A MONTH AFTER Finn was born we discovered he had a milk protein, or "casein" allergy. I learned this after I ate a lot of dairy one night and woke up to blood in Finn's stool the next morning. As a new mother I felt terrible, knowing that something I have full control over something that caused my poor one month old babe to be in pain. So from when Finn was one month old until he was about 10 months I eliminated dairy from my diet. This was a huge challenge for me since I love cheese so much. It was extra hard since you have to avoid a lot of cheese's (any unpasteurized) when you are pregnant due to the risk of listeria.
Initially it was tough. Eating out is a huge challenge since there is butter and milk ingredients in almost everything. Same with most snacks... did you know that a lot of chips have milk powder in them to make the flavour stick to the chip!? Who would have guessed that my beloved ketchup chips were covered in milk powder? Eating in was a challenge since we spent the first three months of Finn's life living with our families as Sam's job required us to be in Ontario. It was such a blessing to not have to cook and to be able to just relax with my newborn but I felt bad that I was requiring special meals or for everyone to eat dairy free.
After about a month things got easier and by two months I knew what I could and could not eat, I was not craving chocolate or cheese as much and things felt dramatically easier. I learned how to sub out dairy ingredients like butter or milk while cooking or baking for vegan alternatives like Earth Balance butter and/or baking strips, or almond milk. Or I even discovered that Costco's chocolate chips don't contain milk! They use soy lecithin instead so I was able to use these as a substitute for the odd cookie craving. More importantly than just finding that things got easier I found that I was eating significantly better and actively pursuing a healthier lifestyle in general. I had way more energy, the extra baby weight came off really quickly and I didn't crave junk food or sweets anywhere near as often (the cookies were often made as per my husband's request ;) ).
I invested in some incredible cookbooks that are either vegan or have mostly dairy free meals in them which made this process so much easier. Gwyneth Paltrow's It's All Good is probably my most used cookbook and is fantastic. I've yet to try a meal that I haven't loved. Not every dish is dairy free but she always includes the dairy free alternative. I also got a copy of The Oh She Glows Cookbook which is really great. I especially loved the dessert options in this cookbook when Christmas time came around and I wanted to be able to indulge in some delicious dairy free sweets.
Finn began eating solid food at five months and by eight or nine months he was eating significantly more than he was breastfeeding. His milk allergy also had changed from resulting in blood in the stool to constipation, still a concern and something I wanted to avoid but significantly less serious. This worked out well for us so that when we went to France as a family when Finn was nine months old, I was able to enjoy some cheese and chocolate (I aimed for non-cows milk cheese whenever possible and dark chocolate since their is significantly less milk protein in it)
As a result of spending nine months avoiding dairy, our family's eating habits have changed dramatically and have continued to change even though Finn has weaned himself and I no longer have to monitor my dairy intake. (Side note: Finn still gets a bit constipated with dairy so we avoid it as much as possible, although his reaction is not as severe and nothing a few prunes can't help!) Sam and I eat vegetarian/vegan at least four times a week, which has freed us up financially to justify purchasing beautiful 100% responsibly sourced fish from our local fish monger once a week and organic meat once a week. Not only do we feel better and have more energy, I love that I can teach my son and future children to love vegetables and to appreciate great produce, fish and meat that are interesting and healthy.