If you’re a nursing mom and suspect your baby has an intolerance, you may need to go on a soy and/or dairy free breastfeeding diet. This post reviews the signs and symptoms of an intolerance and offers tips on how to navigate this challenging adjustment.
Going on a dairy free breastfeeding diet is hard and can feel overwhelming. Going soy free can be even more difficult because it is a less obvious ingredient that’s in what feels like EVERYTHING. So I want to begin by saying you are a rockstar mom for making this sacrifice for your baby’s health and comfort. This is not an easy commitment to make for any period of time.
If you’re wondering how to go dairy free for breastfeeding, it is my sincerest hope that this article helps you. I have had to get off both soy and dairy while breastfeeding both of my children, and let me tell you… I SYMPATHIZE. Big time. The only thing that was easier the second time around was knowing a few products that I liked enough to eat again, saving me from the whole experimental phase. Otherwise, it was tough. Well, is, because I am still doing it!
Before you get started, be sure to check out my Soy & Dairy Free Breastfeeding Shopping List!
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Following are tips for going soy and/or dairy free while breastfeeding. Use this guide to help understand what you can’t consume, how to navigate the adjustment, and for some recommendations on alternatives.
What does a dairy-free breastfeeding diet mean for you?
When a breastfeeding mother consumes dairy products, small amounts of dairy proteins can pass into her breast milk. Unfortunately, many babies have sensitivities to dairy – more than most of us probably realize. If you breastfeed your baby and suspect they have a dairy intolerance, you may need to eliminate it from your diet to avoid stomach issues that make it difficult for them to eat or sleep. And generally exist, to be honest.
“Dairy-free” refers to a diet or lifestyle that excludes all products and foods derived from milk or milk-producing animals. This includes cow’s milk and its byproducts, such as cheese, yogurt, butter, and cream.
However, it’s important to note that it is not as simple as just avoiding the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Many packaged items such as bread, chips, crackers, condiments, and more contain milk, so you will need to check labels.
What does a soy-free diet mean?
“Soy-free” refers to a diet excluding all products and foods that contain soy or soy-derived ingredients. Soy is a legume that is commonly used in various forms in many foods and food products. This includes soybeans, soy milk, tofu, soy sauce, tempeh, soybean oil, soybean flour, soy lecithin, soy protein isolate, and more.
Soy can be fairly challenging due to its hidden, not-so-obvious nature. While it’s easy to avoid things like soy sauce, tofu, and soybeans, many packaged food items contain small amounts of soy-derived ingredients, and many prepared foods are cooked in soybean oil.
Signs Your Baby Has A Dairy and/or Soy Intolerance
If your baby is exhibiting any of the below symptoms they could have an intolerance to one or both of these things. This is because soy and milk proteins affect the body very similarly, so some babies need to be free of both.
Here are some common symptoms of a dairy allergy in a breastfed baby:
- Excessive spit up. All babies spit up, and there is what is considered a normal amount. Most pediatricians (and our gastroenterologist) advise that anything more than 1-2 tablespoons is considered a problem.
- Mucus in stools. This looks like stretchy boogers or cervical mucus mixed in with poop (sorry for the image!).
- Blood in diapers or stools, which is one of the first things pediatricians look for when diagnosing a dairy intolerance. This may present as streaks in mucus or some red or pink discoloration in the diaper. Anything more should be immediately reported to your child’s doctor.
- Constipation or Diarrhea, which may be greenish in color.
- Skin reactions such as a red, itchy, or eczema-like patches or hives (raised, red welts).
- Stomach issues, like abdominal discomfort and cramping, and excessive gas.
- Difficulty sleeping, such as a general restlessness, trouble laying on back, and frequent night awakenings
- Weight issues. Difficulty gaining wait or failure to thrive.
- Behavioral signs like fussiness and colic, particularly after feeding.
Both of my babies presented their intolerance via mucus in their stools, difficulty sleeping due to discomfort, stomach cramps, and reflux/excessive spit up.
It’s important to remember that these symptoms can vary in severity from one baby to another. If you suspect that your breastfed baby might have a dairy allergy, it’s recommended to consult a healthcare provider, such as a pediatrician or a specialist. They can help diagnose the allergy and guide you through appropriate dietary changes or other interventions. In the meantime, keep track of your baby’s symptoms to report when you’re ready.
How to Go Soy and Dairy Free as a Breastfeeding Mom
Making such a significant dietary adjustment can be a bit challenging at first, but with some planning and the right information, it can become manageable. Here are some tips to help you navigate a soy- and/or dairy-free diet:
1. Read Labels
Dairy can be hidden in many packaged and processed foods under various names like whey, casein, lactose, and more. Always read the ingredient list carefully to avoid any dairy-derived ingredients.
Often, but not always, the bottom of an ingredients list will say whether it contains any of the top allergens, such as dairy, soy, wheat, nuts, or eggs. It’s usually in bold to make it easier to find quickly. Look here first, and if you don’t see either of your allergens listed, you should still take a quick look at the full ingredients list to be certain.
Labels will also tell you if a food item was processed in the same facility of some of the top allergens. Depending on the severity of your baby’s allergy, you may want to avoid these too.
If you don’t have time to read labels, take a look at this shopping list, filled with options for dairy-free snacks, dairy alternatives, staples, and more!
2. Find Soy- and Dairy-Free Alternatives
Keep your pantry and fridge stocked with essentials like plant-based milk (such as coconut milk, almond milk, and oat milk), soy- and dairy-free butter, nutritional yeast (for a cheesy flavor), and cheese alternatives. You can even find some decent ice cream and yogurt! These can be good options when you’re craving a familiar taste.
3. Be Patient
It might take some time for your taste buds to adjust to dairy-free alternatives. Give yourself time to explore new flavors and textures.
More importantly, it can also take time for the dairy you consumed before going on your diet to leave your system! Therefore, your baby won’t immediately
4. Read Menus Ahead of Time and Ask Questions
If you’re going to a social event or restaurant, check the menu online in advance. This will help you plan your safe options ahead of time. While you’re there, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Restaurants are accustomed to people with dietary restrictions and should be able to accommodate your needs. Make sure to inform the waiter about your dietary restrictions to avoid cross-contamination.
Quick Tip: I find it better to say that I am allergic than to try to explain that I am following the diet for the sake of my child’s intolerance – they will take it more seriously.
5. Cook at Home
Preparing your own meals gives you full control over the ingredients and ensures that you’re not consuming any hidden allergens. While it’s not always as fun as eating out, you’ll find that it’s much less of a headache to do it yourself – especially after one too many sleepless nights. Explore soy and dairy-free recipes and get creative in the kitchen.
6. Get Comfortable with Whole Foods
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are naturally dairy-free and can form the basis of a healthy dairy-free diet.
7. Be Wary of Processed Foods
Many processed foods contain soy, dairy or dairy derivatives. Stick to whole foods as much as possible to avoid accidental consumption.
8. Consult a Dietitian
If you have specific health concerns or dietary needs, consider consulting a registered dietitian who specializes in dairy-free diets. They can help you plan balanced and nutritious meals.
9. Stay Hydrated
Water is an essential part of any diet. Opt for plain water or herbal teas over dairy-containing beverages like milkshakes.
Remember that everyone’s dietary needs and preferences are different. Listen to your body and make choices that work best for you. Over time, you’ll likely find that living soy and dairy-free becomes second nature.
Soy and Dairy Free Breastfeeding Diet FAQs
How long does it take for dairy to leave mom’s system?
The time it takes for dairy to leave a breastfeeding mother’s system can vary from person to person, but in general, it can take up to two weeks for dairy proteins to completely clear from breast milk.
However, it’s important to note that the time it takes for dairy to leave the system can depend on factors such as the mother’s metabolism, the amount of dairy consumed, and individual variations. Some babies may be more sensitive to dairy proteins than others, and it might take longer for them to show improvements in their symptoms if they have a sensitivity or allergy to dairy.
Is this forever? Do I need to be dairy and/or soy-free as long as I breastfeed?
The good new is that in most cases, this isn’t forever! It can be daunting to take on such a huge lifestyle change and want to continue breastfeeding – especially if you planned to nurse for a long time. But don’t be discouraged. An intolerance that presents early on often works itself out in a matter of months.
WIth my daughter, I only had to stay off dairy and soy for 3-4 months before I was able to go back to my normal diet! Thank goodness, amiright?
How do I reintroduce dairy or soy to my diet?
When you’re ready to see if your baby has overcome their intolerance, you should experiment by reintroducing them separately and slowly (this is a key part of the elimination diet). Don’t jump back in too quickly by eating all the cheesy things you can! Start by consuming something simple for a day or two, like a slice of cheese on your sandwich or a scoop of yogurt, and see if your baby reacts. If they don’t after a week, you may be in the clear. Once you experiment with one, you can do the same with the other.
Your pediatrician will most likely want you to wait at least a few months before doing this.
Can I eat eggs on a dairy free diet?
Yes, you can. This is a common point of confusion for people seeking to go dairy free. Eggs are not a dairy product and are therefore perfectly fine to eat.