dairy (and soy) as well.

If you aren’t sure what this all means, Mark Moss, a pediatric allergist at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics breaks it down. “Milk protein intolerance is a condition where the gut of younger children, specifically infants, is sensitive to milk proteins. The result is often an injury to the gut that causes symptoms ranging from diarrhea to more frequent stools to blood in the stools.”

Amy shares her detailed story below and some great tips for managing this condition in your child.  The information and suggestions here are not intended as medical or dietary advice or as a substitute for consulting a dietician, physician, or other medical professional. Always consult your doctor. 

Our Year with a Dairy Protein Intolerance

We discovered my son’s dairy protein intolerance completely by accident. I remember sitting in the pediatrician’s office at his one month checkup on the verge of tears, convinced my baby was broken or hated me!

He had never slept more than 45 minutes, and even that was only when he was being held. He cried so much more than my first baby. He would vomit so much after each feeding, and even had small traces of blood in his diaper a few times. By one month he had started to dip on the growth chart.

Since he was born above ten pounds, even with the dip on his growth chart he was still much bigger than other babies so nobody seemed to take it too seriously. I still felt something wasn’t right. Terms like colic and silent reflux were thrown around, but no diagnosis was made and I left with recommendations to burp him more and try to have him sleep on an incline.

We bought a new crib with an incline sleeper attachment, we switched up our feeding routine, and followed the doctor’s directions but things continued down the same path.

About a week later, my husband and I decided to start a round of the Whole 30 meal plan completely unrelated to the issues with the baby. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is a eating plan focused around whole and organic foods, cutting out just about everything processed including dairy, soy, sugar just to name a few.

A few days later, I noticed the baby’s symptoms becoming less severe. Had the doctor’s instructions just taken some time to kick in or could it be something in my diet? I couldn’t be sure, but I did know my baby was doing much better so I was ecstatic!

Just before his two month appointment rolled around, we gave ourselves a cheat day. I decided to still avoid dairy (or so I thought, more on that in a moment) as I had ready many on Whole 30 get a tummy ache when having it again, but had a few things like some lactose free ice cream and a caramel macchiato with coconut milk.

Just like that all our progress was undone. The baby was once again miserable and I sat there crying at a loss for what it could be. So I posted in a mommy group on Facebook, and these mommies blew my mind!

Within minutes I had dozens of comments on dairy intolerance in breastfed babies, hidden dairy and how lactose free doesn’t mean dairy free (seriously WHO KNEW?), and some resources to help.

About a week later his pediatrician confirmed it did in fact sound like this was the issue, but she didn’t have much more to say about it. I was sent out into the world with a couple fliers about food allergies and FPIES.

We had finally narrowed down the trigger, but I felt so alone in how to handle it! Growing up with a mom who couldn’t have gluten, and a few other family members with various diet restrictions, I was familiar with the lifestyle but it certainly wasn’t something I had ever had to deal with personally.

Luckily I had a very supportive husband and was able to plug into some great resources to get me through! I wanted to share them for any moms out there who may be experiencing something similar along with a couple tips to hopefully help you maintain your sanity through this new life change!

  1. Find a support group or community.

I know that Facebook groups aren’t for everyone, but they can be a really great source of support. These moms helped me find hidden dairy (seriously it’s in everything, even WINE!), talked me though cheese envy, and we swapped ideas for snacks and dinner recipes. That cheat day I mentioned? The lactose free ice cream was still full of dairy protein, and my caramel macchiato had dairy in the caramel sauce despite my swap to coconut milk. These moms were gurus at putting together a dairy free coffee order, so that was a lifesaver.

There are many places to find support tribes both on Facebook and other avenues (like this blog for example!), for all sorts of food allergies or diet restrictions and I highly recommend you tap into them! Each one will have a different vibe and different rules, so if the first one you join isn’t a great fit for you, try another one. When you find the right fit, it can invaluable to have a support system around you that understands exactly what you are going through!

  1. Check out technology helpers.

One of my favorites is the app ShopWell. You can plug in what foods you are avoiding or allergic to which customizes your profile. From there a simple scan of the barcode on any food item highlights if that item is hiding somewhere in the ingredient list. This is especially helpful at spotting hidden dairy for a newbie when it can be disguised behind ingredient names like casein or koumiss!

Another great option is AllergyEats app, that helps with food allergies when it comes to dining out. I didn’t use this one a whole lot because I was terrified of eating out (I’ll touch on that more in a second), but the few times I did it was really helpful! If you do eat out a lot, you can also try searching for a vegan or allergy friendly café in your area. I found one that has sandwiches, desserts, and makes party cakes and EVERYTHING IS DAIRY FREE. They also happened to be completely gluten free, so I was able to take my mom along and we both could eat ANYTHING on the menu without modifying or worrying – IT.WAS.AMAZING.

Are you on Pinterest? If not you should be! I started with searching “dairy free recipes”, but also started tapping into boards designed for Whole 30 recipes or vegan recipes since both of those eating styles also exclude dairy. I was able to find some AWESOME and creative recipes. Extra bonus, Whole 30 recipes also omit soy, which is often a trigger for those who also struggle with dairy. I had four separate boards, one for dairy free breakfasts, one for lunches and dinners, one for snack ideas, and one for desserts (this girl HAS to have her desserts!).

  1. Don’t listen to the haters!

I hope for your sake that you have it easier than I did, but food allergies and intolerances tend to be highly misunderstood and judged. I heard everything from “I would die without cheese” to “that baby would be on formula so fast” to “are you just doing this to lose weight?” It was so infuriating!

For the most part I let it roll off my back, knowing that it was all worth it for the health of my little guy, but man some days it was not easy! This is another area where a good support system comes in, because those cheese eaters out there who are just living their lives without dietary restrictions DO NOT UNDERSTAND!

  1. Be prepared to explain.

Along with people not understanding my “why” for my dietary restriction, I was shocked at how many people also didn’t know what the dairy category included. I’m not saying you should go into the details of your medical situation with strangers, because that is a very personal decision, but often times asking “is their dairy in this?” is not enough.

This is one of the reasons I was so terrified to eat at restaurants! I can’t tell you how many times I asked the server “is there dairy in this dish?” and was told no, only to find out it definitely did but the server only checked off the obvious no milk, no cheese. One that was frequently overlooked was butter! Also pretty common was whey, or the recommendation of greek yogurt instead of regular.

My advice? Make a game of all the times you encounter someone who thinks eggs are dairy! I can’t tell you how many times the question about diary was answered with “Yes, eggs”. PSA – eggs may be near the dairy section in the store and in the same food pyramid category but are not dairy.

  1. Know you are not alone.

While some days it may certainly feel this way, food allergies and intolerances are becoming more prevalent every day. Hopefully with the increase in occurrences, we will see an increase in understanding.

No matter what, always know you are not alone in this!


Amy Manos lives in Carmichael, CA with her husband, their two boys, their dog and two goldfish. Amy is the creator of the blog Pairings & Parenting, and she is passionate about her family, wine and clean-ish eating.

Her blog was created to celebrate both the good and the bad days of parenting, but also as a platform for to encourage parents to explore their hobbies and interests beyond parenting. She uses it as a platform to champion self love & care because you can’t pour from an empty cup!  

You can connect with Amy on social media here:  Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest


Do you have a family favorite recipe to share, or tips on traveling with kids?  How about techniques for balancing motherhood and a career?  If so, we would love to have you as a guest blogger!  Check out our guest blogging page and connect with Kate to learn more.

This site is not intended to provide medical advice. The suggestions here are not intended as medical or dietary advice or as a substitute for consulting a dietician, physician, or other medical professional. Always consult your doctor. The author makes no claims regarding the diagnosis of medical conditions or the presence of food allergens and disclaims all liability in connection with the use of this site.

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