Here are 3 photos of my son Tasmai (babyT) on our annual ritual of a family holiday in Goa, India. He’s aged 9.5 months, 19 months and 34 months here. We (as do many people) have to do at least one trip to Goa each year and we are glad that babyT has joined in our fun too. When I look at this collage of pics from the 3 holidays however, I realize how it is becoming increasingly complex to manage his food allergies (milk) and take care of his meals. Traveling with milk allergy is not easy but we did it and very well too.
Traveling with milk allergies can be a daunting task. This year our holiday showed us that it will be difficult for our child to travel and eat comfortably like normal people do, but it is still not impossible to find the right alternatives and have a good time. This prompted me to write this blog post so as to help others find support and help.
A worried mother
When I landed into Mumbai airport from Goa and I turned my phone notifications on I saw that a friend from Instagram had left what seemed like a very worried message. She wrote about how her child had just been diagnosed with secondary lactose intolerance and the family was due to travel soon. I could tell from the tone of her message and choice of words that she was very stressed about traveling with milk allergy. I know the feeling my dear friend and I know it is very sad that our little children have to suffer, but know that it is possible to ensure the lil ones have a great time on holiday, are comfortable and safe without missing out on the major fun.
She asked me for more ideas and tips for traveling with milk allergy in kids and so this post is for her and for you if you have a child with dairy sensitivities.
For more details on the types of milk allergies refer this post – Milk allergies
Traveling with babies who are allergic to milk
If I can take you back to our first trip to Goa – it was on my birthday in October and babyT was exactly 9.5 months then. He was still breastfeeding and had started solid foods of course. But we could fall back on breastfeeding to make up for times when he refused to eat solids or we did not find anything suitable for him.
Which brings me to my point that it is super easy and convenient to travel with babies when they are only consuming milk i.e. the first 6 months. So plan that holiday right away!
Babies 0 to 6 months
Doctors, nutritionists and government health & population agencies emphasize the importance of only mother’s milk for children till the age of 6 months. And in hind sight traveling with a baby at this stage is the best. You don’t really need to pay attention to what to pack and if you will find the right food in the place you stay or travel to. Breast milk is all you will need or if your baby is not breastfeeding then milk free formula.
Do take along the regular brand of formula that your baby is used to. You may not get the same pack on holiday. In some cases, dairy free formula may be hard to come by. And getting baby adjusted to the new flavour/ taste may not be the best thing to do while you are away from home with an objective to relax and unwind.
For babies with milk and dairy sensitivities it will mean that you the breastfeeding mother will need to steer clear of dairy products in the foods you consume. This may mean that you carry along a pack of soya milk or almond (nut) milk for your daily beverages like tea or coffee. Don’t assume that the place you stay at or travel to will have non-dairy milk available.
Also steer clear of the dessert table at the buffet counter or give in to your sweet tooth with sorbets or ice lollies instead of milk-based ice creams.
Babies aged 6 months to 1 year
For most babies this is the period when they have just started on solid meals but milk is still the primary source of nutrition. So again, breast milk or soy based formulas like Isomil or NanLoLac can be relied upon to provide this vital nutrition while traveling too.
In terms of solid food, if you are offering food from the hotel/ resort or restaurant ask for food to be cooked in oil (preferably coconut oil so that you can avoid much of the refined filtered oils that are available cheap and in plenty to hotels) and that no butter, ghee, milk, cream, cheese or milk powder be added.
Some of the best foods to offer baby in such a case are boiled/ steamed veggies, boiled pasta or noodles, boiled eggs or pan-fried fish/ chicken, plain dals with rice. If you also follow the rule of no salt and sugar for under the age of 1 then ask for no seasonings and add pepper or herbs at the table while eating instead.
I’ve shared more tips below in this post.
Toddlers 1+ years
The real fun begins when your child is eating considerably more solid foods. Children will also continue to drink milk at this stage and if you are breastfeeding then it really is the best situation to be in. Else you can rely on formula for dairy sensitive children as mentioned above.
During meal times emphasize and tell your hotel/ restaurant wait staff about the fact that your child has an allergy to dairy and what all it encompasses. I find that I have to rattle off all the probable types – milk (cow, buffalo, goat, camel yes I’ve had to do that), cream, cheese, butter, ghee or clarified butter, milk powder, buttermilk, yoghurt or dahi.
You will find that you have to do this time and again, but do it. Some of the hotel staff may get irritated at you constantly rambling on and on about what to avoid, but still do it. I cannot tell you how many times I have repeated and constantly told the wait staff about an allergy request and yet the food which has arrived has given babyT an allergic reaction. So, for the sake of your child’s safety – repeat yourself.
For older toddlers carrying their packs of soy/ nut milks is highly recommended. I had to travel about 20 kms away from our hotel to find a pack of almond milk for our return journey. In fact, it would be a good idea to buy a one liter pack and keep the opened pack in your hotel room’s minibar.
Foods safe for milk allergy that you can carry on your holiday
I am also sharing here a list of foods you can buy and take along with you. Most of us like to holiday in places which are calm, quiet and relaxing and you can assume that there won’t be a bustling market with supermarkets near such a place where you can arrive and then go stock up. Lucky if you do find one, but don’t count on it. With some forethought, traveling with milk allergy doesn’t have to be a worrisome task.
Permitted snacks like biscuits, chips/ crisps – you must have by now found a list of packaged foods that are safe for consumption by your dairy allergic child. Hide-n-seek biscuits, Pringles the plain variety (red coloured pack) work for us.
We also know of a brand of fox nuts (makhanas) which have been roasted in filtered ground nut oil as opposed to ghee or butter. These make for great snacks while on the go (journeys) and are filling yet healthy.
Fruit juices – opt for the brands which are 100% juice and contain no added sugars.
You can also ask for fresh fruit juices to be made for your child. Do remember to ask the restaurant to use separate mixer bowls.
Soy/ nut milks
Noodles or rice which cooks in hot water – you can just boil water in the room with the kettle provided and add to the dry rice/noodles. They cook in less than 5 minutes. And i am not talking of Maggi noodles here. You will find these in Asian or South Indian shopping sections as rice noodles or seviya which cook in hot water. Here is a brand we like.
Theplas (thank god for Gujju food which lasts days) and khakhras – make sure to check that they haven’t been cooked in ghee or butter.
(Kori) Roti from the Mangalore store.
It’s a rice dosa which is sun dried and then makes a great accompaniment for chicken ghassi, but is also a great idea for carrying on holiday to be dipped in dal or curry. It becomes soft and limp like a dosa when dipped into liquid gravies.
Dry fruits and nuts
Accompaniments like peanut butter/ jam – our hotel had gourmet jam made from exotic fruit. While it was delicious, it failed to appeal to our son. So carrying along his regular favourite would be a good idea.
Other tips when traveling with a child with milk allergies
Book a hotel which has options for food – either multi cuisine restaurants within the premises or in its environs.
Call in advance and ask if the hotel will be able to support your requirements.
Stock up and carry the stuff you will need along with you. Don’t assume that the products/ brands will be available in the place you are going to.
Pack food for journeys – hunger attacks can happen any time; mid-flight or when you are on the road on your sight seeing tours.
Keep journey times short – opt for flight as opposed to train if possible. Managing a 3-hour flight journey as opposed to an 18-hour train ride with a sensitive child is much easier, safe and comfortable for the child too. This may work for domestic travel only. International flights will be long and you must plan accordingly for snacks and meals. You may not find anything suitable half way through your flight journey.
Carry your medications – it may not be possible to go out and buy the medications in times of an emergency. Buy the brands you use and carry them with you. Carry an extra bottle of it for safety’s sake. Do remember to ask your doctor for dosage and frequencies too.
Once you reach your destination – make a mental note of pharmacies, doctors/ hospitals in the areas close to your hotel.
Don’t feel embarrassed/ shy or afraid to ASK for information or ask the restaurant to make special food for your child. In most cases, keep the food you ordered simple – it is easier to make a dal rice khichdi without ghee or butter than it is to cook up a roast chicken and veggies.
Download some translation apps on your phone. Worst comes to worst and you find your wait staff or chef doesn’t understand what you are saying then you can rely on translation services to convey what you mean when it comes to the allergies. This is especially helpful when you are travelling to international destinations where English is not the primary language of communication. Saying “Non Fromage s’il vous plait!” (No cheese please) in France or saying allergies in Italian may get you eye rolls but you know your child will be safe.
If in doubt – look for the vegan label on foods. This works especially in foreign countries where there is more awareness of food sensitivities.
Some airlines will even make allowances for your sensitivities and not provide the particular allergen to anyone else on the flight if it is deemed a health risk. Depending on the intensity of your allergy you can ask the airline as to how they can support you. I was so touched to hear of this account where an airline removed peanuts from their in-flight snacks after they were advised that a child who was highly allergic to nuts would be traveling on the same flight.
Traveling with kids is fun. It’s also broadens their horizons, minds, social skills and emotions – they learn how to do things in new places, savour new sights and experience new cultures. Depriving the allergic child of such experiences would be a crime. So don’t think twice about planning your next holiday with your dairy allergic child. Its not that hard. With a little planning you can make the trip safe and uneventful.