Learning that your baby has a cow’s milk protein allergy or a dairy intolerance can cause some major stress to a new mama. On top of finding your groove as a new mom, now you may need to give your diet a complete overhaul? Where do you begin? Is it even safe to continue to breastfeed?
So is it possible to continue breastfeeding if your baby has a milk protein allergy or dairy intolerance.? Yes, you can definitely continue to breastfeed. Your doctor may decide to test your baby’s stool for an allergy along with a change to your diet. Milk protein allergy can be treated through the elimination of dairy foods. This can take about 2 weeks to take effect on your baby. Be sure to replace the nutrients from a dairy diet with alternatives as described in this article.
Can I Still Breastfeed if my Baby Has a Dairy Intolerance or Allergy?
Regardless of whether your baby has a dairy intolerance or allergy, you can certainly still breastfeed him or her. Some changes to YOUR diet will be in order. After all, everything that you eat is ultimately what your baby “eats” if you are breastfeeding.
If you want to breastfeed your child, don’t let your baby’s tolerance issues stop you. The American Academy of Pediatrics committed to breastfeeding as the ideal source of nutrition for infants for at least the first 6 months of life, regardless of a cow’s milk protein allergy or intolerance (1).
How do I Know if My Baby Has a Milk Protein Allergy or a Dairy Intolerance?
First, let us distinguish between a dairy intolerance and a milk protein allergy. Dairy intolerance is often a result of one’s body not being able to break down the lactose sugar that naturally occurs in milk. Lactose intolerance in infancy is surprisingly very rare. Breastmilk naturally contains lactose, and babies guts are designed to tolerate mother’s milk.
Milk protein allergy, on the other hand, is more common. Some estimates suggest milk protein intolerance affects 5-15% of all infants. Symptoms include blood in baby’s stool, inconsolable crying, rash, and coughing.
Your doctor may test your baby’s stool to confirm an allergy, or she may simply ask you to eliminate milk proteins from her diet and continue breastfeeding to see if the symptoms subside. A cow’s milk protein evaluation is at the discretion of your health care provider. Unfortunately, there is no way to confirm a milk protein allergy at home.
How Long After Eating Dairy Does It Affect Breastmilk?
Everybody is different and each woman metabolizes milk proteins at a different rate. Generally, a woman may have to wait up to two weeks to see symptoms improve once she eliminates milk proteins from her diet. She may see changes in her baby immediately, but generally takes a little bit of time.
What to Eat and Avoid When Eliminating Milk Proteins
The two main proteins in milk are whey and casein. Your baby may be intolerant to one or both of these proteins, and it is hard to distinguish so the recommendation is to avoid them both. In order to eliminate them from your diet, you will need to avoid drinking milk and eating foods that contain milk proteins, including cheeses butter, yogurt, buttermilk, creamers, sour cream, ice cream, custard and puddings, and sadly, milk chocolate. Keep in mind this will include all foods that contain these ingredients such as macaroni and cheese, creamy soups, some sauces, pizza topped with cheese, and some muffins to name a few.
You will want to become familiar with some of the different ingredients that contain dairy so that you can easily scan the ingredient list on the food you purchase.
Here are the common ingredients to look for on the nutrition label:
- Casein, caseinates
- Hydrolysates (casein, milk protein, whey)
- Lactalbumin, lactoglobulin, lactoferrin
- Whey (all forms)
What to look for on a food label
Since allergies are so prevalent these days, food companies are now required to specify whether a product may contain a potential allergen, like milk protein. Look for a statement that says “contains milk” close to the ingredient list to know whether the product should be avoided.
You should read a food label and locate where ingredients are listed. Any ingredient that contains a milk protein should be avoided.
Ensuring you are well-nourished on the milk elimination diet
When you eliminate an entire food group, there is a concern for missing important nutrients. Dairy foods provide important nutrients like calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D. To make sure you are still getting in what you need to nourish yourself and your baby, it is wise to continue to take a prenatal vitamin that contains calcium and Vitamin D. It is important for you to make sure your particular supplement does not contain milk proteins. Some prenatal vitamins include milk products as a filler and could trigger your baby to have a negative reaction.
Additionally, you should make a point to include certain foods in your diet:
Calcium is especially important for the health of your bones, heart, and teeth. Eliminating dairy from your diet may put you at risk for not getting in enough and putting your body at risk for negative outcomes.
The good news is that calcium is found in foods like dark, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, sesame and chia seeds, canned salmon, almonds, and soy including edamame and tofu. Dairy is fortunately not the only calcium source in the grocery store.
Vitamin D plays a role in brain health and hormone regulation. It also plays a role in the growth and strength of your bones and teeth.
Sources of Vitamin D other than dairy products include salmon and fortified foods such as certain orange juices, cereals, and eggs. Supplementation is likely necessary for most breastfeeding moms their babies depending on how much supplementation mom is taking in.
Potassium is important for many bodily functions, including your heart contractions and muscle movement.
Foods other than dairy products that provide potassium include bananas, orange juice, spinach, and sweet potatoes.
For many people, especially vegetarians, dairy can serve as the main source of protein in the diet. Protein is essential for healing after birth, regardless of whether you delivered via c-section or vaginally.
There are plenty of dietary sources of protein that don’t contain dairy. Seafood, beef, poultry, and nuts are excellent choices. If you are a vegetarian, nuts, eggs, and tofu are great additions to your diet for a protein boost.
We are fortunate that we currently have so many alternatives on the market. Check out this list below for some ideas:
Beverages: fruit juices; carbonated beverages; vegetable juices; rice milk; almond milk; hemp milk; oat milk; flax milk, coffee/tea.
Crackers/cereals/breads/snacks: Breads, crackers, rolls, waffles, and pancakes that do not contain milk or soy flours or milk or soy products or egg. Oatmeals and cereals made without milk. Avoid commercial baked goods. When eating at restaurants, ask about specific allergens.
Sweets: gelatin, Italian ices, pastries, ice, fruit, or juice-based pops, sauces, sorbet, fruit- based tapioca puddings, and toppings. Dairy-free frozen novelties made with alternatives like coconut milk and oat milk. Carob or plain cocoa powder.
Salad dressings/condiments: Oil and vinegar. Oil-based dressings not made with milk products (like a homemade balsamic vinaigrette). **note-avoid Caesar salad dressing at restaurants due to concern that it contains milk and egg. Creamy dressings typically contain milk products.
Produce: all fresh fruits and veggies. Frozen or canned fruits and veggies that do not contain additional ingredients that contain allergens.
Protein: fresh meats, fresh fish, nuts, nut butters, beans, legumes.
• a note about deli meats. Avoid fresh-cut meats that are cut on the same slicer as cheeses. Cross-contamination can expose you to milk proteins on your fresh-cut meats.
Spices/sweets: most fresh herbs, sugar, honey, ketchup, mustard, maple syrup, mayonnaise
Starches: rice, quinoa, noodles, bread made without milk (will say on the label), air-popped popcorn made fresh and own oil added (no popcorn pre-seasoned with butter, etc.).
Soups: avoid cream-based soups unless milk alternative is used. Most broths.
Eating At A Restaurant
Understandably, many new moms do not want to cook every night and want to either order in or go out for a meal. Asking many questions and being clear to your waitstaff that you need to avoid all milk-based products is a must. Be mindful of foods that are not obvious sources of milk proteins. Some fried chickens are coated in buttermilk before they are coated in breading and fried. Certain brands of pancake batters are made with milk. Some scrambled eggs are mixed with cream before cooked. Make sure you are not accidentally exposing yourself to an ingredient that you have been trying so hard to avoid.
Eliminating dairy can be a challenge both nutritionally and emotionally. Many favorite comfort foods contain milk proteins, and it adds just one more thing for you to have to think about. However, if it is what you wish to do, even if you suffer with other allergies, it is incredibly worthwhile and 100% possible to do it safely and effectively. Small changes in your diet can result in amazing outcomes and will be all worth it in the end to accomplish your personal breastfeeding goals.