A few months ago I used Amazon’s “look inside!” feature to browse through some parenting books I was considering buying. One was Take Charge of Your Child’s Health by George Wootan, and in my perusal I read an interesting quote from him about ear infections:
“More than one ear infection per year almost always indicates an allergy until proved otherwise” -p. 217
This piqued my interest because last year Pip suffered from recurring ear infections. We’d take her to the doctor, it’d either be right before the infection or a during full-fledged infection, medication would be administered, it would clear up and a few weeks later we’d be back at the doctors with another infected ear.
Not once did her (now former) pediatrician mention the possibility of an allergy. Instead, I was told it’d be this way all winter.
Needless to say, when I read Wootan’s comment I was immediately intrigued. Could there be another solution than “suffer through it?” I feared she’d need tubes (which I had when I was a child). I didn’t Wootan goes on to explain that a possible reason for “recurring” ear infections is that the bacteria present in the middle ear never drains entirely, due to a swollen eustachian tube.
“This may explain why, after a course of antibiotics, some children seem to remain well for several weeks and then develop another infection. In these cases the “new” infection may not be new at all, but simply a delayed continuation of the previous condition.” – Wootan p. 234
I ordered the book immediately, and kept reading.
Wootan ultimately posits that the reason the Eustachian tube is swollen is due to an allergy. Three of the most common allergies are dairy, gluten and eggs. Pip wasn’t eating much gluten or eggs, but dairy was a daily component of her diet.
Pip enjoyed cheese anything: cream cheese and jelly sandwiches, grilled cheeses, non-fat Greek yogurt (she didn’t like the whole yogurt, which now I think it’s because it upset her stomach). She ate some form of cheese / yogurt daily. In addition, we had even begun to supplement expressed milk with whole milk. In fact, I remember a few times after she drank whole milk she had awful diarrhea. Lactose intolerance runs in my family, and although I later learned that a dairy allergy is not the same as lactose intolerance, it seemed like another warning sign to me.
But if Pip wasn’t drinking whole milk, what would she have? Didn’t she need milk? Not exactly, my research concluded:
There is no need to add cow’s milk to your toddler’s diet (or the equivalent nutrients from other milks or foods) as long as your baby is nursing at least 3-4 times per day. Cow’s milk is really just a convenient source of calcium, protein, fats, vitamin D, etc. – it’s not required. –kellymom.com
Since Pip was still nursing about 3 times a day (maybe more, considering we cosleep and I don’t keep track of night nursing) this alleviated my concerns about her not receiving the necessary nutrients from other milk sources. I also read up on alternate milk options, like almond, coconut or rice milk.
All of this encouraged my husband and I to experiment going dairy-free in our house. We started in October, right at the beginning of her first ear infection of the winter season.
We eliminated all cow’s milk, grilled cheeses, cream cheese, cottage cheese and cows milk yogurt. (We’re not exactly militant about removing dairy – we occasionally have pizza with cheese and we still put some Parmesan on soup and pasta. Maybe that will come. But we’ve definitely eliminate the daily milk drinks and reduced her overall dairy intake.)
In its place, Pip now gets coconut or almond milk to drink or put on her cereal. She enjoys goat’s milk yogurt (which is the milk most similar to human milk). And when we are together she still nurses, which reassures me that she’s still getting some of the best, even if it’s not as much as it used to be.
So far the results have been amazing.
When we started eliminating dairy in October, Pip was on medication for an ear infection. 10 days later the medicine finished… and since then, the ear infection has not recurred.
We’ve had two colds in the house (runny nose, sore throat) since October. Last year she would have definitely developed an ear infection with these colds. This year, no fever, no ear infection. The colds are gone now and her ears are fine.
Another change my husband pointed out was that she hasn’t had a diaper rash in over a month!!! She was prone to getting some very bad, inflamed diaper rashes (which often turned into yeast infections). Since eliminating dairy, diaper rashes have disappeared too!
We are very pleased with the results so far. We realize things can change at the drop of a hat (or a tissue, ha ha) but from everything we’ve seen so far, it seems the lack of dairy is to thank and it’s very promising. I’ll be sure to do another update later in the season as we go along in this little experiment.
In the meantime, I’ll have another glass of that coconut mint chocolate milk please!