How to go dairy free while breastfeeding

One of the most common foods for a baby to react to through mum’s breastmilk is dairy, whether this is a sensitivity, an intolerance or a full blown allergy. The good news is that most babies will eventually be able to tolerate dairy as their digestive systems mature, but in the meantime, what does that mean for a breastfeeding mum?

I’ve been dairy free for almost two years now so that I can continue breastfeeding my son who has Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance (CMPI). 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 is generally pretty easy to manage.

N.B. Around 50 per cent of babies who have CMPI are also intolerant to Soy Protein (Milk and Soy Protein Intolerance – MSPI), so the list of substitutes below is free from both dairy and soy.

Dairy free and soy free substitutes

Milk

There are lots of dairy and soy free milk substitutes around now, including almond, coconut, oat, hemp, quinoa, rice, cashew and hazelnut milks, to name just a few readily available in supermarkets. If you’re so inclined you can make your own non-dairy milks – all you need is a ‘nut milk bag’, and a fair bit of patience. I like to make a cashew coconut combo milk when I’ve got time, but it can be quite messy and time consuming.

Cheese

I really do miss cheese, it’s one of the few things that I haven’t found a really 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 real cheese. Coles now stocks 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. It is a fair substitute when I’m desperate for a ham and cheese toastie!


Butter

Coconut oil is a great substitute for butter in baking and cooking, and Nuttelex brand has a few different varieties of dairy free spreads. Most margarines still contain milk solids, so make sure you read the labels.

Cream

Coconut cream can be used instead of cream in things like curries and lots of desserts. You can also make a cream substitute by blitzing cashews with water and some vanilla.

Yoghurt

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 can be pretty pricey. I make my own using this Creamy Coconut Yoghurt recipe. It’s pretty amazing – really rich and creamy, and you only need a little bit to get your creamy yoghurty kick. I’ve also heard about a new almond milk yoghurt coming to Australia, but haven’t found it yet!

Chocolate

Let’s not beat around the bush – chocolate is an important food group for most mums. If you’re a dark chocolate lover then you’ll be happy to know that lots of dark chocolate is dairy free (but not all, so check the labels!). The Lindt 70% Cocoa is my personal favourite. 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. Sweet William is a dairy free chocolate range, but contains soy so won’t suit everyone.

Check your labels

There are lots of products that contain dairy that you would never expect. To make things more confusing, different brands of products have different ingredients – some are dairy free and others have hidden dairy. So you really need to check every 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 chickens both contain milk in the marinade)
  • Flavoured rice crackers
  • Flavoured potato chips
  • Mayo and dips (even those that aren’t ‘creamy’)
  • Packaged stocks and stock concentrate
  • Satay sauce
  • Gravy powder
  • Sausages, salami, chorizo
  • Lollies like caramel and butterscotch.

For a full list of ingredients to avoid if you’re intolerant or allergic to dairy see Food Standards Australia and NZ – Milk.

Further resources

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.

Australian Breastfeeding Association – Breastfeeding and Food Sensitivities

Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy – Cow’s Milk (Dairy) Allergy

KellyMom – Food Sensitivity

GI Kids – Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance

Worried about calcium? Read this post on calcium rich dairy free foods.

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