How to go dairy free while breastfeeding
When the Stuntman was born it didn’t take me long to realise that something wasn’t quite right with him. He was feeding every 1.5 hours around the clock, projectile vomiting after almost every feed, and screaming in pain a lot of the time. He slept fitfully and couldn’t seem to settle into a deep relaxed sleep. His nappy situation was pretty foul too – I won’t go into it in too much detail, but it’s safe to say there was mucous involved.
After doing lots of research, and talking with my GP, I decided to trial a completely dairy free diet and see if that helped. I’m lactose intolerant so I wasn’t eating much ‘primary’ dairy (i.e. direct dairy sources like milk, yoghurt, cream, etc), but I had been eating some lactose-free cheese, and baked goods containing dairy. So I cut everything out and started keeping track of the Stuntman’s reactions.
The improvement after just a few days was noticeable, and after three weeks he was a different baby altogether. He was still spewy (which we later found out was due to Soy Protein intolerance), but he was sleeping better and no longer screaming in pain. He was eventually ‘officially’ diagnosed with an intolerance to cow’s milk protein, and later, soy protein.
Going dairy free while breastfeeding is challenging to start off with, but after you get the hang of what you can and can’t have, it’s pretty easy to manage. It’s just second nature to me now.
N.B. A large percentage of babies who have Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance (CMPI) are also intolerant to Soy Protein (Milk and Soy Protein Intolerance – MSPI), so the list of subs below is free from both dairy and soy.
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Dairy free and soy free substitutes
I use almond milk, or a mixture of almond and coconut milk in my coffee, and the Stuntman drinks oat milk (when the boobs and I aren’t around). Other substitutes include rice milk, hazelnut milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, or new ones like quinoa milk. If you’re so inclined you can make your own nut milks. I like to make a cashew coconut combo milk when I’ve got time.
There are loads of different non-dairy milks available – try a few different ones and see what you prefer. You might like one type in coffee and tea, but use something else for cooking. Lots of the non-dairy milks are also fortified with calcium so you get a boost there too.
I really do miss cheese, it’s one of the few things that I haven’t found a good substitute for yet. I’ve experimented with making my own dairy and soy free cheese using cashews and savoury yeast flakes, and even one based on zucchini, but they’re not really anything like cheese. Recently I found a pretty decent one called Bio Cheese by MyLife, which is coconut oil based, and tastes pretty similar to a mild Swiss cheese. It’s free from dairy, soy and gluten, and is vegan friendly. I was pretty freaking excited when I found it let me tell you! I’ve really missed ham and cheese toasties 😉 . The Stuntman doesn’t think much of it, but then, he’s never had the real thing so doesn’t know he’s missing anything.
I use coconut oil in place of butter for baking and cooking, and I use Nuttelex as a spread. I found a recipe to make my own dairy free butter, by whipping coconut oil and EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), but haven’t quite gone there yet.
Coconut cream is a great sub for cream in things like curries and lots of desserts. You can also make a cream substitute by blitzing cashews with water and some vanilla.
If you’re avoiding soy as well as dairy then your only decent option is coconut yoghurt. It’s available in a lot of places nowadays, but it’s pricey. I make my own in Boris the Bellini using this Creamy Coconut Yoghurt recipe from the Thermomix Recipe Community. It’s pretty amazing – really rich and creamy, and you only need a little bit to get your creamy yoghurty kick.
Let’s not beat around the bush – chocolate is an important food group to many mums! If you’re a dark chocolate lover then you’ll be happy to know that lots of dark chocolate is dairy free (just check the labels!). Milk chocolate fans can try the Moo Free range, or there are other vegan brands like Plamil and Bonvita that also do milky type chocolates. Check out the Cruelty Free Vegan Supermarket for a full range, and most health food shops stock a few different types.
F*@K! I can’t believe it’s got dairy!
In the beginning, this was a common cry coming from me (or Mr McD) while we were doing the rounds of the supermarket. The pain-in-the-arse thing is that different brands of products have different ingredients – some are dairy free and others have hidden dairy. So you’ve got to check every bloody label before you figure out what’s safe and what’s not.
Some of the most surprising things I found to contain dairy were:
- BBQ chicken (Coles and Woolies BBQ chooks both contain milk)
- Flavoured rice crackers
- Flavoured potato chips
- Curry pastes
- Bread and bakery goods
- Mayo and dips (even those that aren’t ‘creamy’!)
- Pasta sauce
- Fresh pasta
- Packaged stocks and stock concentrate
- Satay sauce
- Gravy powder
- Sausages, salami, chorizo
- Lollies like caramel and butterscotch
- Medication (lots of tablets contain lactose).
N.B. Not all brands of these products contain dairy, but some do, so check your labels!
What to look out for
Australian food labelling laws are pretty strict when it comes to allergens, and any products containing either peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sesame seeds, fish/shellfish, soy and/or wheat must have these identified on the label.
It’s pretty easy to see that a product contains dairy when the label says ‘milk’ or ‘milk solids’, but other names that can indicate dairy is present include:
- Casein / caseinates / calcium caseinate
- Imitation milk (still milk!)
- Whey / whey protein / whey powder.
For a full list of ingredients to avoid if you’re intolerant or allergic to milk see Food Standards Australia and NZ – Milk.
As well as the fairly obvious soy/soya/soybean, soy as an ingredient can be called:
- Hydrolysed vegetable protein or hydrolysed soy protein
- Textured vegetable protein
- Miso, Natto, Okara
- Soy lecithin and soybean oil have found to be tolerated by most people with a soy intolerance or allergy, but it’s best to tread carefully with these until you’re sure.
For a full list of soy ingredient names see Food Standards Australia & NZ – Soy.
If your baby has been diagnosed with CMPI / MSPI, and you’re just figuring out how to go dairy free while breastfeeding, here are some great resources with further info.
Worried about calcium? Read my post on calcium rich dairy free foods.
Have you gone dairy free to continue breastfeeding? Do you have any great dairy free substitutes to share?
Check out Happy Tummies in the link below for a great range of allergy free food for you and the kids (affiliate link).