Yep, it’s milk sensitivity all right.

I’ve been on a milk-free diet for the past three weeks. Adrian’s general state and disposition has improved immensely during this time. He behaves like a normal baby (as far as I can tell). He cries when he is unhappy with his current situation, but it is almost always possible to deduce what is bothering him, and fix it.

But perhaps this was just a coincidence? Perhaps he just outgrew whatever problem he had?

Now Christmas is lurking around the corner and it is time to bake gingerbread cookies and saffron buns. This weekend the question arose: do we have to bake our gingerbread cookies with margarine instead of butter, and to look for a recipe for milk-free saffron buns? We needed a decision on the milk-free diet.

So today I did a milk provocation / challenge: I ate what I would eat on a normal day when I’m not avoiding milk. Milk in the breakfast porridge, and a glass of milk on the side; butter on my sandwiches; a yoghurt for my afternoon snack. Yum.

By 5 o’clock in the afternoon there had been no signs of adverse reaction. I was already celebrating in my mind, thinking of all the nice stuff I can eat again. My mouth was watering just from thinking of it all.

Then at 6, The Screaming was back. Adrian woke, fed, and the moment he stopped eating, he started crying. Reflux, arching his back, painful burps, inconsolable crying until he finally fell asleep, and then some more reflux while he was sleeping.

I don’t know which felt worse: to see him in such pain again, or to know that I will not be eating any of the nice stuff for a long time.

And I really like milk and milk products! I am one of a very few people among my acquaintances who actually drinks milk with meals. Used to drink, that is.

After the situation stabilizes again, the next step will be cautious experiments with goat’s and sheep’s milk products. Cheeses are easy to find, but I wonder if it’s possible to buy, say, cream or yogurt made of sheep’s milk. Can you even make sheep milk yogurt?

A reasonably typical day for us, apart from Ingrid’s fever (which is rare) and the movie-watching (which we only do on Fridays). All times rounded to the nearest quarter-hour.

Around 1:00 Feed Adrian
Around 4:00 Feed Adrian
5:45 Adrian wakes. Pop in dummy a few times.
6:30 All asleep again.
7:00 Alarm goes off. Turn on light, start waking Ingrid.
7:15 Adrian wakes; Eric takes care of him while Ingrid joins me for a shower. Both get dressed.
7:30 Feed Adrian while reading for Ingrid.
7:45 Start making breakfast. Ingrid eats some cereal (Kellogg’s Special K, on top of which she pours raspberry juice while drinking milk on the side) while I make porridge (oats, and half a small apple from our own apple tree). The builders arrive.
8:00 Eat breakfast. Adrian sits in his bouncy chair, with a blanket protecting him from the draught while the builders walk in and out with their stuff.
8:15 Eric leaves for work. I clean up the kitchen while Ingrid finishes eating.
8:30 Brush teeth, brush Ingrid’s hair and teeth, change Adrian’s nappy, tie him in the sling, where he falls asleep almost instantly. All get dressed for going out. A snowsuit for Ingrid, a babywearing coat from Mamajacket for me. Woolly hats and mittens all around.
8:45 Leave for preschool. It has snowed a lot during the night so we take the sledge.
9:00 Drop Ingrid off at preschool. Unpack spare clothes for her. Head home.
9:15 Sweep the night’s snow off the stairs.
9:30 Take notes for blog post. Check email. Read a few blog posts.
9:45 Adrian wakes and cries. Feed Adrian while reading a book.
10:00 Talk to Adrian. He seems bored. Put Adrian down on his play mat. Rescue our rubber boots from the snow on the balcony. Take photos of what the builders are doing. Turn Adrian on his front. Fold and put away laundry. Change nappy.
10:30 Adrian cries. Seems tired. Put on the sling and pop in the dummy; Adrian falls asleep. Fold more laundry.
10:45 Put on outerwear again.
11:00 Out for grocery shopping.
11:45 Home again. Take off clothes. Prepare lunch (leftover broccoli soup and wort bread, a part of Swedish Christmas traditions).
12:00 Eat lunch while reading The Economist from week before last, and watching birds feed outside the kitchen window.
12:15 Unpack groceries. Put away stuff that’s lying around. Do the dishes from breakfast and lunch (those that don’t go in the dishwasher). Eat some apples.
12:30 Tradera (Swedish Ebay): bid on some nursing tops, leave feedback on bought items
12:45 Back up my web site. Other admin.
13:00 Adrian wakes and expresses his dissatisfaction. Nurse while reading.
13:30 Adrian on play mat. Clean floor in temporary hallway. Roast some nuts. Admin.
14:00 Adrian throws up. Move him to bouncy chair. Pick up stuff around the house. Change poopy nappy.
14:15 Whimpers from Adrian. Put him in the sling; he falls asleep. Pay some bills.
14:30 Read online newspapers and Facebook.
14:45 Get dressed to go pick up Ingrid.
15:00 Preschool. Find Ingrid, help her get dressed. Feels feverish and looks very tired.
15:30 Home. Take off clothes, put away. Prepare for fredagsmys – get snacks and choose a movie.
15:45 Fredagsmys begins.
16:15 The last builder leaves.
16:30 Adrian awake and unhappy. Nurse.
16:45 Crying. Nappy change. Sling. Sort of falls asleep.
17:00 Not asleep after all.
17:15 Fredagsmys movie ends. Take Adrian out of sling.
17:30 Into the sling again. Falls asleep this time. Sing some songs with Ingrid.
17:45 Make dinner.
18:15 Adrian wakes and cries. Ingrid goes to the toilet and gets her clothes slightly wet, very upset. Lots of drama. Get new clothes for Ingrid.
18:30 Everybody gets food. Nurse Adrian while trying to eat with one hand. Occasionally console Ingrid. Everybody feels better.
19:00 Ingrid wants to go to bed. Brush her teeth. Go upstairs, take Adrian and his bouncy chair with us. Read story for both, during which Adrian miraculously stays quiet. Then Adrian starts complaining. Put Adrian to bed, too. Then shuttle traffic between Ingrid’s bed (where she holds my arm) and Adrian’s (where I pop in the dummy).
19:15 Ingrid asleep. Sit with Adrian.
19:30 Adrian mostly asleep. Go downstairs, clean up the kitchen, with occasional trips back up to pop in the dummy.
19:45 Sit another while with Adrian. Take notes for blog. Eric comes home.
20:00 Read the rest of my news sites and RSS feeds, check email. More trips upstairs.
20:15 Browse the forums at
20:45 Register Adrian in the city’s child care queue system
21:00 Read
22:00 Brush teeth
22:15 Watch Chuck over Eric’s shoulder
22:30 Change nappy and feed Adrian in bed. He falls asleep again.
22:45 Eric takes Ingrid to the toilet. She’s all sweaty and feverish and comes to our bed. Adrian wakes again, dummy-popping ensues.
23:15 All asleep.

Some fresh bookmarks from

  • NY Times: Cats Lap With Tip of the Tongue – It has taken four highly qualified engineers and a bunch of integral equations to figure it out, but we now know how cats drink. The answer is: very elegantly, and not at all the way you might suppose.
  • Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds | Business | Vanity Fair – The unbelievable state of Greek state finances, where no one pays tax, no one knows how many people the state employs, or how much the state spends, and everybody cheats.
  • A Vegan No More | Voracious – A "hardcore, self-righteous and oh so judgmental vegangelical" is forced to stop being one after the diet makes her profoundly ill. Long and interesting, with many comments.
  • Sub-Pixel Message Generator – Using sub-pixel rendering to create a ridiculously small font (1 pixel wide and 5 pixels high), only visible on LCD monitors running at their highest resolution
  • The Insanity Virus | DISCOVER Magazine – Schizophrenia has long been blamed on bad genes or even bad parents. Some psychiatrists now say that the cause is a virus that lives in every person's DNA, and is triggered by an infection in early childhood.

Now that I am living without milk, I notice that…

  • oat milk is a poor replacement for the real stuff, as is margarine for butter
  • I really miss yoghurt, grilled cheese sandwiches, fresh warm bread with melting butter, and creamy sauces
  • I am spontaneously eating more nuts and pulses, probably because my organism needs alternative sources of protein
  • I never really feel full and sated after a meal – instead I stop eating when I think “surely this ought to be enough”
  • I am lugging home lots and lots of juice
  • ordinary restaurants have almost nothing on their menus with neither meat nor dairy

Adrian has been so much better during the past two weeks compared to the two preceding weeks, and our lives so much calmer, that I’m continuing for now. In a few weeks it should be time for a provocation – drink a glass of milk and see what happens to him.

According to official measurements as of this morning’s two-month checkup, Adrian is 58.5cm and 6130g. He has outgrown most of his size 56 clothes.

His awake periods are getting longer but they’re not particularly predictable. Sometimes when I think he should be alert and perky, he tires after half an hour. Other times he seems really tired but still won’t sleep more than short stretches.

My cautious assessment is that his stomach problems have improved during the last 10 days, since I excluded milk from my diet. We actually had 4 days of no reflux screaming at all. While it hasn’t been that rosy more recently, he spends some time awake and happy after every feed. The doctor told us that if the milk-free diet seems to help, keep it up and re-evaluate at the next checkup in a month’s time.

Adrian now seeks eye contact when held (since about 2 weeks ago), and works his facial muscles hard when I talk to him or make faces. Smile-like movements have been observed but no unambiguously clear smile yet.

Unlike Ingrid he likes his dummy and wants to suck on it when going to sleep, no matter whether in bed or in sling. Also unlike Ingrid he does not like the pushchair or the pram. Both have been banished to the basement for the time being.

Most recently he’s started to like being completely upright, not reclining in his bouncy chair or against my legs. He pushes away from my legs with his head in order to be more upright. When held upright he can hold his head pretty well. Sometimes he pushes away with his legs and refuses to sit, so I hold him standing up on my lap.

This has been a month full of whining, complaining, yelling, and general contrariness. Ingrid finds fault with everything we say or do. It’s like having a teenager in the house, I imagine.

It appears that she has, for some reason, decided to be unpleasant and unfriendly towards us. She can be perfectly polite to others, but when she addresses me, it’s often by shouting or screaming. When she wants me to pour milk, it’s no longer “Can I have some milk please” but “MIIILLK!”. Once she even started with “Can I…” but then interrupted herself and shouted “MIIILLK!” instead.

When she wants me to help her get her boots on, she refuses to come stand where I am sitting. (I refuse to crouch on the floor when I’ve got Adrian in the sling, because it is very uncomfortable for both of us.) Sometimes she even yells when she wants me to play with her or read to her. “Du ska läsa för mig du ska läsa för mig du ska läsa för mig!” (“You must read for me”) she screams, and of course I must do nothing of the sort, I must leave the room instead in order to keep my temper.

Anything I suggest is rejected. Anything I mention in a positive tone, she decides to dislike. “Look, there’s one piece of apple left!” she gladly says. “Yes, I thought you might want one more so I left it for you” I say. “I don’t want it” she responds sulkily.

And she wants help with everything. She can even ask for help moving a plate to the side of the table, and complain that she doesn’t have the strength to move it, and demonstrate by poking at it with a limp hand and an exhausted face. When Eric and I can’t help but laugh out loud at that, she gets very upset and cries that we mustn’t laugh at her.

My guess is that this is a reaction to Adrian’s arrival. A bit delayed, you might think, but then again Adrian was much easier to take care of during his first month. Now he requires more of our time and attention, and even though I do my best to spend time with Ingrid, she cannot have all the attention she wants. Is she testing us, perhaps? “Do they really love me? Do they love me if I do this, this and this?” Or perhaps she is simply mentally tired and stressed by the change and by the new order.

Tellingly she really only behaves that way with me and Eric. When, for example, another parent at preschool notices that we are having trouble (read: Ingrid is yelling at me without pause and asking for help while refusing my way of helping her) and asks if s/he can help, Ingrid explains reasonably politely what she needs help with and gladly accepts it.

During all of this I try to remind myself that:

  • I cannot control her behaviour but I can control how I react to it (and that covers both my internal and external reactions).
  • If we are to break the spiral of negative emotions and negative behaviour, it’s up to me to do it.
  • I can choose to treat her the way she “deserves” to be treated, or the way that is likely to break the spiral.

When she yells for help doing something ridiculously easy, I may think that that kind of request really deserves to be ignored until she addresses me in a more polite manner, or refused because she can do it herself perfectly well. But all that achieves is an escalation of the spiral. Instead I can interpret her shouting as a way of saying “I feel ignored and tired and unloved and I hate it and I want company”, gently remind her that I would prefer if she asked me kindly instead of shouting, and help her.

But there are times when she has decided to not cooperate at all, and then it can be physically difficult for me to help her. I cannot lift her when I am carrying Adrian; I cannot put her mitten on if she keeps her hand all limp. And there are times when my patience runs out and I just cannot take her yelling any more, and I walk away from the room or the situation.

It is bloody exhausting to have two cranky kids. I don’t tolerate loud noise well, and when two children are screaming right next to me, it leaves me tired and with frazzled nerves, even less willing to indulge in Ingrid’s whims or to get engaged in her activities.

Another reaction to having Adrian in the house: Ingrid has started telling us that she has a stomach ache, when she clearly has no such thing (and forgets it as soon as she gets distracted), most likely because we have explained to her that Adrian cries so much because his stomach hurts. If it works for him, and gets him lots of attention, why not for her, too?

Ingrid’s favourite “toy” is our iPad. She watches movies on it, plays games, draws, plays dress-up and so on – together with me or Eric if possible. We also read (a good activity to combine with breastfeeding Adrian), do crafts, and play games (board games, card games and such).

She likes to pretend she’s a wizard or a fairy or an angel, and do magic. (Fairies and angels seem pretty much the same to her – pretty girls with wings – and since I don’t see much actual difference myself, I haven’t bothered trying to explain the very different cultural backgrounds of the two.) There have been magicians and fairies in many of the movies we’ve seen recently, as well as in fairy tales, ranging from the story of Sleeping Beauty, via Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, to Shrek and Aladdin.

She will ask me what magic she should do, wave her wand and say some magic words, and present me with the result. Sometimes she clarifies that “it’s just pretend”, that I shouldn’t expect real wings or that she cannot really magically bring daddy home early. I’ve begun using magic as a distraction when she’s in a bad mood: “wouldn’t it be nice if we could magically grow wings, then you wouldn’t have to walk home on your tired legs”. It sometimes works.

Often she or one of her soft toys is a kitten, walks on all fours and miaows pitifully. The kitten has lost its parents while picking berries in the forest, is sad and wants company. (We’ve read an Estonian fairy tale about a girl who gets lost in the forest while picking berries.) Now most recently the kitten has actually been abandoned in the forest by its father (since we’ve read about Hansel and Gretel).

Whenever I ask what she did with her friends at preschool, she tells me they played mummy daddy baby. She usually gets to be the baby, being among the smallest and youngest kids in their huge group. At home she plays she’s the mummy, and various toys and dolls get to be babies. She breastfeeds them, picks them up when they cry, and puts them to sleep. Sometimes she wants to be a mom for me, and I get to be big sister. She asks me how my day was, what I learned at school, and I am supposed to act the way she usually does. When she borrows my camera, for example, I am supposed to badger her “let me see, let me see [the photos]”.

There is also a fair amount of talk about being in love, and marrying. Contagion from all the older girls at preschool. She is in love with me and with Elin (a friend) she says, and will marry us both. Being in love means you like someone a lot, she says, and getting married means you live together.

When she draws or paints, it is only girls and princesses. Just plain girls more often than princesses, nowadays. They all follow the same template: head like this, dress like that, long hair on both sides. Very boring for me.

She has effectively learnt to write. Often she still wants one of us to tell her the letters, but when I instead say the word again, or just ask her what letter she thinks should come next, she gets it right 9 times out of 10. The most common mistake she makes is skipping a letter in the word. For example when she wante to write PIRN (for “pear” in Estonian) and had done P and I, she said that N should come next. But when I said that that would make PIN, she thought a bit and figured out on her own that R should be there too.

It’s like when she learned to stand and walk: she wouldn’t actually let go and do it until she was 100% able to do it. Back then it was some sort of subconscious or instinctive behaviour, but now it’s more conscious. She simply has a strong aversion to failure.

Speaking of walking, Ingrid is still not fond of walking so she cycles to preschool every day, if at all feasible, and most other places too. We had to walk when the streets were full of snowy slush. But when there are just some icy patches here and there, we take the bike. Slipping and falling a few times causes less fuss and complaining than having to walk all the way, especially on the way home in the afternoon. Even better than cycling is having a cycle race, meaning that she sets a goal (“first one to that brick house wins”) and races ahead on her bike, and I walk after her as fast as I can (cannot run with Adrian in the sling, he either throws up or wakes up) while shouting “this time I will surely win” or “now it really is my turn to win” and she laughs at me.

She can now hop on one foot (her right one) for a good 12 to 15 jumps, all the way across the kitchen. On her left she manages just a few.

Likes: painting my face (they do face painting at preschool on Fridays). Making silly faces and waving her arms around when I try to take a photo of her. Winning. Ice cream. Sundays, because then she gets ice cream. (Sometimes she starts counting down to Sunday already on a Tuesday.) Selecting clothes for Adrian. Torches. Balancing on pavement edges, ledges, and power cords on the floor. Playing rock paper scissors during train rides. Also during train rides, playing shop and selling me the houses, cars, boats and towers on the seat fabric. (Can’t find any official pictures; a slightly fuzzy photo can be seen here.) Plates, cups and cutlery with pictures or patterns.

Does not like: our tasteful green china. The colour black, or brown or grey. Waiting. Missing a train – even when I tell her the next one will be there in 2 minutes, she is upset.

Three things that help me get things done despite a cranky baby and a needy four-year-old:

  • Baby slings. A lot of time that I would otherwise spend on getting Adrian to sleep, or keeping him upright after a feed, I can now use for other things. Also they make me more mobile: when I want to go out, I don’t need to time my movements around his sleep times.
  • A shopping trolley is an excellent complement to slings. It may not be the most stylish accessory but it is immensely useful. The little old ladies know what they’re doing! We bought one from IKEA for 159:- and it’s been perfect. It takes 20 kg I think, I’m a bit unsure about the exact number but more than I would ever want to drag home. I use it for grocery shopping, but also take it when I need to run errands in the city, both for the stuff we need to take with us (nappies etc) and for any purchases.
  • A task list for every day, with the 3–4 things I absolutely want to get done that day. The tasks can range from the very short – “call to make appointment with doctor” – to longer things like “buy mittens for Ingrid”.

    This shortlist helps me focus, and helps me plan my day: without it some things never get done because I only remember them at the most inappropriate time. I am mostly reminded of Ingrid’s need for mittens when I’m going out with her, or just coming home, but if I am going to buy new ones, it needs to happen during the day.

    The list also helps me avoid the feeling that I do nothing but breastfeed, burp and change nappies all day long. I can look back after what feels like a totally improductive day and see that I have nevertheless crossed three things off my list.

As I’ve briefly mentioned, we’re remodelling our house. We took the first step already almost two years ago, when we’d barely lived here half a year, by tearing down the wall between the kitchen and the living room.

The house was originally built in 1907. Then in 1973 the enterprising taxi driver who owned it at the time built an extension. What he really wanted was a large garage for his taxi firm, and the only way he could get planning permission for that was if it was attached to the house. The old house sits on a hill so he built a garage next to and below it, and joined the two parts by adding one storey on top of the garage, level with the original house.

To me it looks obvious that the planning and design of the extension was done on a shoestring budget. It is a butt ugly box on the outside, with a weird, impractical floor plan inside. I am pretty sure that no architect was ever involved in the creation of that thing. Whenever someone asks which house is ours, I tell them it’s the yellow house on the hill with an ugly, boxy extension.

The north facade of the house is the worst, really showcasing its boxy nature. And just look at the windows: the bathroom window (the small one nearest the old part of the house) is bisected by a pole! That wasn’t an error by the builders or a later change, that’s the way it looks on the original drawings.

Inside we have:

  • one nice large well-lit bedroom;
  • one reasonably large but ugly bathroom;
  • a weird room reachable only from the bathroom, originally meant as a sauna but never furnished or equipped as one, now used to store stuff and to dry our laundry;
  • a long useless corridor with lots of built-in wardrobes – so narrow that we removed the bathroom door because it was blocking the corridor.

On the floor plan, the old part is to the left, and the extension to the right. (The floor plan doesn’t match the current state of affairs to 100% but it’s close enough.)

Ugly on the outside, lots of wasted space inside. We’re going to change that.

I’ve been experimenting with a milk-free diet now since last Friday, hypothesizing that perhaps Adrian’s tummy troubles are caused by a milk protein allergy / oversensitivity. Apparently reflux can sometimes be due to milk allergy. Given how much his reflux is hurting all of us, it’s definitely worth a try. Since I cook almost all our meals from scratch anyway, it’s not difficult, really, just a bit frustrating. I like yoghurt, and cheese, and creamy sauces, and milk in my porridge.

Friday afternoon I forgot my diet and took some cinnamon swirls from the freezer, and for Sunday lunch I grabbed some leftover leeks in white sauce before I realized that white sauce is mostly milk. But apart from those lapses I haven’t ingested anything with milk in it.

And I do think it may be working. He’s been mostly scream-free since Monday: four days now. There’s some crying now and again, but not the endless inconsolable screaming we used to get. Last time I thought I saw an improvement it lasted two days only. I don’t yet dare to think that this is the new normal, but it is very nice while it lasts.

Meanwhile Adrian has hit a growth spurt and is eating every 2 hours during the day (and every 3 hours, occasionally 3.5) at night. I feel like a milk machine. He barely has time to get a nap before he wakes up hungry again.

He’s already outgrown his size 50 bodies and now size 56, too. Next week he’ll be getting his 2-month checkup and we’ll find out what he weighs.