I’ll never forget the moment I first saw my son. All my birth plans unraveled when I went into labor at 34 weeks. My husband was doing Air Force Reserve duty. He drove like a madman to make it in time for my emergency C-Section.Tears were rolling down my face when I saw my beautiful baby boy being held up to me, and I knew I would do anything for him.

After weeks in the NICU, we took him home. Right away we had a terrifying problem. Our baby boy was crying inconsolably, and unable to keep down most of the milk he nursed. A few doctor appointments later, after finding the right pediatrician, he was diagnosed with Acid Reflux. Medication was not enough to control his symptoms, so I gave up dairy and soy.

The journey is not an easy one when you’re adjusting to a new diet. It can be overwhelming because all you can see at first are your limitations. I’ve practiced this diet for 14 months, and met my breastfeeding goal of a year! Believe it or not, I discovered my body does a lot better without these things, so I’ll continue to avoid them for the rest of my life.

If you need to change your diet, don’t lose heart. These are some convenient ways I manage to shop, snack, and even eat at restaurants.

Plan, plan, plan
I get into trouble when I show up at a restaurant or grocery store, or even preparing meals in my kitchen if I have to improvise. The best thing to do is research your options before it becomes ‘decision time.’

I go online and research the restaurant where I’ll be eating. A simple online search of the restaurant name + dairy free will let you know if they have options listed. If I’m going to a locally owned restaurant, I call and ask to speak with the manager to see if they can accommodate my food sensitivities.
I plan on cooking recipes researched from Pinterest. Paleo and Whole 30 searches are a great place to start. I make grocery lists with minimally processed ingredients, so I have to read as few labels as possible when I’m shopping. My kitchen has a chalkboard where I can write easy meals and snacks with ingredients I have on hand.

Be kind to yourself
From time to time there will be slip-ups. Maybe when you’re starting your journey, you’re starving and living off peanut butter, potato chips, and bananas. We all start somewhere; it will get easier. A few times I’ve accidentally eaten foods I thought were safe. The most recent was McDonald’s French Fries! Mistakes happen, and that’s okay.

If a mistake happens, I remind myself that my baby was far better off getting a small amount of the forbidden dairy than if I had followed the doctor’s advice to supplement with formula continuously. My pediatrician let me take him off formula once he was gaining well. Always get your doctor’s approval before any diet changes.

A friend told me that God gave me this baby knowing full well I was the mother he needed. That information has empowered me when things get tough.

Find community
The internet has been a Godsend for me in my journey. Talking to other moms in the dairy-free diet Breastfeeding group, or even the Deliciously Dairy Free group have given me options, encouragement, and ideas for meals. Together, the administrators from the Deliciously Dairy Free facebook group and I wrote a beginner’s guide to eating dairy free that I’m including for you as well. These helpful people encouraged me to create my website, http://cooking1handed.com, sharing recipes that were dairy free and mostly soy free (I can use soy sauce, but if you can’t, that is easily replaced with Coconut Aminos.)

Reach out for help, and you’ll find a world of information, encouragement, and help with your journey. Breastfeeding has been so worth all the changes I made in my diet. My little boy benefited from breast milk for fourteen months! You can give your baby that gift, even if there are setbacks along the way.

You can sign up to receive my Beginner’s Dairy-Free guide by signing up for it on my site: http://cooking1handed.com