In the first of a series of guest blogs, today we hear from Amy, the founder of Grow with Iris, who I met at the Allergy Show in Birmingham last year.
Milk allergy statistics in the UK
According to the The Association of UK Dietitians (BDA), in the UK, Cow’s Milk Allergy (CMA) affects 2-3% of babies and young children up to the age of five. It’s also one of the more serious allergies. A fact which surprises many people who assume peanuts are the most allergenic.
Grow with Iris is proudly dairy free and our rigorous allergy testing also ensures the product is free from lactose, eggs, soya, peanuts, tree nuts and gluten.
The story of Grow with Iris and one Mum’s mission to bring choice to the Allergy Community
Grow with Iris is a fortified, plant-based, free from growing up drink for little people. Iris, Amy’s daughter, was diagnosed with numerous allergies, including dairy, soya, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, and sesame at the age of four months old. She is the muse behind the brand.
‘Fed up and frustrated by the lack of choice for nutritional milk alternatives when Iris was growing up’, Amy started to develop Grow with Iris. She wanted to offer a delicious option for children with allergies or those who prefer plant-based alternatives to milk. Grow with Iris is Paediatrician and Dietician approved; fortified to support the nutritional needs of growing toddlers and children, meaning there is no need for separate vitamins and milk.
Amy and Iris’ story
Our allergy story began in 2017 when Iris was just a few months old. She had developed severe, red raw eczema. We went to the G.P and we were given steroid creams to help her, but deep down I knew there was something else going on.
Iris was exclusively breastfed, so I started to remove the more common food allergens from my diet such as dairy and eggs. Reluctantly planning to go back to my full-time teaching role, Head of Art in a busy prep school, I knew there would be little time to express milk. In reality this was probably going to be impossible. wanting to be organised and make the transition as stress free as possible, I went to my doctor to seek advice.
Trust your baby’s instinct when it comes to food
My overwhelming gut feeling was that Iris should not have cow’s milk. I was told to try ‘any old formula’ so I did some research. This advice didn’t feel right, so I tried a goat protein-based formula as I heard it was easier to digest.
It was as though Iris knew; her intuition was not to drink it. She fought and fought, and after a stressful few minutes, (which felt like a lifetime), she took a drop, then flat refused the bottle. Within minutes her little eyes started swelling and her face went bright red. I immediately gave her antihistamine and it subsided.
Getting the allergy diagnosis
The next day we went to the G.P and were advised to go private as it could take months for a diagnosis. Feeling like we had no other choice, we found the money and were seen privately the next Saturday. Blood tests were booked and I took my Mum for support.
I’m glad I did as it was so traumatic; It took 45 minutes to get the blood from Iris and we were all in fretful tears in a hot little room. The results confirmed allergies to milk, eggs, oats, wheat, soya, nuts, peanuts, sesame, kiwi and banana and we were given a prescription for two injector pens and antihistamines.
Cow’s milk free, alternative toddler growing up drink
My partner Matt and I were at a loss as to what formula to give her. The one offered by our G.P was full of corn syrup and had a list of synthetic ingredients I did not understand. This was not what we wanted to feed our precious little baby. We were very conscious of eating healthily for ourselves so it didn’t seem right to give her that.
I continued to breastfeed morning and night while Matt scoured the internet looking for alternatives. Importing other options from the US, France, and Australia at around £60 a time was not financially sustainable, and I knew I could not be the only one in this situation. I decided there and then to do something about it and create my own line of free from and delicious plant-based drinks.
Grow with Iris was born
Sophie, my Co-Founder, came on board two years in. A school friend of mine and a Creative Director and Designer by trade, Sophie began by helping with the branding. So overwhelmed by the story and compelled by the potential of the brand, she became my business partner. Four years on, together we have been on a relentless journey of research, product development and manufacturer visits,
Sampling, zoom meetings, risk registers and networking. With Sophie on board Grow with Iris has elevated. We have won two rounds of Innovate UK funding; ‘Sustainability in Innovation’ and ‘Women in Innovation,’ which have helped to get us to a safe, legal, and just as importantly, delicious choice for parents of children with allergies or who are plant based.
Dairy free toddler drink with all the complimentary nutrients your child needs
Our aim is to make life easier for parents and create something safe which provides complementary nutrition. Ultimately we want to help your little ones grow and thrive. Grow with Iris will be available to buy later in 2023. We hope to create a community of people who feel heard, catered for and seen.
Watch out, there is a new challenger brand in town ready to disrupt the toddler nutrition category. Plant powered, complementary nutrition for a growing generation.
I’d love to hear from any readers who have faced this very same challenge. Have you struggled to find a suitable dairy free milk for your child? Please share your journey below and get in touch with Amy and Sophie to find out more.