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My son can't digest dairy. His grandparents don't check the ingredients in what they feed him and he's gotten sick.

Child baking dairy-free cookies
The author's son cannot have any dairy, but his grandparents still don't understand what that really means.Courtesy of the author
  • My son can't digest dairy and we found out when he was 3 months old.

  • If he consumed any dairy as a baby, his diapers would have blood.

  • My parents still don't know what dairy is and feed him treats with it.

My son was born with an inability to digest dairy, which was diagnosed when he was 3 months old. It was so severe that he couldn't process the dairy in my diet that passed through while breastfeeding him.

While waiting on that diagnosis, I found blood in his diapers, was puked on repeatedly (once with blood streaks), and wore down patterns in my carpet, pacing at night while bouncing him to soothe his upset tummy. No one should become used to the smell of bloody diapers, but I did.

His doctor never conclusively said whether it was an allergy or intolerance. All I knew was to avoid dairy. With that understood, his father and I stayed vigilant to any potential exposure.

My dad fed him brownies

This made us cautious when introducing solid foods once he was 7 months old. But that all went out the window when my dad gave him some brownies.

A brownie is a much more complex food than green beans, and the diapers I dealt with afterward were memorable. However, it wasn't the last time my dad fed our son something he couldn't digest.

Over the next year, 2019, my dad watched my son a couple of times a week while I built my writing career. After a few visits, I recognized the bloody smell of his diaper.

There was a cracker incident (containing dried milk). After that, I packed him lunch with instructions: only feed him the food in the lunchbox.

But the blood came back.

So, I added silverware. "No cross-contamination," I specified.

Since then, he's only stayed at Grandma and Grandpa's house with a packed meal a handful of times, and protocol was always followed. But now that he is an opinionated, talkative child, he wants to try tasty-looking food.

My parents still don't know what dairy is

I'm always glad when my dad asks me before feeding my son. But some questions answer themselves.

Anything containing the words "cream," "butter," or "milk" are the most obvious. He can't have ice cream, pastries, or cake unless it is labeled "dairy-free." And until last summer, my dad was still using butter each time he made my son scrambled eggs.

We still receive gifts containing "milk" as the first ingredient from his grandparents. An advent calendar was the latest, and I appreciate the gesture. I know it's been a way of showing love in my family, but it's been five years, and I'm still explaining how milk is dairy.

Growing up, my family showed love through food. With a grandmother who refused to accept "no" as an answer to the perennial question "Are you hungry?" and a kitchen always filled with pizza and chocolate, it was in many ways a dream come true.

I continued the food love tradition myself at first, but my family's health has changed, and so have our traditions.

My son isn't sad about not eating dairy. He's a little terrified of it because he remembers how horrible it makes him feel.

Our traditions have shifted from food to focus more on activities we do together. But, for us, the most important change has been limiting exposure.

We never expect anyone to provide allergen-free food at group gatherings. That's not what they're about. They're about spending time with the people we love. So, we pack our own food, and often utensils, to limit our stress.

For those who don't have allergies or intolerances, it's hard to explain, and I don't want my loved ones to have to worry about it.

Read the original article on Business Insider