Wednesday, April 19, 2017

a guide to going dairy-free for the breastfeeding mom

So the good news is that we finally think we figured out Etta's sleep issues. The bad news is we think Etta's sleep issues are directly related to dairy, which means I have to cut my most beloved thing (cheese! The humanity!) out of my diet.

With both Elden and Edith, I thought dairy might be causing them discomfort and therefore I attempted to cut it out of my diet. With both of those kiddos it proved to be futile so after 3-4 weeks I reintroduced it. As such, when Jon first suggested cutting it out again around Etta's 2-month birthday I pretty much waved the idea aside because dairy sensitivity in kids is less common than most believe. Even if Etta is sensitive to dairy, I don't necessarily believe it is a legitimate allergy because she is growing, had no blood in her stool, etc. In fact, she was mostly happy during the day, she's just never consistently slept more than 2-3 hours at a time at night (and that is on a rare good night). I had mentioned this to a friend whose daughter has a dairy allergy and she said that's exactly how her daughter's symptoms manifested. This revelation coupled with the fact that the two days we supplemented with milk-based formula resulted in the worst nights ever (complete with inconsolable screaming for a few hours, something that had never happened before), followed by two days without supplementing and okayish nights, followed up by one last day with formula/an awful night...I'm going to give it a shot. We also decided to try this formula for supplementation because the milk proteins are already 'digested' so if Etta is sensitive to them she should be able to break them down much easier as the process has already started.

I digress. The point of this post is to help other new moms who may be in my shoes. When I first cut dairy out with Elden, I think I cried for days. Not necessarily because I missed cheese (real talk though, I totally did and that was totally a contributing factor) but because the whole process was so overwhelming. In case you've never really looked, dairy is in nearly every single off-the-shelf food item you can buy. We even found it in vegetable broth once! That means you basically have to cook every meal from scratch (which, when you are a totally exhausted, hormonal, stressed-out new mom... hashtag meltdown) and my experience (granted, this was over 4 years ago) with Elden was that dairy-free recipes all seemed too involved and it was all just too much. Luckily for me, I had a friend whose son had an intense dairy allergy (the anaphylactic kind) and I was able to reach out to her about how to do this thing. She made it all feel much lighter and gave me tips that I have held onto. As such, this transition with Etta didn't stress me out at all.

What if I told you going dairy-free could be easy? That you can keep using the same recipes you always used with some simple substitutions? Because it is that easy!

Just a few notes to keep in mind:
-You can use any non-dairy milk (coconut, soy, almond, hemp, etc.). Sometimes I use different types based on the recipe I'm making (sweet vs. savory). A lot of non-dairy milk is shelf stable so you can buy a small box or can for your pantry for different recipes, which is nice.
-Tofutti and Daiya are both vegan-friendly brands. That's another tip I have - if you find something that is vegan then you know it does not contain cow's milk! Our big box grocery store carries both of these brands in a small section by the dairy products, but if you are unsure whether yours carries them you can always call the store to ask.
-Yogurt and ice cream are other areas that are growing in the non-dairy field. These are made with non-dairy milk and there are a variety of options by different brands.
-Milk chocolate is obviously not dairy-free. A lot of high quality dark chocolates are, and you can also find vegan chocolates like these.
-There are several off-the-shelf dairy-free frosting brands if you want to buy it. Just read the labels and you will know if it is safe!
-As always, make sure you read labels on everything you buy. Dairy has a way of sneaking in there, even if it isn't a direct ingredient (i.e. may be produced in a facility that also produces dairy products, etc.). Dairy can take up to three weeks to fully leave your system so exercise patience and caution when grocery shopping.

I am working on compiling a list of some naturally dairy-free recipes for a follow-up post that are quick, simple, and delicious. If you have any questions about anything related to this topic at all I am an open book!


  1. Hooray for answers! But sorry it means cutting out dairy. Praying for more sleep for all! Sounds like you're already pretty well versed, but please let me know if you need any other ideas/suggestions/recipes for dairy free. I developed a dairy intolerance in my early twenties so I've been doing all these substitutions for quite some time.

  2. Watch out. Soy can also cause issues in those sensitive to dairy.