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Going Dairy Free for Your
I learned quickly that going dairy free for your breastfeeding baby could be very helpful when a baby is very fussy.
Early in my lactation career, I got a call from a mom that went like this:
Mom: My baby cries all the time. Do you think he is allergic to my milk? Should I switch to formula?
Me: Babies don’t really have allergies to their mother’s milk. That’s a myth. It is possible though that your baby has an intolerance to something in your diet.
Mom: Oh! Do you think I should go off dairy?
Me: Dairy is the most common food that causes intolerance symptoms in babies, but other foods can as well. Have you done a diet diary?
Mom: What’s that?
Me: A daily log of all the foods you eat for three days. There are other foods that can cause problems and it can help to see a sample of your typical diet.
I made a plan for this mom to do a diet diary and also set up a consult for her to bring it in so I could evaluate it. I also wanted to watch her baby during and after a feeding.
I have found doing a diet diary can be easier by using a journal like the Book Factory Food Journal can help.
Food Intolerances and Breastfeeding
Food intolerances are a real thing.
Amy shared her story about going dairy free.
They can make a baby miserable, and by default, they can make everyone around the baby miserable.
I often get asked how quickly it takes for food eaten by a mom to affect her baby.
This question is actually impossible to answer.
Food digestion can be affected by other things that are consumed at the same time, whether it is a pure food or mixed in with something else and even time of day may affect the rate of digestion.
Ten most common foods that cause intolerance symptom
8. Nuts (Almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc)
9. Legumes (peanuts-which is technically not a nut, even though it has nut in the name, isn’t that nutty?)
10. Chocolate (I think this one deserves a moment of silence…)
Why go dairy free for breastfeeding?
While some people think that consuming dairy is bad for our bodies and/or bad for the planet, I’m just going to talk about how it can make your baby a very unhappy camper.
These are the symptoms a dairy intolerance can cause:
Excessive spitting up with fussiness.
Excessive crying by baby (mom crying because her baby is crying all the time doesn’t count)
Watery or mucousy stools that may be green
Possibly blood in baby’s stools
Constant gunky (that’s a medical term there), runny nose
These symptoms can be caused by intolerances to other foods as well.
I have also seen babies who weren’t fussy, but they just were poor feeders.
I saw one baby who just wouldn’t eat very much and her growth was slowing down and she was starting to fall off her growth curve.
I recommended to her mom that she eliminate dairy and she noticed a big difference after two weeks. Her baby started to eat better and subsequently gained weight at a better rate.
Dairy intolerance vs milk allergy vs lactose intolerance
These different conditions may all cause the same symptoms.
A true milk allergy is rare.
A true allergy is an immune response and possibly can result in an anaphylactic reaction. An allergy can be diagnosed by testing.
Determining that something is an intolerance is more of a trial and error type of thing.
Lactose intolerance is exceptionally rare in infants and happens in less than 1% of babies. It is generally something that develops with age. It is estimated that 65% of adults in the world are lactose intolerant.
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest the lactose sugar in milk.
All breastmilk contains lactose and it would be a big mistake for mother nature to make it common for a large percentage of infants unable to digest their sole source of nutrition.
In those rare cases of true lactose intolerance in a breastfed infant, giving them Lactaid drops will enable them to digest the lactose in breastmilk. Consult with your baby’s health care provider before doing this.
Who should go dairy free for breastfeeding?
If you consume dairy and your baby has food intolerance symptoms, it is worthwhile to try going dairy free for breastfeeding.
How to go dairy free when you’re breastfeeding
For babies who have an intolerance to the cow’s milk protein, it is important to completely eliminate any and ALL dairy from your diet.
All milk and milk products
Read labels and don’t eat anything with milk products, milk solids, casein or whey in the ingredients.
Don’t assume something won’t have dairy or milk in it.
The most surprising thing I found milk in was powdered green food.
Try to eat as clean as possible
Soy as an Alternative
A lot of people turn to soy when they can’t have dairy. However, a large percentage of people who can’t tolerate dairy find they also cannot tolerate soy.
I always recommend a mom try to eliminate soy from her diet at the same time that she is going dairy free for breastfeeding.
Eliminating soy from your diet is a bit more challenging than dairy because there is soy in everything! Or at least it feels that way.
There are so many choices compared to just a few years ago. My favorite is almond milk. I’m going to be honest though, a bowl of cereal just isn’t the same with almond milk.
There are so many other milk alternatives.
There is pecan, cashew, rice, hemp, and coconut milk.
If you need a substitute for heavy cream I suggest using a can of coconut milk. The coconut cream will solidify at the top and you can spoon that part out.
There is a great almond milk cream cheese by Kite Hill. They also make a ricotta, and yogurt.
Ben and Jerry’s almond milk ice cream is my favorite, and SO makes great frozen treats with coconut milk. SO also makes Coco Whip, which is the coconut version of Cool Whip.
If it’s Alfredo sauce you are craving, this is a great, crazy easy Cashew Cream Sauce.
That website has lots of other dairy free recipes you should check out. This is a favorite cookbook of dairy free recipes. There are entire websites devoted to dairy free alternatives and recipes.
This is a favorite cookbook of dairy free recipes.
I don’t eat milk products and I have to say the only time that I am frustrated is when I am in restaurants for dessert. Most restaurants are really lacking in good dairy free alternatives.
If one more person tells me I can have sorbet, I think I might have a tantrum. Actually, I did once. The pastry chef ended up making me a special, delicious dairy free dessert.
You can go dairy free for breastfeeding and still eat delicious food.
Timeline for going dairy free for breastfeeding
If you consume any dairy products or any packaged foods that have any kind of dairy products in them I recommend keeping a diet diary for 3 days.
When you decide to go off dairy it’s important to remember that it takes a full TWO WEEKS before you may see any change in your baby.
It is helpful to keep a log of your baby’s stools and fussiness and spit-ups to see if there is a change. It’s also important to remember that things other than food intolerances can cause a baby to be fussy or cry a lot.
The vast majority of intolerance caused by dairy will resolve by the time a child is 6 years old.
The mom who called me did end up eliminating all dairy from her diet and after two weeks she had a much happier baby. Happy baby,
Happy baby, happy mom.
If you eat dairy products or like foods made with dairy products, going dairy free for breastfeeding may feel like it’s a huge challenge. It can make for a happier baby though.
It is just temporary.
Who knows, you may find that you feel better without dairy in your diet as well. That’s what happened to Amy.
Have you needed to go dairy free for breastfeeding? Have you been dairy free for a long time?
What is your favorite dairy free tip?
Let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading.
Going Dairy Free For Your Breastfeeding Baby
Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC
Andrea has been working with new families as an RN for over 35 years and a Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.
She has her MA in Health and Wellness with a focus in Lactation.