Avoiding Dairy While Breastfeeding

Updated on September 16, 2009
A.M. asks from Boise, ID
14 answers

My 6 wk old seemed to be really gassy and have painful bowel movements, so I read that a lot of women stopped drinking cow's milk and avoided dairy products to help with this. I have tried that and I think it helps. He isn't as fussy when passing gas and doesn't scream with pain when he has a bowel movement (although he still fusses a little). Avoiding dairy is a huge task for me though. So, my question is what foods, exactly, do I need to avoid? Are eggs ok? Is a few tablespoons of sour cream in a recipe ok? Milk chocolate? How long will this go on?

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answers from Denver on

My goodness! No offense to anyone (I won't point out anything/anyone specific), but you've gotten a lot of misinformation in the posts! The most important thing to know is that your little guy is an individual person...what works for another baby may or may *not* work for him. (And I'm sorry, but this is gonna be long!)

Here are a few resources for you:
And there are some good dairy avoidance lists here:

Okay, back to your life. Yes it's hard to avoid dairy...and it sucks. But you'll be able to do it 'cause you'll see the difference it makes for your baby. :) I've been doing it for about 16 months now. I still miss cheese, but I am planning a monstrous binge once I can eat it again! LOL

Eggs aren't dairy even though they're often in the dairy case. You should know, though, that eggs may also bother your baby's tummy. Soy is another biggie. And you might want to avoid peanuts as well.

Here's what I'd suggest:
1. Get the baby and yourself on probiotics. Make SURE they don't have dairy! www.natren.com has some and my boys and I take these: http://www.country-life.com/moreinfo.cfm?Category=9&P... You can open the capsule and stick some on your finger and put it into his mouth, or put a little on your nipple before you nurse.
2. Keep a food diary and track everything you eat and how your son is doing. (You don't sound very convinced that dairy is the issue, which may mean there's something else.)
3. Develop a list of 'suspect' foods. Example: If you eat eggs and your son spits up after his next nursing, put eggs on your list.
4. Pull each suspect food (you can do them all at once but it's very hard if there are more than one or two. Pulling one at a time might mean you'll have to retrial them again later, but it's not as hard on you) for 3 weeks.
5. Reintroduce each food, one at a time. I do trials by eating a food once day for about a week, usually early in the day so that any reactions don't ruin nighttime sleep. If no symptoms return (or show up) that food passes and you can try another.

I know, this all sounds hard. And it IS hard. Be ready for people to tell you to stop nursing...ignore them 'cause you'll be in a worse position if you do that and your little guy can't tolerate formula. But, I promise: you get used to it and then it's not such a big deal. I put guacamole (again, watch for dairy there!) on my tacos instead of cheese. I make ham & hummus sandwiches, or get something decadent like artichoke tapenade and use that.

Feel free to email me if you want more specifics on ways I avoid everything w/o feeling too deprived. (I've got a pretty big avoid list and most days it doesn't get to me.) I'm also in an amazing online allergy group. TerrificKidsWFA on Yahoo groups if you're interested. Hang in there, you can do this!!



answers from Denver on

I had the same issue. I avoided anything that was a diary product (milk, yogurt, cheese, cream, sour cream, etc.) but didn't worry if it was a minor ingredient in something (e.g., a splash of milk to in pancake mix) but did avoid it if it was a major ingredient (e.g., a cream sauce over pasta). Eggs aren't dairy products, so you should be fine there, unless you baby is also allergic to that. Also, 50% of babies with sensitivities to milk are also sensitive to soy, so if you find that's a problem, use rice milk instead of soy milk as a substitute. The 5 most common things babies are allergic to are milk, soy, eggs, wheat, and nuts. I ended up cutting out everything but wheat for a full week, then adding one thing back every 2 days. Note that on the day I added milk back, my baby was fine, but the next day he totally exploded (screaming in pain) for the first time in 18 days, so if you do cut something out, it might take a few days to get out of his system, and if you start eating it again, it might not make him hurt till a day later.



answers from Denver on

I could not have dairy when nursing either of my girls, so I understand. It seemed that as long as I avoided the "biggies" like milk and cheese, they both did ok. I would put vanilla soy milk in my cereal, and use rice milk in recipes. I could eat recipes that had milk listed as an ingredient as long as it wasn't a major one. Cheese was hard to stay away from, as it seems like it is in everything, but it got easier over time. After a few months I was able to start adding dairy back in. My doctor said to start with yogurt and once we knew they could tolerate that, we could add in a little bit of a white cheese like mozzerella. Eventually I could have a little bit of cheddar cheese, and then finally I could have milk again. it is quite a bit of a process, but my girls were SO much happier once I removed the milk. I hope this helps!



answers from Salt Lake City on

try and see how he does when you eat a few of those things.



answers from Boise on

eggs and a little bit in the recipe should be okay. Although my friend did not even have dairy in her recipes. She did this for 6 months after her baby was born and 4 months before. Avoid chocolate, cabbage, milk, cheese, cream, yogurt, and butter. You can have eggs, margarine, etc.



answers from Springfield on

It is a trial and error process different babies are more sensitive than others. Eggs should be fine. And often cultured milk products are also fine because the good bacteria in them "ate" the lactose already which is what usually causes the problem. This would mean you may be able to eat yogurt, buttermilk, and lactose free milk. You are going to just have to test each thing and see how the baby reacts.



answers from Denver on

You may have already taken them out of your diet, but onions are a good thing to avoid. My son was fine when I had dairy products but miserably gassy if I forgot and had raw onions and garlic. He was fine with small amounts of well-cooked onions.

I've also talked to several moms that had issues with eating broccoli, along with the usual cabbage.



answers from Missoula on

I had the same problem with my little guy. What worked for me was cutting out WHOLE FAT DAIRY (ie. ice cream, sour cream, whole fat cheese) It seemed he didn't mind the skim milk or low fat cheeses as much. CHOCOLATE, however, was a BIG NO-NO for my little guy. If I had as much as one chocolate chip cookie, his body let us all know. So, that would be my advice to you...avoid full-fat dairy, chocolate, onions, lettuce, tomatoes (for the acidity), caffeine...those are all things that don't set well in baby's tummy. Oh, it should not matter after the 4 month mark what you eat. These things just irritate their little digestive tracts when they're so little. Good luck & Congratulations on your new little one & on the decision to nurse! =)



answers from Provo on

Add a little dairy back into your diet each day until your son starts to get fussy again. Then back off a little bit and keep it at that level for a while. It's not necessarily the dairy that was the problem, it could be that your son finally got better control of his bowels -- babies aren't born with perfect digestive control.
Good luck!



answers from Denver on

AARGH! I had this happen with my first boy! I ended up have to skip all dairy (not eggs), anything acidy (tomatoes, peppers, orange juice, onions, etc.). It was super hard! The good part was I lost weight at alarming rates. The bad part is, food just isn't the same and "YES" I had to do it until I was done nursing at one year. I tried substituting with soy products, like soy cheese, etc. and had moderate success.

Good luck.



answers from Salt Lake City on

Before you completely cut out dairy (you still need the vitamins and calcium that are so easy to get from dairy!), try something else: Babies tend to be fussy because they are natrually lactose intolerant at first. Lactose is the sugar in milk, YOUR milk as well as any other mammal. The small intestine isn't able to break it down without a lot of gas and discomfort. The key is to keep the milk in the stomach longer so that the lactose can be broken down there with less gas and discomfort. The way to do that is to add more fat, as that keeps food in the stomach longer (why we feel full longer after a meal with some fat than just carbs). Breast milk changes throughout the feeding. The first milk, or foremilk, is watery and high in sugar. The hindmilk, at the end, has a much higher fat content. So don't switch sides when breastfeeding him until the first side is completely empty (you'll fell a pulling sensation along your side into your back) to make sure he gets that fatty hindmilk. Then offer the other side if he wants it. You may end up just feeding from one breast at each feeding, but they will quickly adapt to the longer time between so you won't feel too full. (Some women feel lopsided, just add some padding to the empty side to even out your look)

My pediatrician & lactation consultant told me about this when my son was still colicy at 6 months, and when I tried it, it worked wonders!! Hope it helps you!



answers from Provo on

Around 6 weeks old is when I discovered that my daughter was allergic to dairy. Talk about a change in lifestyle. I didn't realize how much dairy I really ate when you consider all the stuff that has diary products in it.
I had to go off ALL dairy products unfortunately. No whey, casein, milk fat, no cheese, yogurt, sour cream, whatever, no milk products. Eggs are fine. I also noticed that my daughter is slightly sensitive to soy milk, not soy sauce though. So I drink rice milk instead. I think it tastes way better than soy milk; I am glad I discovered it:).
I will tell you that it is definitely a sacrifice, but my daughter is healthy and happy and that makes it worth it. She also was getting acid reflux and rashes, along with being very gassy, because of milk and since i have been off of it she has smooth skin and way less problems with her acid reflux. I was able to take her of her prescription.
Because every baby is different, you will have to figure out what works for you and your baby. I would suggest going off all dairy for at least a month. See how it goes. Then try adding ONE thing back in your diet for like a week or two, something you feel you must have:), and see how it goes. Be careful to give your son time to react to it or not.
I eat a lot of homemade stir fry with fresh vegetables and cashews or some chicken. A lot of basic foods.
I worry about my calcium intake so I have some calcium supplements. Costco makes a calcium chew that is really good and tastes like chocolate so it helps when i feel like i need a little chocolate too. You just have to be creative! Good luck, some kids outgrow it sooner than others. Some don't.
I feel your pain and I have also read that a dairy allergy is one of the most commonly under-diagnosed problems in infants. You are definitely not alone.



answers from Pueblo on

I feel for you! I did this for a year with my daughter. I called it a dairy allergy, but who knows!

She seemed to be sensitive to both components of milk - casein and whey, so I avoided milk 100%. I read EVERY label and really went to eating whole foods (foods that are unprocessed). Most labels should now have something at the bottom that says, "contains milk or whey". This was just coming to be when my daughter was nursing. Salad dressings (even Italian), bread and common foods can have milk. Look for sorbets for treats (Safeway had some good ones), and dark chocolate has no milk. I always knew when I ate something with milk as she got fussy and gassy again.

Cold Stone usually has a few non-dairy options, but you have to ask them to make your creation in the back as their products touch on the table. Ask at restaurants for ingredients. If you order pizza, they will make one with no cheese. Ask them not to butter the crust. People are usually understanding when you explain you are nursing a baby with an allergy.

The good news was that I lost a TON of weight eating like this! It's a pain at first, but becomes a way of life. My daughter outgrew her problem around 12 months and is free of food allergies today.

Eggs should be okay - it is milk products to look out for.

When he starts solids, follow the directions and introduce them slowly (and wait till 6 months) to help avoid further allergies or identify them if they arise. (We had problems with pears).

I will say also you might be different. My niece was (officially) allergic to dairy, so she could not drink milk, but could eat bread or food with small amounts of milk in it. She could tolerate very small amounts of ice cream.

Good luck and good for you for trying to figure out the problem instead of automatically switching to formula. Send me a private message if you need support or more suggestions.



answers from Denver on

Dear A.,
Unfortunetly a "little" isn't ok. If you believe your baby has a milk protein allergy, or is Lactose intolerant a little or alot is all the same. It is in your milk & that is the problem. There are great alternatives for you to help ease into this change. Tofutti makes great "cream cheese, ice cream & sour cream". YOu need to avoid anything labeled: milk, whey, natural flavorings, caramel coloring/flavoring, casein, milk, buttermilk, yogurt, etc.
Eggs are not a true "dairy" product. Dairy is milk products. Even though eggs are a common allergen. Rudi's makes great dairy free breads, vegan recipes & items are always dairy-free. Earth Balance has great vegan spreads & taste very similar to butter. Hope this helps my dear. You can do it! :0)

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