Before my pregnancy I decided to follow a mostly vegetarian diet. Sure I had thought about going vegan, but there was no way I could ever give up cheese. (Hello, pizza??!!)  Going two years without chicken and beef was easy, but quitting my affair with grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream just was something I wasn’t prepared to do.

But now dairy products have broken up with me—all thanks to my baby.

Because of his stomach issues (including seriously bad gas) and crying fits from the discomfort, my pediatrician recommended I cut the diary out as I continue to breastfeed. And since I am supplement feeding, we had to go to the hypoallergenic formula Similar Alimentum, and then later switched to Enfamil Nutramigen (which smells better and sits much better in my son’s tummy), which is specifically the option for cow’s milk allergies.

After lots of trial and error trying to figure out the problem behind the gas, all signs continue to point to diary. While my son is feeling much better these days, it continues to be a struggle to find things to eat to not upset his stomach.

Coming from someone who lived on things like yogurt and bagels with cream cheese, this has been a huge challenge. Not only does breastfeeding causes me to be HANGRY—so my son’s cow milk allergy really makes it hard enough to satisfy my own tummy— but it has also been a struggle to say goodbye to my favorite foods, especially around the holidays, meaning no canolis for me.

Now I am no stranger to avoiding certain foods because of allergies (I suffered from and outgrew many food allergies), but just about everything has milk or butter in it. However, you can still follow a healthy diet that will also make you happy—filled with many of the foods you enjoy as well as forcing you to incorporate many (often more health) alternatives.

But before I break down the best foods to eat if you too are facing this problem, here’s what an allergy to cow’s milk really means.

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What is Cow’s Milk Allergy?

Interestingly enough, cow’s milk allergy is the most common kind of allergy in infants—which means dairy is one of the most common culprits of  gasy or colic-y babies who are breastfed or formula fed.

This does not mean your baby is lactose intolerant. Cow’s milk allergy and lactose intolerant are two separate problems. Those with a cow’s milk allergy suffer from a sensitivity to the protein found in the cow’s milk. The body treats the proteins found in the milk as a threat and releases chemicals that causes the symptoms of an allergy, which include a bloated stomach, stomach rumbling, diarrhea, constipation, wheezing, eczema, gas, colic and stuffy nose.

The proteins we are talking about are not the same of lactose, so don’t even think about picking up cheese-less cheese (made from soy) like I did. Lactose-free products will not solve the problem. Those who are lactose-intolerant can’t digest the sugar in the milk, which then cause the acids and gas once the lactose reaches the stomach. Those who are lactose-intolerant also do not have the same symptoms as mentioned above.

On the bright side, your child is said to outgrow an allergy to cow’s milk over time. Just keep in mind that it can take 2 to 3 weeks for dairy to be eliminated from your system. This might mean dealing with a fussy baby until then, but once the dairy is gone your baby will be back to being his or her happy self again.

The Dairy-Free Diet For Breastfeeding Moms

So what to eat now that you must cut the dairy?

First thing is first: read all food labels. There are so many things I thought were milk-free, but turned out they contained it and I was SOL. This also includes food with whey, lactose, casein, butter, buttermilk, yogurt and sometimes even soy if your baby is super sensitive. And yes, this even means chocolate.

Pretty much doing dairy-free is like following a vegan diet. So if you were thinking about cutting out chicken and other meats, now is the time to do it.

Even though freshly cooked beef, fish and poultry is fine to consume, many might just want to go meatless while they are at it. Soy and tofu alternatives are also safe to eat (keep in mind your baby could have a soy allergy). I recommend picking up anything from Gardein, especially their Teriyaki Chick’n Strips. You won’t even believe it’s not chicken it tastes so good! These options call for easy-to-make meals, which is essential for new parents.

Reach for fruits and veggies as much as you can (refrain from leafy greens if your baby is gasy). Pick up on almond or coconut milk (and coffee creamer!), like Silk Vanilla Almond Milk, which is my favorite for cereal.

Other breakfast options include eggs (cooked without milk) or oatmeal and fresh fruit.

For lunch, make PB&J sandwiches on whole wheat bread or grilled chicken sandwiches. Turkey burgers are a favorite of mine, as is turkey BLTs, just now without the mayo.

For dinner, make pasta with meatballs and sauce (just hold the parmesan cheese) or salmon with mushrooms and sweet potatoes.

I recommend picking up dairy-free or vegan cookbooks or doing some online searches for recipes. Trust me, there is still plenty you can eat! Check out these recipes here and here for more specific ideas and recipes to make.

What Not To Eat

Absolutely NO milk, butter, buttermilk, cheese, cream, sour cream, cream cheese, whey, yogurt, prepared muffins, pancakes, waffles, smoothies with yogurt, creamed veggies or soups, pizza, breaded meat, fish or poultry, ice cream, whipped cream, cookies or other desserts with milk, pudding, and caramels, just to name a few.

I have to add that I have consumed some products that contain dairy either on accident or just in small quantity because it was unavoidable. Your baby’s reaction depends on how severe their allergy is. Just know that this is only temporary; give your baby’s gut some time to develop what it needs to digest the protein.

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Are you vegan and breastfeeding or have a baby with an allergy to cow’s milk? What’s your favorite go-to meal? Let me know in the comments!

Photo: Guy Montag

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