How to Wean Without Introducing Milk

Updated on January 11, 2010
L.R. asks from Gresham, OR
8 answers

Okay, here's a rather complicated question. I need to wean my son soon. He's going to be 1 year in about a week. I don't have to wean him overnight or anything, but as I work on the transition, I need some advice.

First, though, PLEASE DO NOT give me any flack for choosing to wean early. I would rather nurse for 2 years; I made it 20 months with my daughter, and loved every minute until I got pregnant and too sore to enjoy it anymore, which is when I weaned the one meal per day she was having at that point. The problem is that my son has severe eczema, and it's food induced. The blood test we did only showed some foods, not all the foods I eat. Weaning would mean I could have him on a very simple diet of everything he can for sure have and gradually add things in, rather than doing that to MY diet (imagine eating beans and rice without seasonings, and you'll understand where I'm at).

He is allergic to a ton of stuff. All the regular allergies like wheat, soy, milk, eggs, and moderately allergic to all the common fruits and veggies (he can have about 3 fruits and 3 veggies for sure: bananas, blueberries, strawberries, beets, carrots, spinach...). He can have beans, and he loves them. So I give him rice and beans twice a day. Then I give him millet for supper. I am planning on adding in amaranth (which showed no reaction in the test), and hoping I can incorporate spinach (which was very low, but I'm afraid he won't like it, so I haven't tried it yet). He eats 3 meals a day, and especially for the last meal (when my milk supply is lower), he eats A LOT--probably 10-12 ounces of food!

I know that normally when a mother weans from the breast, she will give something in it's place, like formula or whole milk. The problem is, with allergies to soy and milk, there is no formula he can have. I can get him to drink a little water (with a tad bit of pedialyte in it for flavor), maybe 3 ounces a day; if I tried more often, maybe I could get him to drink more, but I'm not sure.

He's nursing 4 times a day at this point. I am about to try to eliminate the last feeding (right before bed) and instead give him water. Considering how much he eats for supper, it's not really necessary, I think. But he likes it, so I'm not sure how I'm going to do it.

I guess what my question is, will the beans and rice be enough protein for him? We're vegetarian, so giving meat isn't really an option (plus the protein in beans and rice is much easier to digest). I am considering incorporating nut milk occasionally (I tried it raw, and it didn't set with his stomach--I want to try cooked milk to see if that will), like say in his cereal, for variety. He tested low to a couple kinds of nuts, and I seem to be able to eat a few kinds without serious breakouts. I'm just getting so tired of restricting my diet, buying expensive food because he can have it, trying to cook meals the whole family will enjoy so I don't have to cook two meals (we eat really healthy and almost never buy prepackaged or premade anything, so I spend a lot of time in the kitchen as it is). And I figure once I wean him, he will stop getting all the things I'm eating, and just get what he's getting. I have some baby liquid vitamins I could give him, in addition to the solids. Then I could start introducing new foods and see how they react, without wondering how long it takes from when I eat them to when he breaks out--or doesn't break out.

I'm especially hoping that someone with a background in nutrition will be able to give me some advice. Thanks!

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answers from Portland on

Have you considered rice milk? By one year, nutritionally, he doesn't need milk. As long as he is getting his protein, calcium, and fluids from somewhere, he is all good. My kids drink rice milk though, and they love it.

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answers from Portland on

I am so sorry for you two! I just wanted to let you know that Similac makes a formula that is neither milk nor soy. I have seen it at Walmart for about $26 for 12.9 oz...I don't know if this will work for you because it might have other things he's allergic to. Good luck.

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answers from Portland on

Hi L.!

First of all, my thoughts are with you all, as I have allergies and eczema and asthma and all that good stuff, so I can relate. My son is almost two and doesn't seem to have allergies yet, though it isn't until 2 that all allergies show up, so we've kept him away from a few things until he can be tested fully. He doesn't drink milk and has always drunk water for hydration. He is perfectly healthy and not lacking, so I personally don't believe the hype that kids have to have milk of some kind. Just present water regularly (not just at feeding times), and he should start to take some. I wanted to add that I would steer clear of nut milks for now, as your son seems to have so many allergies already and nuts are a common (and serious) allergy. Since it will be unclear until he's two how many allergies he has and which kind they are (anaphylactic or not), I wouldn't test it. I wouldn't want you to take the risk of having his throat swell up and having an emergency on your hands. I know that I am severely allergic to most nuts and my allergy caught my parents by surprise when I was little despite the fact they knew I was allergic to so many other things.

Good luck to you in figuring it all out! It will be ok!


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answers from Portland on

Goat milk? Just a thought- my daughter has a milk intolerance but goat milk works for her. Nothing like what you're going through though- that sounds very challenging. I completely understand your desire to wean. I'm still nursing mine at 18 mos but am SO looking forward to dairy again, so I can't even imagine what you've been going through. Sorry I can't offer more..... good luck

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answers from Portland on

It sounds like a tough situation, but also that you are consulting and working with medical professionals on it. I would suggest to ask them about how to deal with this. The thing is, milk is very nutritious, even cow's milk which we cook almost to death before we consume it. That concentrated nutrition is why it is a preferred food for these rapidly developing, needy little babies. It's hard to get all the concentrated nutrition that milk or formula offers in other foods.

While it's good to work with homeopaths and naturopaths to some extent, I think because there is so much at stake, you want to make sure to keep working with your conventional doctors and make sure that what you are doing is science-based.

best wishes....

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answers from Portland on

understand you've committed to weaning him early & don't want flack, but I jsut wanted to let you know that the best chance for him to overcome his allergies is to keep breastfeeding him. Children that are weaned early often have more allergies. Your antibodies will help him. So this means altering your diet, even if it's hard. Or Not.

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answers from Portland on

My granddaughter was allergic to milk. She drank a special formula that was dairy free. It's Nutrimagen and unfortunately rather expensive. At around a year in age her mother switched her to enriched rice milk.

I'm lactose intolerant and also use rice milk in the same way as milk. It's tasty, nutritious, and reasonably priced.

Rice has very little if any protein. From my nutrition classes I learned that the body is best able to use the protein in beans if another food is eaten at the same time but I don't remember what that food was. I think cheese is one of the foods that completes the protein in beans. My granddaughter could tolerate cheese even tho she couldn't tolerate milk. Same for me. I suggest that you talk with a nutritionist.

I am also allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. I recommend that you talk with an allergist about giving him nut milk. It's my remembrance that eating any of a substance to which you're allergic will gradually increase the body's allergic reaction to that substance. I find that I can eat a few of some nuts every once in awhile but if I eat a lot of those nuts over a period of time I get an allergic reaction. My allergic reaction is a bit of an upset stomach and an itchy throat and ears. When this happens I do not eat that food for several months.

But I wouldn't trust depending on waiting until there is a reaction with a baby. If he tests allergic I would not give him any amount of that food. The consequences can be severe.

To find out to what he's allergic you can keep a food diary. I find this to be a real hassle especially since some reactions are not immediate. Skin tests are not 100% accurate but them and a food diary are the best we have at present. After some years of experience I pay attention to immediate reactions to food. For me an itchy throat and ears indicate an allergy and I test that food a couple of times more to be sure it's that food and not something else I've eaten close in time. Then I eliminate it from my diet.

I can eat cooked fruits and vegetables to which I'm allergic when they're raw. The allergists have told me that it's the protein in the food which causes the allergic reaction and cooking neutralizes the protein. Until then I didn't know that fruits and vegetables contained protein. They contain such a small amount that they are not considered protein sources.

Cooking does not neutralize the protein in beans and other legumes. I don't understand it. I just take what the doctor says at face value. Other legumes are lentils, garbanzo beans, dried peas, lima beans. All are good sources of protein.

I have done an elimination diet which means starting out with 2-3 foods and gradually add other foods waiting a few days each time to see if there is a reaction before adding other foods. If the allergy has tested low it may take some time before he has an allergic reaction. For example I ate almonds often for several years before I began to have an itchy throat while eating them. I'd tested allergic to tree nuts and was surprised that I could eat them. The tricky part is stopping eating a food before one has a serious reaction.

For that reason I recommend that you talk with an allergist. I've had anaphilactic shock twice and am surprised that I'm not more careful. Both times were not related to food and perhaps that's why I'm able to be less cautious. The first time was to a bee sting by a bee exposed to chemicals. I've had a couple of bee stings since and not had a reaction. The second was to iodine during a medical procedure.

I do know that allergies are serious and need to be respected. I understand you wanting to wean. It is difficult to be sure that one is not eating foods to which he is allergic. An allergist or perhaps a naturopathic physician specializing in allergies can help you devise a plan to test out foods with your baby in the most safe way possible. He does need a variety of foods. Just beans and rice is not sufficient. I would hesitate to try nuts in any form since he does test allergic even tho it's low.

I recommend rice which has been fortified. Even tho milk is cooked one is still allergic to it. Pasteurized milk has been cooked. Neither my granddaughter who has tested allergic to milk and I who am lactose intolerant can drink milk even tho it's been pasteurized. For me it's gas and for her it's an upset stomach.

My granddaughter, who is 9 now, has outgrown her milk allergy. That is one of the positives to being allergic as a baby; that often those allergies are outgrown. She was 5-6 when she discovered she could drink milk. She drank it at school first. :) My allergies began when I was in my 30's and they just keep increasing.

I just noticed that you said that his eczema is caused by is food allergies. My granddaughter was tested for allergies because of eczema and asthma and even tho she now tests allergic to very few foods she is still allergic to pollens and grasses. Does he not have those allergies. It's my understanding that food and environmental allergies can contribute to eczema but that the actual cause of eczema is the make up of the skin itself. It is unable to maintain an adequate moisture content. When you feel of the skin you'll notice that it is actually rough even tho there is no break out.

The treatment for her eczema is about keeping her skin moisturized. The food allergies are more related to her asthma. I don't know how this info would apply to your son. Perhaps you're already using heavy duty moisturizers after warm baths as well as applying them at other times.



answers from Portland on

I don't have any advice with regard to how to deal with the food allergies but as for his eczema, I would recommend you look into 2 things: first would be constitutional homeopathic treatment which I have heard can really do wonders at helping eczema (and its underpinnings) long-term. We are looking at eventually doing that for our daughter who has pretty severe eczema as well. It is a bit expensive so we have been putting it off until we can afford it (a few hundred dollars for a session and it may require several sessions depending on how well the first chosen remedy works). Because even though his eczema may be caused by food allergies, the fact that his body is reacting to everyday foods usually indicates that it's off kilter a little bit. His body is on overdrive and hyper alert and causing reactions to things that it should not normally react to. So the homeopathic treatment helps the body come back into balance so it doesn't react unnecessarily to substances like food.

In the meantime, we have been using a hazelwood necklace for our daughter's eczema. It sounds really weird, I know, but it really works. So much so that we built an online business around them because we have seen them help so many people. The wood is alkaline and naturally absorbs acidity from the skin as it's touching it. It is worn as a necklace or if you are uncomfortable with that around your baby's neck, it can be looped around his ankle twice and covered by a sock so he doesn't play with it. In our 2 years experience with the hazelwood necklaces, we have found that they significantly help people's eczema in about 70% of cases. Acidity is a common root factor to eczema and though you do need to keep replacing the necklace (every 4-6 months usually if the eczema is more severe) meaning it's not a permanent fix of the problem, it completely keeps our daughter's skin breakout free and therefore we can avoid having to use any detrimental steroids ointments and petroleum products just to keep her skin clear. We have no doubt the hazelwood necklaces are what's working because if we take it off her for even a few hours (recently we had to take it off for 6 hours) her eczema comes back very quickly! It usually takes a day or 2 for it to go away again after we put the necklace back on (and we also use a hazelwood zinc ointment that speeds the process along).

When we originally discovered these necklaces she was 3 months old and just covered with eczema. Within 2 weeks of her wearing it, it was virtually gone. We couldn't believe it which is why we built our online business so more people could have access to them as they were virtually unknown and not commonly available in the US (in Canada however (especially Quebec where they are made), they are commonly sold in drugstores!). She is over 2 now and no one would know she has eczema unless we tell them! Her skin is almost always clear.

Anyway, I don't tell you this to make a sale but truly because of how much we have benefited from them ourselves. Until we can get some more permanent healing for our daughter through homeopathy, these necklaces are our God-send! Our website where you can read a lot more about how they work and testimonials of many people whom they have helped with various conditions (including eczema)is

I'm also happy to answer any other questions you might have...

I really do hope you find so help and some solutions to what you are dealing with. I know it's so hard to see our little ones suffering!

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