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Failure to Thrive or Allergic to Pasteurized Dairy? Another Real Food Success Story!


Has a “Failure to Thrive” diagnosis rocked your world? Keep reading for some hope!

A big thank you to anyone who has sent in a Real Food Success Story, they are so encouraging and such a blast to read. But I need more! Please send them via email, because these stories give us all courage and the confidence that real food really is POWERFUL!

If you want to read more about raw milk after this story, here are all my posts on raw milk in one spot.milkbook_thumb

Here’s a book on the topic that you’ll definitely want to read: The Untold Story of Milk

Today Erin shares her story about her children and their “Failure to Thrive” diagnosis…

Our story centers mostly around milk and dairy. All 3 of my kids were small as babies. They were breastfed exclusively for a while and then with each one, we ended up “having to” supplement some with formula (I say it this way because with each baby, I became more and more opposed to supplementing but felt backed into a corner from the doctors). Even with supplementing, they did not gain weight well. In fact, both my girls were diagnosed with Failure to Thrive as infants. My middle child did not gain any weight from about 6 months until about 10.5 months and hovered around 12 lbs. that whole time (born 7 lb 8 oz). My youngest was born 5 lb 12 oz at 35 weeks. She gained okay at first, but then drastically slowed around 4 months. She didn’t hit 10 lbs until around 9 months or so. So to say my babies were small is an understatement.

I should have known something was up when supplementing did not help in the least.

I swear the pediatrician just thought I was starving the poor kids, and the topic of hospitalization came up more than once for the girls. I kept a log of everything they took in. They both were taking in more than enough calories, so it was unclear why they would not gain weight. Testing for all kinds of things were negative. After dealing with it for the 3rd time, it became clear to me that milk seemed to be an issue for them. It now makes sense that when we started supplementing with (milk-based) formula, weight gain actually slowed (vicious cycle of nursing less, less supply, supplementing more). It also makes sense that at about 9 months to a year, they all mysteriously started gaining weight –they were getting more nutrition from table foods (of which I did make my own, even back then). My kids have always been huge eaters!

My suspicions were reinforced by looking back at the reactions they had to milk.

As a toddler, my oldest always had what I assumed was a drool rash around his mouth–red, sometimes bumpy, and just generally irritated looking. Around age 3, it got significantly worse with two specific incidents that made me more worried about it, and both times involved when he had organic milk. The rash was much more severe and he was complaining his throat hurt. Benadryl took care of it, but we had the allergy testing done. Sure enough, a mild milk allergy. My youngest had reflux as an infant on top of her difficulty gaining weight. When she started getting the rash around age one we took her off milk and started rice milk. She had a similar incident with organic milk as her brother. We went to the allergist only to find out she did not technically have a milk allergy. So what was causing this rash (as well as a horrible diaper rash!), digestive issues, and obvious discomfort every time she had milk or dairy?

We started doing a lot of research about milk and I was surprised at what I found.

Despite everything we have been taught, maybe pasteurized milk (especially skim milk that we used later) is not everything it claims to be. As a disclaimer, I am obviously not a scientist, doctor, or expert, but what I was reading made sense to me. I do not believe it is the milk itself that my kids were reacting to, but rather what the milk had become through pasteurization–something their bodies did not recognize as food at all and therefore would not digest properly. This also makes sense why organic milk–which is generally ultra-pasteurized, caused a more severe reaction. I found some good sources that many people who cannot tolerate milk normally do fine with raw milk. We decided to try it. I was amazed–Grace (who has always been the most sensitive) had her eczema clear up immediately and she was no longer waking up in the middle of the night screaming for no apparent reason. We had only tried a sample gallon of the milk, so she did start getting bits of regular dairy again. Eczema came back as did the digestive issues. A return to raw milk cleared it up again.

It was in careful label reading to eliminate dairy that I came to realize just how much crap we consume.

For the season of Lent, my family challenged ourselves to not purchase anything from the store that contained more than 6 ingredients. We started making our own everything. I figured we would make it through Lent and then pretty much go back to our old ways, maybe trying to be more careful about what Grace ate. But Lent came and went and we never turned back. We rarely buy processed foods. All our meat, dairy, eggs, and as much produce as we can find come from local sources that use natural, sustainable practices. Grace continues to be able to eat anything I make from raw milk including yogurt, cheese, and baked goods but does not tolerate any commercial dairy.

I call her my little “real food litmus test”.

We have noticed that the mouth rash tends to come with some other highly processed foods as well, so I immediately know when she has gotten something she shouldn’t. We are all happy and healthy! In fact, I personally have recently weaned off of psych meds (for anxiety and depression) that were not working anyway in favor of a more natural approach. (A note from Kelly… You may be interested in this post: Weaning off Antidepressants.)

I wish I had done more research earlier and changed our eating habits a long time ago.

I would have saved us a lot of time and money (and a whole lot of frustration!) that went into figuring out what was wrong and trying to fix it. When I think about what what we were feeding Grace did just to her skin, it makes me so sad to think about what the inside of her digestive tract must have looked like. No wonder she was such an unhappy baby! But all we can do is look forward and learn from our mistakes. We are still pretty new to this, less than a year in, and we are far from perfect, but I know that my family has come a long way and is much healthier for it.

Thank you Erin!

Erin and fam


  1. Great story – the power of Raw Milk! Raw milk “reversed” my osteopenia and kind of amazed my doctor. Doesn’t it all just make common sense??!!

  2. Awesome story. Don’t ever back down. I am constantly amazed at how angry people get because I am gluten free. I don’t force anyone else to eat like I do but it still just makes people angry enough to flip me off while eating a crouton(my 82 year old aunt on oxygen with heart failure on salt free diet with a yellow complexion wanting help from my sister with her “diet”. She likes chinese restaurants because chinese people don’t get fat.) I do not care for the most part but seriously. How’s it working out for ya? I need to tattoo that sentence on my forehead!! Sensitivities, intolerances and allergies are NOT in our heads. Our children and grandchildren need us to protect.

  3. Awesome story! We had a similar experience with our son, who suffered from eczema from toddler-hood to early grade school. It took me years to figure out that it was an allergy to pasteurized milk. The doctor just gave us steroid creams, but nothing helped, and the possibility of a food allergy was never brought up. It all makes sense looking back now, since it started about the time he was weaning from breast milk and starting to drink pasteurized, homogenized, organic whole milk from the store. Like Erin, I thought that was the next best thing to breast milk–NOT! Not if it’s been processed to death!

    Switching to raw milk quickly cleared up his skin, and like Erin, when we experimented by putting him back on regular milk it came back.

    Crazy that pediatricians don’t think “food allergy” first when their patients are in these situations, but it is absolutely critical that parents roll up their own sleeves and do their own sleuth work. The medical system just isn’t set up to understand, let alone help, with this stuff. Kudos to Erin for taking her kids’ health into her own hands! And pretty darn cute kids too, I might add!

  4. I would love to know a little bit more about your failure to thrive dx. My MIL stopped nursing her youngest because of the same issue. She always told me that when she would nurse, she would only nurse for 10 minutes on one side and then she would switch to the other side. I explained to her that it is important to nurse entirely on one side for a feeding because the rich fatty hind milk only comes in after 10 minutes (give or take). I always just alternated sides for a feeding and I would feed from 20-30 minutes at a time.

    Also, with my last child, I was surprised that our pediatrician said he routinely recommended that all nursing moms remove all dairy from their diet. He said not only that it is hard for many babies to digest the proteins from dairy, but that it causes trace intestinal bleeding. This is just something I wish I had known off the bat with nursing. While it was a shock for me to remove dairy from my diet, once I did my baby’s painful bloated tummy completely healed.

    • Looking back, removing dairy (or at least commercial dairy) from my diet probably would have fixed the issue. The doctor kept telling me it wasn’t a dairy issue because she didn’t have blood in her stools–maybe not, but they were NOT normal! I saw several lactation consultants, went to BF support groups, did almost daily weight checks, used a supplemental nursing system with pumped milk fortified with extra calories, and everything I could to get them to gain weight. UGH, I wish I had known!

  5. This exactly! My son was born 3 weeks premature but was 8lbs. He was nursed exclusively for over 6 months but by 4 months I knew something was wrong. He never fussed or cryed ina colicky way, but he just seemed uninterested, for lack of a better word. didnt want to do anything but be held, never smiling or laughing, yet not fussy either. He wouldnt have a dirty diaper for days and days, once over 10 days. This is very abnormal for a breastfed baby! His pedi wasnt concerned at all because while he was gaining slow, he was gaining. Luckily aI heard from a friend with a baby that had a Milk/Soy protein intolerance, and decided to remove dairy products and soy from my diet. I had a brand new baby!! Smiling, laughing, playing, gaining weight like crazy. The random rashes and cradle cap cleared up, he slept better. I self referred to a pediatric allergist and was told milk/soy protien intolerance is very very common. Of course with this issue formula feeding would have been even harder on my son, since he couldnt even tolerate what came thru my milk

  6. DS would STILL be labeled “failure to thrive” if I took him to a dr. (he received that label at age 2) – and he is 6 yo and 99% of the time has only ever eaten real foods. Some kids are just small. Some are super-active as well and too busy to eat. Which can totally frustrate parents.

  7. amazing. back home in India we had cow sheds even among the busiest places in the city and the day starts with the milk man filling in our milk pots that are kept outside the home the previous night. but the cows were banned from being in the city and getting fresh milk is a dream for many of us

  8. How do you get over the fear of giving raw milk to your children? While I would consume it myself no problem, I’m too scared to give it my boys. Go figure! I even have a dairy right around the corner from me where we could buy raw milk shares. Right now, I have our milk and dairy products delivered to our door from another dairy that has hormone-free, humanely raised cows. I buy skim for myself, but I get the whole cream-top milk (not homogenized) for the boys. My boys don’t really drink much though. Maybe a half gallon a week between them both.

    • It was definitely an agonizing decision that I did not take lightly. I did a ton of research and came to the conclusion that risk was minimal (much less than giving them raw veggies bought from the store, in my opinion) when getting milk from a farm that uses proper sanitary practices and the milk comes from properly raised cows. We visited the farm, a couple of times in fact, before making the commitment. I would never promote getting milk from somewhere you do not know the practices. Our farm tests the milk and has an outside source test it as well. We are told that the testers will only drink milk from our farm! We did first try low-pasteurized, non-homogenized milk from grass fed cows, but she still did not tolerate it.

      In addition, I had to weigh risk with the benefit. Grace was one and still very underweight when we made this decision. I could have eliminated all dairy from her, tried desperately to make up the nutrition in other ways, dealt with the consequences of her inevitably getting something from a sibling, and all that stuff. Or I could give her the raw milk that she has THRIVED on and let her enjoy all the nutritious food that I can make using it.

      The book “The Untold Story of Milk” was very helpful for me. And although I try to have a little faith in government agencies keeping us safe, I have come to realize that money and lobbyists have a lot more influence on their decisions than I ever wanted to believe. So while I recognize that there is a risk, just like when you put anything in your body, we have made sure those risks have been minimized.

    • Also, kind of an ironic side note, some people are grossed out when they find out we do raw milk and I was the same way once. However, now I’m pretty grossed out on the rare occasions when one of my older kids gets milk from confinement cows! Touche!

    • Kristy, that is an awesome question. For me it was first of all EDUCATION – learning more and realizing that there are risks with *everything* helped me to feel better about it. Just eating raw veggies could be risky, too, but I’m not going to tell my kids not to eat raw veggies. Sure I’ll buy organic (most of the time) and wash them good, but that’s the same as the way I’ll research the farm before we get our milk from them. So for us, the 100% chance of getting all the benefits vs. the tiny risk of there being a problem sounded like the better bet to us.

      Here are my other raw milk posts for more info:

      Hope that helps!

    • My mother grew up on a farm. Raw milk is what they consumed. I also read a lot of articles. Finding the raw milk was the hardest part.

  9. I feel equally as scared to give my kids conventional milk. I just make sure I know my farmer, store it well, and yeah, pray I’m making the right choice. I was scared at first, and that was when I lived in CA and had easy access to Organic Pastures milk, which is carefully tested. Now I get my raw milk (summer only, unfortunately) from a good friend with goats. I watch her milk, and she always sells me her freshest batch. I know where her goats live, eat, and sleep. Then it’s easy to get past the fear.

  10. I started drinking raw milk when I was pregnant with my 2nd child. I worried about it for a few days, but after reading how many have gotten sick from drinking pasteurized milk (a lot!) versus how many have gotten sick from drinking raw milk (a few), and knowing the benefits of raw milk, it didn’t seem like a question. I drank it throughout that entire pregnancy, and also through my 3rd pregnancy and my 2 kids drink it as well. I’d just say find a good farmer that your comfortable with his/her practices…don’t buy raw milk from just anyone. Make sure you know their process and how they care for their cows.

  11. I read, and read, and read. I looked to I learned about WHY milk was originally paseurized and I learned how milk that comes from grass fed cows is much LESS likely to be/become infected. I learned how there is risk with EVERYTHING we do and everything we eat (recalled melons, peanut butter, green onions, tomatos, and sprouts to name a few in the last few years) yet, we don’t stop eating those things without cooking the life out of them. I learned to know where my food comes from and know who/how its raised/grown. I drank raw grass fed milk every day for a couple years (including now, while pregnant) and feel comfortable knowing its likely more safe than anything in the stores, not to mention, more nourishing.

  12. My husband always drinks a glass 1st and then we wait a day to drink it. I’ve never given my kids pasteurized and I feel super comfortable giving raw milk but there is that small risk of getting sick so we let my husband take that risk bc his body can handle it better

  13. After finding out how commercial milk was processed I was scared to give that to my kids. The more you know about store bought vs. raw, the better you’ll feel about your decision.

  14. We have been drinking raw milk for about a year and a half. It never crossed my mind to be scared of it. My son loves it and it has really help clear up his ezcema and allergy issues.

  15. As a small farmer that once sold raw milk we required all of our families to come out to the farm before we started supplying them with milk. At that time we had 2 milk cows, they were encouraged to walk the pastures with us. Come into the barn and see where we milked and where the milk was stored for pick up. We had an agreement that we gave to our families. In that agreement we told them what we did and fed and what we would never do. Before they left we gave them a half gallon of milk to try. The families were always welcome to stop by the farm at anytime. We had nothing to hide. My suggestion, go find a farm that will sell raw milk, then go find a conventional farm take a tour. You can do all sorts of reading but seeing is believing. Oh, and if you breast fed- you have already given your kids raw milk. It is not the milk that is what you need to worry about it is the farm and the people milking those cows.

  16. How do you get over the fear of NOT giving raw milk to your children. Myself, I researched it online extensively and found lots of pro and con. The con articles all used exaggerated scare tactics, which made me doubt them. Whereas the pro articles shed a light on the history and gave explanations that made sense to me. For example, I found out that we started pasteurizing milk as a result of TB being traced back to the milk supply, but it was from cows that were being kept in crowded conditions where diseases thrive. Whereas, in the past decade or 2, only a handful of people (if even that much) have actually died from drinking raw milk, and it was because they had preexisting conditions. And with the strict producing guidelines and testing that raw milk farmers must submit themselves to these days (in CA at least), it’s highly unlikely that anyone would even get as little as a stomach bug from drinking raw milk. Compare that to the state of health of the average American, cavities, allergies (especially milk), poor immune response, etc. Besides that once you start drinking raw milk, you find that pasteurized tastes disgusting.

  17. For me, it all came down to why milk was pasteurized in the first place. After reading about that my fears went away.. people have been milking cows and enjoying dairy for centuries. Most of these dairy sensitivities have only been cropping up after pasteurization was normalized.

  18. Visit and get to know your farm/farmer and then drink the stuff with no fear. (even for babies) know and trust your source and this is 10,000X better than the denatured dairy swill “milk product” or “something close to milk” industrial garbage which they sell in stores. :)

  19. You get over the fear by educating yourself. Once you know the truth, the lies cannot scare you anymore.

  20. Tour the farm! I’ve heard more scary stories about what happens at the “big box” dairy farms because they think pasteurization will kill everything so they don’t need to be careful. Our raw dairy farmers are very careful, treat their animals beautifully, and will dump an entire batch of milk if they have the slightest hesitation of anything unsanitary.

  21. Thank you for your website! This is the first one that addresses the “drool rash” as one of the only external issues (most doctors assume diarrhea and stomach cramping) . My now 5 year old has a very low RAST score for dairy and egg whites and we went off of them for months, but I didn’t really connect the rash (which was very evident in the winter and not so much in the summer) and the allergy as being a cause / effect in as much as we were focusing on his drop off of percentiles in height and weight starting at age 2 (when, coincidentally he started drinking cow milk!). All the doctors said the scores were too low to consider him to have an allergy unless there were evident digestive issues so we went back on, limited the drinking milk and yogurt but still allowing baked goods with milk and egg and cheese. Do you suggest a period of no dairy to clear up the body prior to reintroducing raw milk? I can’t easily access raw drinking milk, but can find raw milk cheeses and possibly butter.

    • This is how we handled it (going off of dairy completely for a couple of months and then re-introducing), and from what I had read, typically the best approach. It has been awhile, so forgive me if my explanations are not completely sound, but I believe this gives it a chance to completely clear the body of the milk proteins and the cells that attack the allergen (antibodies, I believe). If you introduce the raw milk products right away, the body still might attack the proteins as they are so similar. We had to completely eliminate dairy in all forms including processed foods (which is really what got us on our no processed food kick), cheese, or homemade things with cooked milk. When we reintroduced milk using only raw milk or raw milk products, she had no problems. Hope that helps some, and good luck!

  22. Thanks for these stories. My son was diagnosed with milk protein allergy at 4.5 months. We were living in Ghana, West Africa at the time. To the trauma of finding consistent bloody stools in our son’s diaper was added an urgent flight to London and a demoralizing introduction to the world of British socialized medicine. Our son is thriving now, almost six years later. The incident served as a basis for this short story, originally published in Atticus Review.


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