A mother is often the first one to notice if their child is suffering from a food allergy or intolerance, but the pathway to manage this is tricky. We caught up with Sunshine Coast-based business owner and mum of four Katie Wilke who shares her story about her journey to helping her toddler son Winston become eczema-free and how companies like Dairy-Free Down Under are reducing feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out) at the dinner table.
What are your household’s favourite Dairy-Free Down Under products, how did you discover them + how do you use them?
We only recently found the Dairy-Free Down Under products at our local fruit and vegetable shop. We’ve tried every alternative available because our son was always missing out on meals his older brothers could eat. A two-year old’s tastebuds don’t lie – he spat out every other product we tried, or wouldn’t even eat them because it wasn’t “melted”.
A mother is often the first one to notice that something isn’t right with their child, what was the first sign your son displayed that led you to investigate dairy allergy?
Winston developed mild eczema at four months old, and then he didn’t gain as much weight as he had been, and then I noticed his eyes were red-rimmed, which I later learnt was a sign of iron deficiency. He was 100 per cent exclusively breastfed and after seeing a locum GP and three different pharmacists, the best they recommended was steroid ointment, oatmeal ointment and coconut products. I hated the thought of unnecessarily using steroids on a baby, so I tried another pharmacist and he asked me what I thought the trigger was – I had no idea what he was talking about! He said dairy and egg could be common triggers for eczema, and that I should go back to my regular GP and get a referral to an allergist.
How did you address it/fix it? Who were the experts + what were the strategies?
I spoke to the allergist as soon as I had a referral, and given our son’s age, we thankfully got an appointment the same week. By this stage, the eczema was spreading. Some simple, non-invasive tests and we had a diagnosis! He was allergic to egg, dairy, soy and potentially beef meat. I eliminated all of these from my diet, and started him on probiotics and within 10 days, Winston’s eczema had completely cleared. During the 10 days, we used the QV intensive range to give him relief, and he slept through his first whole night!
Do you wish more education/strategies were available for new mums on this? It sounds like your allergist was amazing…
I wish I was told that eczema is a surface reaction to compromised gut health, and I hope for an improvement in information flow from specialists to front line pharmacy staff. Oatmeal ointments, coconut lotions – none of these should be applied to infant eczema, as the allergist said it can create a new allergy if the gut hasn’t seen it as a food source yet.
I also wish the hospital told us what to watch out for when it comes to skin care of infants and newborns, advised on the safest skin products and to never use food sources on their skin, especially important before they’ve eaten them.
How do companies like Dairy-Free Down Under make it easier for mums like you?
The Dairy-Free Down Under cheese means our son can have wraps with cheese, same as his big brothers and of course, their favourite – ham, pineapple and cheese pizzas… with melted cheese!!
I just wish it was more readily available in the big supermarkets, so I didn’t have to go out of my way to buy it, but I will continue to go out of my way to buy it because that’s what allergy mums do!
Did you notice any changes when you went dairy-free while breastfeeding (eg/ sleep, skin/breakouts, digestion, mood, weight changes)?
Winston slept through his first night after seeing the allergist, just from proper skin care with the QV creams and bath oil, and within the fortnight, he had stopped randomly puking and the green allergy stools had stopped.
Within a month, his weight gain had normalised and red eyes disappeared, and his face started to fill back out with edible cheeks!
Have your dairy-eating children tried the DFDU cheese?
Not yet. We’ve taught them that Winston has special allergies and they are very aware of them and always ensure he eats his own foods. We’ve found this safer, especially when we’re not eating in our own environment – the boys will all check and make sure Winston can eat something before they give it to him.
We are not vegan but I have found vegan produced and labelled products so helpful in handling his food allergies, I’m so thankful that tasty alternatives exist for him!