“Have you considered cutting out dairy?”
My OB asked this at my six week check up. It was not the first time I’d heard this question.
It seemed like every doctor and nurse mentioned this when I described my extremely fussy newborn.
I told them how he spit up tons and cried all the time. He’d arch and kick in obvious distress and have terrible gas. If he was awake, he was crying. And he was awake all night long.
I must admit, I was reluctant. I didn’t think I could do it.
I pretty much lived on cheese. There was literally dairy in every meal I ate and the idea of cutting all of it out seemed completely impossible.
But… I also was not ready to give up on breastfeeding and I was desperate to help my little one feel better.
After that appointment, I knew I had to try. I decided I’d cut out dairy for two weeks and see if it helped.
Unfortunately dairy stays in your system and baby’s for a while. I knew I wouldn’t see immediate results and would have to give it some time.
Honestly, I was skeptical. After 1 week, I couldn’t say I really saw any change. I was ready to give up. I figured after two weeks, I could go back to my cheese ways knowing that at least I had tried.
Didn’t happen, I’ve been dairy free for 6 months now.
By the end of the second week, my son was crying less, spitting up less, and his baby acne had disappeared. Over the following weeks he continued to improve.
I have to admit even then I wasn’t completely convinced. He was growing so quickly that I wondered if the changes were coincidence… until I had a slip up. After a night of constant crying and vomit, I was a believer.
If you’ve been contemplating cutting dairy, don’t worry mom, you can do this!
I have never stuck to any diet before. I used to pretty much live off cheese quesadillas and mac n’ cheese. If I can do it, you can too.
First, you should discuss your concerns with your baby’s doctor before making a major dietary change. There are some other things that may cause similar issues as dairy intolerance, so definitely seek medical advice.
Second, it’s important to note that dairy intolerance in babies is usually a sensitivity to the cow’s milk protein. This is different from lactose intolerance. So you can’t just switch to lactose-free dairy products.
Also, many babies that react to dairy will also react to soy since the proteins are very similar. I saw improvement without cutting soy, but many moms cut out both.
I know that starting out is hard. So here’s my tips for making cutting dairy a little bit easier:
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Learn To Love the Labels
I have to admit that I never used to pay too much attention to food labels. So this was a bit of a pain at first.
I scrutinized each label, googling terms I didn’t know to check if they were dairy.
This took tons of time and stressed me out until I realized I could do this much more easily. I found an extensive list of dairy ingredients on godairyfree.org (which is an amazing resource for all things dairy free).
I put a list of all of the non-obvious ingredients in my kitchen and had a photo on phone. This made it much easier to check labels against my list quickly.
Sometimes dairy is easy to identify. In the US, foods must identify the top 8 allergens on the label. Milk products should be clearly labeled in the ingredient list or a “contains” statement. Not all items fall under this rule though so it is necessary to carefully check those labels against the dairy ingredient list.
Some products include a “may contain” statement which refers to possible cross contamination. I avoided these items at first just to be sure I wasn’t eating any dairy, then added them back. These items may or may not be ok, it likely depends on the sensitivity of your little one.
Focus on Finding Food You CAN Eat
This sounds obvious, but it was a huge mental shift for me.
My first week dairy free, I felt like I couldn’t eat anything. I had planned out dairy free dinners, but I was barely eating the rest of the day. I was so hungry and my milk supply tanked.
I made a list of things that I could eat for breakfast, lunch, and, most importantly, snacks.
Instead of rummaging through my kitchen, wistfully staring at all of things I couldn’t eat, I could easily glance at my list for ideas.
You know one of my favorite items on the list? Oreos.
Yes, Milk’s Favorite Cookie is dairy free. Apparently there is no actual cream in that filling.
Modify Your Usual Recipes To Be Dairy Free
Pinterest is full of dairy free recipes. However, I found it much easier to just alter the meals I usually make.
Many “dairy free” recipes contain expensive substitutes. Since I stick to a strict budget (with help from Ibotta), I had a hard time justifying these expenses. For instance, dairy free mac n’ cheese made from cashews is not nearly as cost effective as a generic box.
I was surprised to see how many of my regular recipes were already dairy free or could be modified easily.
For many I just have to skip the cheese.
Obviously, this doesn’t work well for everything, but it’s much easier on my meal planning and my budget.
Skip the Dairy Free Substitutes
You can find dairy free substitutes for all sorts of dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and sour cream.
As a general rule, I really only needed two substitutes: one for milk and one for butter. I like unsweetened almond milk and earth balance for butter.
Honestly, I have yet to find a dairy free cheese that I actually like. This is clearly a matter of personal preference since my oldest loves the fake cheeses.
Overall, I find most substitutes to be a poor replacement for the real things. Also, they’re expensive (and I like to save tons of money on our family grocery bill).
Hey there, not to hijack Rachel’s
post… but just wanted to throw in
my 2 cents. We cut out all animal
products a few years ago to help
my husband’s cholesterol,
so I have a little experience in the area.
I can’t agree enough about Earth Balance
butter and almond milk. Personally,
we preferred Almond Breeze
because before opening it’s shelf
stable so can easily be stored. Plus,
it’s available on amazon.
Make a Plan When You Go Out
Eating out has been the most difficult part. It’s also where I’ve made mistakes.
I hate being that person. I hate asking for an allergen menu or if this item has dairy in it.
It’s also not exactly surprising that many people get confused about what contains dairy. I didn’t used to know either.
Whether I’m going out to restaurants, events, or a friend’s home to eat, I prefer to make a plan.
Many chain restaurants have great allergen menus online and godairyfree.org also has lists of dairy free items for lots of places too. At this point, I pretty much stick to spots that make this easy.
For other events it can be difficult to know ahead of time if there will be anything to eat. Some places are great about allergens and some just aren’t.
To avoid staring hungrily as everyone else eats, I pack something safe in my purse, just in case.
When visiting friends and family, I offer to bring something that I know I can eat too.
In a pinch, plain, raw fruits and veggies are a safe bet.
Hopefully your partner is supportive of your decision. I know I would not be successful without my husband’s help.
It’s much easier to avoid dairy when it’s not in the house. That means he’s nearly dairy free as well.
I also found a helpful group on facebook that was great for recipes and questions.
Cutting out dairy seems difficult and overwhelming at first, but I promise it does get easier. Just getting started is the hardest part.
Any other dairy free moms out there? Do you have any more tips or tricks to make it easier?