Children and Food Allergies

One mom discovers a number of tricks for negotiating the challenges of feeding an allergic child with two non-allergic siblings
By Bonnie Bester

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The toughest part for me as a parent of an allergic child has been that I have older twins who are not allergic and were able to eat anything we thought fit for the first four years of their lives. Then our youngest came along. She was diagnosed with a dairy allergy, soy intolerance and immune deficiency. Even though her allergies are not life threatening, we soon realised our older children’s lives would also be affected. We have however tried to keep this impact to a minimum. Sure it’s not always easy – the resources we have locally and the allergen-free food we have available to us in SA are minimal. But we’re finding our way.
We knew our littlest would one day want the forbidden food her sisters were eating, but we had no idea it would be so early. She was just 19 months old when the testing began. We were driving back from a family holiday and I had just given my older girls a breakfast bar to snack on when our baby started performing. I offered her every snack in her box before I realised what the performance was all about. She wanted what her sisters were eating. The only problem was: the breakfast bars were so full of dairy that a single bite would have sent her into a snot spiral that would have lasted for days. Thankfully I remembered I had just bought a dairy-free cocoa snack bar so I took a chance. It was brown like her sisters’ ones and I rolled the wrapper down like I had for her sisters. She gave it a serious once over before taking a bite. We looked on with baited breath. Phew. She approved.
Months went by after the breakfast-bar incident without any further serious tantrums with regard to what her sisters were eating – until she decided that she needed to have yoghurt like they do every night. Panic struck: a yoghurt? Seriously? No ways! Then I had an idea. I emptied a yoghurt container and filled it with a dairy-free baby dessert and handed it to her. Again, it worked! She ran off to sit with her big sisters as proud as punch that she was also devouring a “yoghurt”.
One of my tricks for navigating her first festive season was to open the advent calendar I had bought for her, and replace each of the chocolates with a jelly sweet she could have. With this tiny adjustment, all three of my girls got to squeal with delight when they opened the little windows and ate a sweet straight after breakfast each morning.
We have explained to our older girls that their baby sister can’t eat everything that they can and they understand, and I am slowly but surely building my list of “alternative” foods. 

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