At 6 weeks old, it became apparent that baby H had a dairy allergy. My stubbornness meant I was determined to continue breastfeeding, and so I made the decision to go dairy-free – 100%! I was totally dairy-free for 10 months, and have recently begun slowly introducing dairy again as it seems baby girl is thankfully outgrowing her allergy. It was so overwhelming in the start to even contemplate giving up all dairy, but after a few weeks it became habit and was actually much easier than I had first thought. Here are some tips for you if you are thinking of going dairy free, whether it be due to allergies or personal reasons.
- There are SO many alternate milks. Many people just think soya, but there are loads of other options. My personal favourite it coconut milk, especially in a coffee. I also use rice, almond, oat, cashew and hemp. I am sure there are probably more that I have yet to sample…
If you are giving a milk alternative to an under two, they do not contain the same level of protein or fat content so this needs to be accounted for – speak to your health care provider for advice.
Be wary of goats milk. Many babies that are allergic to cows milk also struggle with the proteins in goat milk.
2. Take care of hidden dairy. I was amazed by how much food actually contains dairy if you look at the ingredients list, including sausages and bread… As milk is an allergen, it should be listed in bold – but I found a few times this was not the case – making it easier to spot when scouring the ingredients list.
3. Be prepared for ignorance. So many people asked questions about my diet, some out of genuine curiosity and others just damn right rude.
4. Go vegan! A saviour for me was discovering all the tasty food I could eat that was labelled as ‘vegan’. Oreos, Co-op custard doughnuts and Bourbon biscuits are both amazingly dairy-free (I pretty much live on these) and some dark chocolate does not contain any dairy. Read the label and find an appropriate one. This way you can still get your chocolate fix if, like me, you are a self-confessed chocoholic. Some restaurants have great vegan menus too, including Zizis who do an awesome coconut-cheese base pizza. Wholefoods were another savior – they have an amazing vegan range, it is pricey but definitely worth a visit as a treat.
5. When eating out, be prepared. I always researched online places we were going to check they had dairy free options, some places are great and sadly others not so much! I remember visiting a well-known Italian chain and only being able to have a side salad, epic fail.
6. Remember that you aren’t alone. There are so many of us mamas who have gone dairy-free for our little ones, and have even come out the other side. Reach out and ask for advice. We can offer suggestions and support, even if it’s just to remind you that you are on strong mama who is totally capable of doing this.
7. Make sure you get enough calcium. Breastmilk is high in calcium so your baby will be getting enough from you, but increase your own intake of calcium rich foods such as leafy greens, oranges, salmon, and milk-alternatives. I also became addicted to avocados as they are full of good fats, and now baby H is on solids she pretty much eats an avocado a day (how hipster, I know!).
8. Reintroduce using the dairy ladder. A great infographic can be found here at AllergyUK – side note, Allergy UK also have a free helpline which I found so useful for getting advice in the early days.
Hang in there mama, you got this.