Monday, 30 January 2012

After the diagnosis... breast or bottle?

Choices, choices...

Following the diagnosis, it became clear that I had two choices: continue breastfeeding and completely exclude dairy from my diet or switch to bottle feeding my baby, using a special formula. 


The definite advantage of using formula is that as the cow's milk protein passes through the mother's milk, the baby's mother doesn't have to give up dairy herself. The formula which we were prescribed, Nutramigen, comes in small tubs and needs to be prescribed by a doctor. At roughly £25 a tub, it's just as well that it comes on prescription as it's not a cheap option by any means! I had one (locum) doctor ask me roughly how many tubs I needed, as it was so expensive!! 

One disadvantage of Nutramigen is the nasty smell, which emanates both from the formula and baby. Another disadvantage is the rather distinctive taste. I haven't tried it myself but it apparently doesn't taste that nice. I used it to make baby rice and baby cereal (having used it as a top-up when my baby was tiny) however, after a short while, my baby refused to eat it any more. When I discussed this with the dietician, she said it was because babies are predisposed to like sweet things (it's a survival instinct, because poisonous things tend to taste bitter) and the formula was a bit bitter. This tends to kick in around six months and might explain why one mother I spoke to said that she had quite a battle to get her child accustomed to the formula, when she tried weaning her onto it.


The advantages of breastfeeding are spelled out everywhere these days, but the obvious disadvantage of breastfeeding a cow's milk protein allergic infant is that the baby's mother has to exclude milk completely from her diet - not an easy option, if like me you love lattes, cheese and cakes. Although actually when you look really carefully at food labels, there's an awful lot more ordinary everyday things that you used to take for granted that you can't eat, like chicken gravy.

My Personal Choice...

Let me stress that this bit of my blog is completely biased - it's about my choice.  It's not something I would push on another person - each to his/her own. I think I would have found this option a lot more tricky, if I had a bigger family to consider or if I had gone back to work. Fortunately for me, there are just the three of us and my husband was happy to go with whichever path I chose.

It soon became clear that breastfeeding was not going to be an easy option, but it was the right one for me, because although I loved milk and would have to cut it out, I saw this as having a short term impact on my life - according to the paediatrician most children grow out of the intolerance by the age of two and I wasn't intending to breast feed my baby that long! Meanwhile, I would be feeding my baby all the nutrients she needed through my milk and providing her with vital immunity. Also, breastfeeding is meant to help prevent food allergies and I certainly didn't want any more to deal with! 

In the end I actually chose a third way - I  combined breastfeeding and formula for a while, as although I wanted to breast feed I was very sore, so I opted to breastfeed from the least sore side, express from the other and top up with formula, until I had healed up enough (my aim was to drop bottle feeding and drive my milk supply back up, once I was better). Thankfully this didn't take too long and I was glad to drop the formula, at least until weaning time, as it was manufactured and therefore (in my humble opinion) second best! 

Actually, knowing what I do now, maybe if I had my time again I might choose differently and be less hard on myself, but who knows?

An article that might be helpful, if you choose to use formula, is this one by Nutramigen:
From diagnosis to weaning


  1. looking forward to reading more of your story x

  2. I love your openness and authenticity. I'm making a note of your blog for folks I run into who for whatever reason have to go dairy free. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Benjamin. I take that as a real compliment. I certainly try to be as open and honest as I can - without eeking anyone out at the yucky bits, that is! :)

  3. I did a similar thing to yourself, but as I was also having trouble breastfeeding I cut out milk products, expressed, then topped up with formula. I managed this for nearly 5 months, but with having to express, deal with a toddler, a baby and not even eat chocolate, it had its toll and I eventually switched over to the formula. In hindsight, this was the best thing for us. However, if my baby had breast fed with no problems, I would have happily given up the dairy to feed her myself. I'd give my life for my children; going without certain foods for a few more months wouldn't have been that much of a sacrifice in the scheme of things.