Disclaimer: This was my account with breastfeeding our baby with a dairy intolerance. I found that eating certain foods while breastfeeding led to a fussy/gassy baby. I discussed Trace’s symptoms with our pediatrician, and our doctor suggested I cut certain foods out of my diet to see if it would help. This was our experience, and it is important to note that every baby is different. I am not a doctor, and if you suspect any issues with your little one you should speak with a pediatrician.
I was surprised by the many mamas out there who experienced breastfeeding a baby with a dairy intolerance. Those fellow mamas guided me through one of the hardest parts of the first few months with Trace: breastfeeding with dietary restrictions. Because of their help, I decided to write about my experience with breastfeeding, specifically breastfeeding a little one with a dairy intolerance. Here’s how we did it:
Charles and I first thought Trace had an issue with my breastmilk when he was around four weeks old. He went from a baby who was feeding and sleeping well to a baby who cried after every bottle, hardly slept, and woke up abruptly in discomfort when we could get him down. This occurred with every feeding, and nothing seemed to soothe his symptoms.
It was at our one month appointment that I spoke to our predication about Trace. Some infant fussiness is normal, but in our case the pediatrician recommended I cut dairy (and possibly soy) from my diet to see if it made a difference. He explained that our baby may have an issue digesting cow’s milk product.
*Those first days being home and getting in as many newborn snuggles as I could post-nursing.
The Detox Period
I remember leaving that appointment, turning to my husband, and shaking my head. How was I supposed to cut dairy from my diet? I was an exhausted, first-time mama with a one-month old and adding another thing to do list overwhelmed me. Plus, we had a freezer full of food that contained dairy. What were we supposed to eat? On the other hand, I was committed to trying breastfeeding for more than one month. I believe that commitment is what gave me the strength to continue breastfeeding as long as I did.
So, I started researching. I read online articles, talked with other mamas on breastfeeding diets, and joined a dairy-free breastfeeding group on Facebook. It generally takes two to three weeks of cutting dairy from your diet before it is completely out of your system and you see results. We saw improvements in Trace’s fussiness within days of cutting dairy. Seeing him cry less and less gave me the strength to keep going.
I chose to nurse through those weeks to keep up my supply. Changes in your diet can definitely decrease your supply, and I did not want to add a low supply as another hurdle to overcome. You can also pump-and-dump your milk and supplement with formula during this time as well. I ate the same foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for about two weeks to make sure I did not get “dairy-ed” along the way. It was definitely tough, but each day it got easier and easier.
*One of the first times he slept during the day without crying. I look back on that day and remember how excited (and thankful) I was that he had slept.
How We Made It Work
First, I cleaned out our pantry and refrigerator and removed any foods that contained dairy. I read every label and was surprised with how many products had dairy. We gave those foods away to family so I would not be tempted to snack on anything I could not eat. Let me be honest – there are only so many times you can walk to the pantry and realize you have nothing to eat before you do something about it. Next, we went grocery shopping. This took several trips and a couple of different grocery stores to find foods that worked. Lastly, we found a couple of spots around town that we could eat out during the week just in case I was tired from the day and could not cook.
Go-To Foods + Meals
I ate the same meals over and over during this time. It also helped that my husband was supportive of this decision and ate whatever I cooked. I cooked dairy free at our house for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I may have tired of eating the same thing over and over, but my husband never said a word. Bless him.
- Eggs with chicken + maple sausage (Whole Foods) with fruit
- Oatmeal with a touch of honey and a banana (Oatmeal was great for my supply)
- Eggs with bacon and fruit
- Avocado toast on Eziekel bread
- Breakfast tacos (eggs, breakfast sausage, sweet peppers, and avocado on flour tortillas)
- Omelets (spinach/mushroom, made with coconut milk)
- Spaghetti squash with avocado/basil pesto and shrimp
- Mexican stuffed sweet potatoes (shredded chicken, sweet potatoes, sweet peppers, corn, shallot, avocado, seasonings) – Loved this recipe and made it once a week
- Shrimp and kale pasta with tomatoes
- Beef stew – This was my go-to recipe for the crockpot, and we ate this pretty often.
- Orange chicken over brown rice (with sweet peppers, carrots, green onions) – Trader Joe’s had a selection of Asian meals that I added vegetables to, and it worked great for a quick weeknight meal.
- Baked chicken thighs with asparagus and potatoes (add lemons and garlic, one-pan sheet meal for easy cleanup)
- Mexican bowls (ground beef or ground pork with bell peppers, zucchini, squash, shallots, avocado, and seasonings over Spanish rice)
- Fajitas (either chicken or steak) with flour tortillas, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and fresh corn – Top with an avocado for extra flavor
- Baked pork chops with wild rice and sautéed kale
- Crab cakes (Costco) with green beans and sweet potatoes
- Steak with sautéed vegetables (like zucchini, squash, and mushrooms) and potatoes
- Hamburgers (no bun) topped with mushrooms, onions, and avocado with a side of sweet potatoes
Eating Out (Specifically in Baton Rouge):
- Lit Pizza – gluten free crust and sauce, dairy free cheese, pepperonis, bell peppers, and mushrooms
- La Madeline – Egg white omelet with spinach , tomatoes, and mushrooms
- Longhorn Steakhouse – Steak (not seared with butter) with a plain baked potato and salad (no croutons or cheese).
- Izzo’s – Burrito in a bowl (ground beef, brown rice, onions, corn, avocado, lettuce, cilantro, pico de gallo)
- Chick-fil-a – Grilled chicken sandwich
**It helped when I mentioned that I had a dairy allergy. When I explained my dietary restrictions included a dairy allergy (versus a dairy intolerance), waiters/servers were very understanding. The term “dairy intolerance” confused more than helped.
- When you have a sweet craving, Oreos were my go-to sweet treat.
- The LaraBar was my go-to snack for my purse (Costco has the best bang for your buck with a 20-pack). It was an easy snack for on the go.
- When cooking Mexican dishes, lose the sour cream and replace it would an avocado.
- I hated any substitute milk choices – Most were too sweet for me. If a recipe did call for milk, I preferred to cook with coconut milk.
- I preferred no cheese over dairy free cheese (Dairy free cheese just looked sad and did not melt the same).
- Dairy free butter does exist and was good (and melted the same – My go-to brand was Mikyoso’s).
- Annie’s Mac + Cheese was good (with sweet potato flavoring) especially if you added bacon.
*Little by little, our days became easier. He began sleeping during the day, and I somehow managed to get a hot shower in, which made me one happy mama.
How to Help a Fellow Mama Out
- If she asks to read labels, let her. I can remember going through the detox period and snacking on a bag of almonds. I could not figure out what was causing Trace’s fussiness that day. I finally read the label of the bag of almonds (who would have thought it could have traces of dairy), and sure enough it did.
- Be supportive. Any touch of dairy during that time led to a fussy baby. If a meal was cooked with a “touch of butter”, I had a fussy baby. That meant for at least three days, my little one cried and could not sleep. If a fellow mama asks about the ingredients in a meal, be supportive and share everything.
- Ask before you feed baby. I stopped breastfeeding before we got to this point, but it is something to mention. If a baby has any issues with food, ask a parent before giving a little one any foods.
Where We Are Today
In May, I stopped breastfeeding due to developing a stomach ulcer. I tried all breastfeeding friendly medications, but none worked. So, it was time to take a medicine that I could not take while breastfeeding. Since stomach ulcers tend to take several weeks to heal, I chose to stop breastfeeding and work on healing my stomach. I am happy to say that I am healing great!
We are working on purees with Trace, and he is currently on an allergen friendly formula for babies with dairy issues. We began introducing Trace to formula around three months when I needed to supplement a bottle here and there when my supply was low. In May, we began increasing the formula bottles more frequently. By June 4th, Trace drank his last bottle of breastmilk (we made it six months with at least one bottle of breastmilk per day!), and I pumped for my last time.
Based on guidance from our pediatrician, babies tend to outgrow intolerances. At 12 months, we will most likely try a food item with dairy and see how he reacts. If he continues to have issues, we will remove dairy from his diet and try again in a few months. If he has no issues, he will be able to enjoy foods with dairy.
I hope this helps on your breastfeeding journey!
XOXO – Ashley