How to go Dairy Free While Breastfeeding
I never thought there would be a point in life where I’d be cutting out dairy from my diet. It’s not that I ate a lot of dairy (or so I thought) but I wanted to eat it when I wanted to eat it!
At 8 weeks my breastfed baby was suspected of having a dairy intolerance. Unlike with a dairy allergy, there is no test for dairy intolerance or dairy sensitivity. The only thing you can do is a dairy elimination diet.
At first, I was in denial but seeing my baby in so much discomfort and then witnessing blood in her stool, I knew it was time for dairy free breastfeeding.
Today, I want to share with you how to cut out dairy for breastfeeding.
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What’s an elimination diet?
It’s where you eliminate the suspected food (in this case dairy) for a couple of weeks to see if you see improvement with whatever issue you are having.
If you see improvement then you reintroduce the suspected food to see if the problem occurs again. If it does, that was the culprit!
How long to cut out dairy for an elimination diet?
Most elimination diets only last 2-3 weeks. That’s not bad. Right?
Don’t get too excited. Cutting out dairy is a completely different story.
The problem with a dairy elimination diet is that it can take up to three weeks before your system is dairy free!
Yes, you read that correctly.
According to Kelly Mom, It can take 10 days to 3 weeks to eliminate cow’s milk protein from your breastmilk!
This means those first three weeks aren’t really counted in your elimination diet because the dairy is still there. You really need to cut out dairy for about 5 weeks for a true evaluation.
Luckily for me (I think), I was able to see a noticeable difference in my baby within the first week of my elimination diet. That was great but it was also sad. Now I’d have to stick with cutting dairy from my diet ?.
Eliminating dairy while breastfeeding
I’ve done some challenging things in my life, the International Baccalaureate program in high school, joined a sorority in undergrad, and survived anesthesia school. All of those things combined weren’t as difficult as cutting dairy from my diet!
Going dairy free won’t be a walk in the park!
Dairy is in everything, even ramen noodles!!
I didn’t think I was a big consumer of dairy but boy was I wrong!
Doubts started creeping in and I didn’t know how I was going to make it.
One of my coworkers pointed out that I didn’t really have to cut dairy. I could just give my baby dairy free formula.
That could be an option for someone, it wasn’t for me. I’d made a commitment to breast feed and I was determined to do just that. Dietary changes wouldn’t deter me. Also, I didn’t want to pay $40 for formula!
Don’t get me wrong, cutting out the dairy is no joke and it’s not for everyone. There’s no shame in giving your baby a dairy free formula instead.
Remember, fed is best!
How to start a dairy free diet breastfeeding
First things first, you’re probably wondering what can I eat?
As a new mom to an infant, the last thing you want to do is put thought into what you’re going to eat. You’re lucky if you get a chance to eat at all! I had a few freezer meals I’d prepared during pregnancy. But guess what? They all had dairy in them.
So, now what?
How was I going to mother a newborn and cut dairy? Here’s what I did…
1. Don’t focus on what you can’t have
The minute I knew I had to cut dairy all I could think about was pizza, cheeseburgers, and ice cream. I completely forgot about the things I loved that were dairy free.
One of my favorite meals happens to be a dish called stewed chicken. It’s a family favorite and completely dairy free.
Think about some of the meals you enjoy. Which ones are dairy free?
Make a list of them and refer to it when you’re desperate and can’t come up with anything to eat.
2. Read labels thoroughly
The Food Allergen Labeling Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that food is labeled to identify the eight major food allergens. These eight allergens are milk (dairy), egg, fish, crustacean shell fish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, and soybeans.
If they are part of the ingredients in a given food, you’ll find them listed in bold at the end of the ingredient list.
You still have to be very careful. If the allergen is in a less common form then it won’t be listed in bold. Instead, it will be in parentheses in the actual ingredient list.
For example, Casein is a protein found in dairy products. It is often hidden in the ingredient list.
If you eat an item that has casein, you’re eating dairy.
Check out this hidden dairy cheat sheet from Kelly Mom. It will help you feel more confident in knowing that you aren’t being tricked into having dairy. I kept a copy in my purse and in the baby bag.
Never stop reading labels!
The ingredients in foods that you eat all of the time can suddenly change. Manufacturers are always changing things without warning. Trust no one! Always read the labels!
3. Plan Ahead
The most challenging thing for me was eating out. I would have to study a menu forever and have several conversations with the wait staff. Usually, the result was me eating a salad without dressing.
Even after having thorough conversations, there were numerous times when food was still brought to me with dairy. That was extremely frustrating.
My suggestion, look at the allergen menu in advance. I found that most restaurants have an allergen menu that you can access online. If I knew we were going out, I would do the research at home first.
This proved to be very helpful. Although my choices were still limited, I still felt like I had a choice.
4. Utilize Substitutions
After I made the decision to cut dairy, I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s.
Five minutes into my trip and I was crying! I felt so defeated.
Everything I picked up had milk listed as an ingredient. Isn’t this the place to go to find dairy alternatives!
I didn’t stay there long, just purchased fruit and left. While I was still determined, I was hitting a low. I wanted a blueberry muffin so bad!
Of course the one I wanted had dairy. I decided to make one and substitute almond milk for cow’s milk.
It wasn’t that bad.
I started looking more into substitutions.
I’m not a big fan of coconuts or coconut flavor. Almond milk, I can do. I can’t drink almond milk but I can use it as a substitute in recipes.
The vegan movement saved my butt several times while I was on my dairy elimination diet. Many businesses have created products strictly for vegans. Now, you can still have butter, ice cream, and cheesecake!
I can’t really get down with the dairy free cheeses. There’s just no substitute for the real thing!
Both of these items are delicious. The ice cream is so good, I will continue to eat it after breastfeeding.
5. Don’t give up
You can do this!
How do I know?
I’ve been dairy free for 10 months. I can’t decide if my weight loss is from the lack of dairy or just plain ‘ole breastfeeding.
The thing that keeps me motivated is the length of time it takes to get dairy out of your system.
I don’t want to have to start from square one again!
Yes, I still have moments when I crave cheese and alfredo sauce. But, it’s not as difficult as it was in the beginning.
I truly hope my daughter outgrows her dairy intolerance/allergy. If she doesn’t, I’ll stay dairy free with her!
Update: My daughter ended up having both a dairy intolerance and a true dairy allergy. She outgrew them both by the time she was a year and a half.
Dairy free breastfeeding
Avoiding dairy while breastfeeding won’t’ be easy. But, you’re a strong woman and can overcome the urges.
Remember why you’re eliminating dairy in the first place. You’re cutting out dairy for your baby. If you always refer back to that, you’ll be good to go.
When temptation strikes, just think about how far you’ve come and you don’t want to have to start the process all over.
Trust me, seeing your baby finally sleeping comfortably, having normal poops, and no longer being colicky, will have you running way from dairy like the plague!
Are you cutting out dairy in your diet? What have you found to be helpful in your journey?
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