Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Dairy Free Baby's Party Survival Plan

'Baby' has had a party invite. WOO...hoo...

Just like any parent, I love it when 'Baby' makes friends and enjoys her social life. I love it when she gets an invite to a party - not that we've had that many, as we've moved around a few times in her short life and had to keep making new friends.

But, then, having accepted the invitation, one's thoughts inevitably turn to food. Because there it is - every social gathering includes food of some description. And it's inevitable that most of it will contain milk in some form.

Ho hum! 

What to do?

But, it's not just the food is it?

Birthday parties have definitely changed since I was little!

'Baby' has a party to attend tomorrow and it involves dressing-up - you know fancy dress, not party dress!

However, she is going to be all good to go, because since the last birthday party, where I missed the dress code ('cos it was on the back of the invite), I have learned my lesson. 

'Baby' was very good at the time, she really got stuck in, but it soon became apparent AFTER the party, that she had been all too aware that she was different. Not because of her allergy to milk, BUT because she was not dressed up as a princess like the majority of the rest of the party goers. She was wearing an absolutely beautiful dress that her grandma bought for her birthday, BUT it was NOT enough. In fact, I think there would have been a crisis even if she HAD been wearing her own princess dress, because... it wasn't a Rapunzel dress - complete with a long blonde plait that could be tossed artfully over one shoulder.

'Baby' surmised that had she been wearing one, the birthday girl (whom she hardly even knows - she was invited because I know the girl's mum from way back) would have wanted to play with her!! GROAN *slaps forehead, vows NEVER to let her stand out in this way EVER again*!!

It's hard enough (I think) that she stands out as 'The-Girl-With-The-Allergy (because her Mummy brings a packed lunch box), the last thing I want is for her to feel any more different from the others than she already does. 

I don't want her to become a VICTIM.

The good news is that this factored so highly that the allergy thing didn't seem bother (phew) 'Baby'... apart form not being able to have some of the 'princessy' birthday cake, which she admired longlingly!! *GROAN, GROAN, GROAN*

The reason it didn't bother her, I think, is partly because she is so used to going places and eating differently to everyone else (that's her 'normal'), and partly because she knows Mummy has eating restrictions too  - which normalises it for her, even more so. BUT also, I have made sure that she never has to miss out... well not too much anyway.

The Format

This is how it goes:

We receive an invitation. Delight for her, slight panic for me.

Well, I really don't expect people to try and provide food that's suitable. Experience has taught me that people don't always get it and it can cause them extra stress, which may mean that people might not invite us again - especially when we're just getting to know them!

My first course of action is to call the host and discuss the food situation. I try to keep it light and suggest bringing my own food as soon as possible. I know that before 'Baby' was on the scene, I would not have had the slightest clue (as to what to provide for someone else in this situation), so I don't expect them to, and (to be quite honest), I would prefer to supply 'Baby's' food anyway - in case some one inadvertently makes a mistake. If I prepare it, I know what's in it!!

I know, I know. It would be nice in an ideal world if I could just rock up like everyone else, BUT I know we went through a steep learning curve when we had 'Baby'. We're still learning, even though we've been doing this thing for a few years now. Planning a party is stressful enough as it is, for the host, without factoring in loads of other stuff, so, in the interests of being invited back again, I am prepared to go the extra, extra mile. I don't want to run the risk of my 'Allergy Kid' missing out on future invites. 

Usually, people are quite grateful when I suggest I can bring things. If they can tell me what they're likely to be serving, then I try to replicate (as near as I can) what the other children will be having. If they're a bit unclear, then a bit of innovation is in order! 

If, however, the host thinks they can provide the food, I go along with it, but hide stuff in my bag (just in case)! 

One host (a relative) seemed a bit offended when I asked if I needed to bring stuff, but we turned up and guess what? All the bread was buttered with regular Flora margarine - so... not dairy free, then! None of the crisps were dairy free either. 

Good job I brought 'Baby's' 'Party Survival Pack', then, wasn't it?!

Baby's Party Survival Pack

If I can sensibly more or less match whatever is being provided I will, but this can't always be done. I have been known to go a bit over the top - just to make 'Baby' feel like she's better off, but this has backfired on me - with other kids asking me for some of what 'Baby's' having!! Here's what's usually in it:

1. Sandwiches: Tuna and mayonnaise - Baby's' favourite. No point packing anything else, if I want her to eat something sensible! Hellman's Original Mayonnaise is dairy free but don't try the Light version, as that's made with cream powder!

Party sandwiches should be cut small, IMHO

2. Savory bits: Waitrose mini bread sticks or Tesco Ritz biscuit style 'Snackers' - just another savoury 'filler'. She may or may not eat them.

3. Crisps: Original Pom Bears - all kids love these! Watch out here for other kids wanting them too! A new favourite is Tesco Prawn Cocktail crisps. Organix tomato flavoured corn snacks might be another option.

4. Biscuits: Kelkin Jaffa cakes or Lovemore's O'Choccos (Oreos) - these are dairy free as well as gluten free. I only take a couple, she may not eat them, but if she wants them they're there! Normal Oreos aren't made with milk, but 'Baby' seems to react, so these Lovemore ones work well and she loves them. Lovemore also make 'Chocolate Bourbons' and 'Jammy Wheels'. However, 'Baby' is actually perfectly okay with Waitrose 'Essential 'Bourbon Biscuits. Before she started reacting to Fox's Party Rings, I used to take them (they aren't made with milk either, but they 'may contain') so we don't have them anymore. 

5. Cake: We take homemade cupcakes - usually Hale and Hearty Chocolate Muffins, smothered in Betty Crocker Buttercream Style Chocolate Icing, and blinged up with Dr Oetker decorations. They're a winner every time!! 

Our faves

6. Sweets: Haribo mini packs, Dairy Free Chocolate Buttons/Coins etc. just in case sweets are offered as prizes, or are poked into party bags - nothing is left to chance!

Party essentials!

7. Wipes: I also bring our usual packs of wipes - not necessary for the table, as that may well be covered with a party tablecloth (although not always - depends on the venue), but for 'Baby's' hands. Hanging out with other tots who drink milk and stick hands/toys etc. in their mouths is a potential source of unwitting exposure to milk proteins (as far as I'm concerned) so before she eats, 'Baby's' hands are subjected to a quick scrub. I've no idea if it really helps or not, but it just kind of eases my mind somewhat!


After it's all over. We go outside, get in the car. Frisk the party bag (just in case). Go home, wash her hands carefully (just in case). Relax in the safety of our own home!!


Oh, and I always offer to stay and help! And I do. It means I can keep a safe eye on 'Baby' without hovering too much over her. I actually enjoy this bit, as it can be very sociable and be a great way of cementing relationships with other people, anyway.

Of course all this is extra work for me... and I'm guessing you as well. We all go that extra mile willingly... because we love our kids and do not want them to miss out.

Now I may have missed things out that you have thought of. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below - the more the merrier!

And let's party on! Dairy free, of course!! :)


  1. This is a great post, thank you. I have 2 dairy free babies in the house as well as myself but my daughter and husband are both fine. Besides birthdays, my middle baby's play school often has little parties or they 'bake' cakes with the kids and of course my little one comes home so proud of her chocolate creation and immediately wants to eat it. Its definitely difficult to work around them when my eldest can have anything. Fortunately we have gotten to the point where my middle baby realises that she cant have certain things so its beginning to be much easier when she herself refuses. Like you said, we do it because we love them. My sons 2nd birthday is next week and it will be dairy free all the way.

    1. Hi Samantha! Great to hear from you :) Hope your son's party goes really well xx