Not last weekend, but the one before, the other half offered to get up with The Baby. This doesn’t happen often. My husband is not a morning person. Neither am I, but someone has to feed the kids, and 99 per cent of the time, that someone is me. But after a particularly awful night, when he made his usual half-hearted offer to get up, I grabbed it with both hands.
Half an hour later, he came back upstairs.
‘Did The Baby eat breakfast?’ I asked him from beneath the quilt.
‘Ye-es,’ he ventured, ‘but she got halfway through and then I realised I’d made her porridge with milk.’
I didn’t know whether to cry or scream. Because The Baby has reflux. And reflux often goes hand in hand with milk allergy. And so, since she was a couple of months old, I’ve eliminated all dairy from my diet to avoid it passing through my breastmilk, and have kept her solid foods strictly milk-free.
I’ve slipped up over the past six months, sometimes by accident, sometimes because I just really, really wanted a lump of cheese. Every time I’ve transgressed, The Baby has had two to three days where she’s been plagued by wind, bloating and tummy pain, and so it became easier just to avoid dairy altogether.
I have been so, so careful. I’ve scrutinised food labels. I’ve endured tea with oat milk (revolting). I’ve survived six months without chocolate, for goodness sake. Given that I’m vegetarian, giving up dairy has meant that essentially, I’ve turned vegan, and I’ve really felt it. Not only have I been unable to eat anything remotely interesting, but I’ve also felt thoroughly ill at times. Not surprising, really, as I’ve been subsisting on little more than fruit and veg.
Once I started The Baby on solids, I was equally careful with her diet, again studying food labels and labouring for literally an hour at a time to express a paltry 2oz of breastmilk for her breakfast cereal. The husband knows how careful I’ve been. And yet in one moment of thoughtlessness, he undid all my good work.
Only he didn’t.
Even as he was telling me that he’d given The Baby milk on her porridge, I was in conflict. The emotional (and hormonal, and sleep deprived) part of me wanted to burst into hysterical tears and tear him to shreds for potentially poisoning my baby. Instantly, I foresaw a week of anguished screaming and no sleep. But my rational side told me to take a deep breath, hold my tongue and WAIT. Because if, by some chance, The Baby didn’t react, and I’d gone off on one, I was going to look very silly.
And three weeks on, how glad I am that I didn’t hit the roof. I barely breathed for two days, waiting for the milk to kick in and The Baby to start screaming, but she didn’t. So on day three, I tentatively gave her a little fromage frais. Still nothing. Day five, I grated a bit of cheese onto her veggies – nothing. A week on, I went the whole hog and made her cereal with milk – and she was totally fine.
The husband, to give him his dues, has been unusually quiet about the turnaround. He knew he’d messed up, and he felt awful about it. He also knows that reworking his moment of mindlessness into a parenting triumph probably wouldn’t go down all that well. But I’ll admit that his temporary lapse has done me a huge favour. Okay, so my waistline won’t thank him for giving me the green light to eat cheese and chocolate again, but my tastebuds are in ecstasy. And more to the point, it is so much easier to feed a baby when you can give her milk. Now I can just pour blue-top on The Baby’s cereal instead of expressing for hours. I can grate cheese all over any food that she shuns, and she devours it. I can give her a yoghurt for pudding. It’s bliss.
I still maintain that The Baby was milk intolerant at some point. The screaming and wind every time I ate dairy can’t just have been coincidence. But it seems that as she has outgrown her reflux, she has also outgrown her problems with milk, and life is so much easier as a result.
So, for one night only, I’m going to eat humble pie and say thank you to my husband. He may not have meant to feed The Baby milk, but in doing so, he performed an experiment that I’d have been much too scared to attempt myself. And every time I grab the bottle of milk from the fridge at breakfast time, instead of sitting down with the blasted breast pump, I feel entirely grateful that he did.