Friday, 2 October 2015

So you're breastfeeding dairy free... some things you may be missing out on!

Hello there, fellow dairy free Mum!


Who even knew that cow's milk protein could pass through your boob juice and into your baby, eh?? I certainly didn't, before 'Baby' turned up allergic to the stuff! Apparently, it's not that common - that milk proteins go though the breast milk - but it doesn't really help you much, does it??

How are you feeling today? Positive, upbeat, ready for a challenge? Or hanging on in there by the skin of your teeth and not sure you even want to carry on? 

It's alright. Either way, I won't browbeat you to carry on, the choice is always YOURS, but this post has been written with YOU in mind, to help you on your way! 

1) Some Encouragement

  • Well done for giving it a go, at the very least - not everyone who is faced with this challenge will (for whatever reason, but again no judgement here).
  • Some people might think you're a bit weird. Ignore them. It's nothing to do with them. This is between you and your baby! 
  • By going dairy free yourself, you will be well equipped to know which foods will be suitable for your dairy free child - should your bubba still be dairy free when it comes to weaning.

2) Calcium 

If you eliminate dairy from your diet as an adult, you need to make sure you keep an eye on your calcium intake. If you're a breastfeeding mum, you need around 1250 mg of calcium a day. Initially, I was advised to use a calcium supplement, but as I researched products and foods containing calcium, I began to take more control of my calcium intake through my diet. 

So for example, if a glass (roughly 200ml) of your dairy free milk substitute (unless it's organic) contains around a third of a normal person's daily amount of calcium (700 mg a day, so 250mg in a glass) then you can probably pretty soon work out ways of including that in your daily diet. For more ideas on how to get calcium through your diet, follow this link. But, if you are going to do things this way, make sure you stay on top of it and don't let it slide!

This orange juice is fortified with calcium

3) Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also important, because Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Calcium supplements and most dairy free milks usually contain this already, but there are plenty of ways of obtaining this through your diet as well as through sunlight. If you'd like to know more, please see this post

4) Milk Substitutes

If you're going dairy free, you might be wondering what on earth you're going to do without milk. Don't worry, there are plenty of other options, all of which can be used in pretty much the same way as normal milk - although some have a few oddities! So, for example, although I generally prefer almond milk (I use unsweetened almond milk in my savory dishes), Koko coconut milk generally makes a better custard - just because it thickens better!

There are a range of milk substitutes out there, see here. They can be found in the longlife milk aisle or in the chilled section, alongside the milk, in most UK supermarkets. 

A range like this, will only be found in larger supermarkets.

Some notes of caution:
  • Most mammalian milk proteins are very similar, so if your child is allergic to cow's milk protein they are highly likely to be allergic to other mammal milks too (sheep/goat etc.) 
  • Lactose free milk has had the sugar removed, not the protein, hence it will still cause a reaction in those allergic to cow's milk protein.
  • A2 milk waffles on about different proteins, but cow's milk protein of any variety is unsuitable for anyone allergic to cow's milk protein. 
  • Rice milk is not advisable as a main milk drink for children under the age of five, so should also be avoided by breastfeeding mums. This is due to the levels of arsenic that naturally occur in rice. Personally, I don't consider this a loss, as I don't enjoy it. 
  • Organic dairy free milk is not supplemented with calcium or any other vitamins, so if you're relying on dairy free milk for calcium, just bear that in mind!

For a more detailed breakdown of the nutritional values of various dairy free milks see here.

5) Butter... well, OK, marg! 

Okay, nothing tastes quite like butter - you've got me there, but there are some passable margarines out there, which you can use in much the same same way as any other margarine! My personal favourite is Pure Sunflower Margarine - found alongside all the other margarines in the supermarket. 

There are others - Vitalite, Stork Block (not the tub version), and some supermarket 'own' free from versions too. There's a new coconut based margarine by Koko, which is stocked by some branches of Waitrose. I tried it out at The Allergy Show in London, and it was certainly palatable.

Marks and Spencer's version.

Beware of brands that are also made with sunflower or olive oil, but are not dairy free - there are some out there!

6) Cheese

Cheese was probably the one thing I missed the most, when I first went dairy free! If, like me, you love your cheese, you may not find your perfect substitute, but the one that most people seem to enjoy is Violife. 

These days the 'original' version can be found in major branches of Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Holland and Barrett, as well as many Health Food Stores, and if it's cooked or toasted, I don't mind it too much! It does come in various other varieties too,(including Parmesan), but you may have to try online for these - check out Alternative Stores, for a wider range.

This one is very popular!

In the US, Daiya is the one to watch out for - I've heard it is now available in one or two places in the UK, so keep your eyes peeled, you never know!

Just remember that Vegan cheese does not have the same amount of protein as normal cheese. Its nutritional value limited, compared to 'normal' cheese, so I tend to use it for flavoring other dishes (e.g. sprinkled on a home made dairy free lasagna). Don't expect it to contain much calcium, either!

Vegan cheese does not melt in quite the same way as 'normal' cheese. It tends to melt better in sauces, but on pizza or toast you may be disappointed. Some mozzarella-type cheeses, like Mozzarisella, melt best and the Violife pizza version is pretty good too.

One last thing, some people like to use nutritional yeast as a cheese flavouring. You can buy it in Holland and Barrett or health food shops. It smells like well-worn socks and doesn't really do it for me! You have been warned!

7) Yogurt

If you're okay with soya, you will be fine - you'll be able to find Alpro soya yogurts in most supermarkets and a child-friendly fromage frais in Tesco. A good Tesco Extra is, quite frankly, best place I go for chilled dairy free subs, unless you get Ocado in your area, or live near to a good Vegan store, or a Health Store like Whole Foods Market in London. Holland and Barrett are fast catching up though - so if yours has a chiller, check them out too!

Familiarise yourself with the Free From section in the chilled aisle at Tesco.

If you can't have soya, look out for coconut yogurts like Koko (Tesco, Asda, Morrisons ad Ocado), Co-yo (Waitrose, Tesco, online with Ocado) or Pudology (Ocado and Holland and Barrett). Holland and Barrett also sell 'Wot no dairy?' long life yogurts, which are made with pea protein instead, as well as Xotic, which is also made with coconut, is and long life too.

My personal favourite! This flavour is sadly not available at Tesco.

Be careful though, there are some apparently  'dairy free' alternatives that are produced on the same line as milk products. They are often, annoyingly, placed alongside dairy free products and marketed the same. Read labels carefully. If your little one is as sensitive as mine has been, and you eat them, you run the risk of a reaction via cross-contamination.

Alpro's soya, Koko and 'Wot no dairy?' yogurts all contain calcium, but the Co-yo and Pudology do not!

8) Ice Cream

As the temperature outside begins to hot up, you may wish to cool down! Fortunately, there is plenty of dairy free ice cream out there - just don't expect to find it sold alongside your Mr Whippy! My personal favourites are sold in Waitrose and are made by Almond Dream, but my little one loves Swedish Glace, which is soya based and found in Sainsbury's, Waitrose and Tesco.

Sadly not available, when out and about!

That said, Tesco have recently hit the dairy free jackpot, with these gluten and dairy free cornettos. They're in the Free From freezer section at Tesco. I can highly recommend these!

If you're out and about, keep your eyes peeled for sorbet or Gelato - some of these are dairy free, but not all, unless you got to Boho Gelato in Brighton (new one opening soon in Weymouth)! Alternatively, if you're near a Holland and Barrett with a freezer section, you may be lucky enough to find a small tub, containing a single serving of Booja Booja ice cream (made with cashews). I've not tried it as I can't eat cashews, but I've heard its delicious!

Booja Booja mini tub

Holland and Barrett also sell Perfect World ice cream, also pocket sized and made with cashews.

9) Cream

Wimbledon is fast approaching and what are strawberries without... cream!? If you're okay with soya, there's quite a few soya creams out there, on the supermarket shelves, including a squirty one called Schlagfix. If not there's always Oatly or Alpro rice cream (okay, I know I said no rice milk, but that's on a daily basis, a little rice cream now and then shouldn't do any real harm). In Tesco and Waitrose, you can now also get a small carton of coconut cream, by Alpro, as well as a creme fraiche by Oatly.

Similar to single cream.
Alternatively, you can put a tin of coconut milk in the fridge for two hours, whip it up, then add some vanilla and sweetener to taste. OR, I've found Co-yo Original makes a rather nice accompaniment for fruit.

10) Chocolate

As a woman you are practically duty bound to love chocolate! There's plenty out there, but it costs a bit more than the normal variety! I prefer Moo Free, which is also soya free and is sold by Waitrose and Sainsbury's (the larger stores, anyway). 

For a special treat I can definitely be persuaded to demolish a box of Booja Booja chocolates (Waitrose) or Cocoa Libre, check out their online store and stockists here! For more ideas, check out these posts.

11) Cake and biscuits

Oh yes, you can - indulge that is! There are cakes and biscuits in most Free From Supermarket aisles, although not so many in Tesco as in Sainsbury's I find! However, if you check some of the 'normal' packets, you can find some that are milk free! I used to love Respect Organics Carrot Cake (Tesco and Sainsbury's). The only reason I don't eat it anymore, is because I'm now gluten free too! 

I promise you, this tastes good!

These cup cakes, from Sainsbury's, I haven't tried, as they weren't around before I was gluten free, but they look good!

'Vanilla Fairies' by 'Emma's Country Cakes'

And if you've a little ones birthday coming up, check out the celebration cakes in the supermarkets, because quite a few are made without dairy. The Disney 'Frozen' cake available in Tesco and Sainsbury's, is just one of them!

As for biccies I used to love Hobnobs and my little one loves Waitrose Essential Chocolate Bourbons. Check out our 'Fave Products' page for more!

12) Cafes!

If, like me, you need your coffee, well this is an essential! However, you may want to go a little easy if you're breastfeeding! Just remember that the caffeine will go through you and keep your kiddo awake too! 

Most cafes stock soya milk and Starbucks now will serve coconut milk (for an extra 40p) - certainly the big chains, anyway, but be aware that if your baby is very sensitive to cow's milk protein you probably will have to give those lattes, cappuccinos and hot chocolates a miss - unless they have a machine dedicated to dairy free types, that is! Otherwise, however carefully they clean the spouts, traces of milk protein will most likely make their way into your coffee (see here for an explanation). I now stick with a black Americano (with a trace of sugar to take off the bitterness) but have seen people take in their own little bottle of milk!

In terms of snacks and nibbles in these places, Costa's mini gluten free cherry bakewells by the till and some of their wrapped gingerbread biscuits are made without dairy. Cafe Nero have coconut bars near the till, but don't expect anything like that in Starbucks - crisps, nuts and fruit bread without the butter are your lot there! We used to order out little one the sausage bap - it said it was dairy free, but some traces must have made their way through, possibly whilst being heated on the grill, so we don't take that risk anymore!

This bar is a bit crumbly but quite tasty!

If you can find a Coffee 1 near you, they sell a few dairy free cakes, although there's not much else on the menu that is dairy free, the other thing to be aware of is that they're not individually wrapped, so you run the risk of cross-contamination. I've also heard that Sainsbury's and Waitrose cafes will allow you to pick up free from products from their aisles and pay for and consume them in the cafe area, but there's none of those near me!

13) Eating out

So you're dairy free right now, but you still want to eat out, don't you? And, if you're careful, you still can! Of course you'll need to plan ahead a little bit before you go out. We usually start by checking out restaurants online - many chain restaurants can offer you something, although there's not so much choice as you may have been used to! 

In recent months, a website was launched called 'Can I eat there?' which works on the basis that members recommend places they've eaten that have been safe for them. This is a great idea, but you still need to check out a restaurant thoroughly, before you eat. I have found that restaurants can vary - even restaurants where you've previously been okay can still get things wrong. In my experience it's often down to the staff on the day. 

More information on eating out dairy free can be found on this page.

14) Baking & Cooking

A whole lot of stuff becomes daunting when you first go dairy free, one of which is cooking. Suddenly the rules appear to change. You need to check labels carefully and discover what dairy free substitutes will do for you. I well remember being gobsmacked by the fact that chicken gravy is often made with milk, that spaghetti bolognese is sometimes made with milk and that jam could be made with butter. Who knew?

You might find this post on dairy free baking quite helpful as well as this page which lists some of our favourite dairy free products.

When it comes to finding recipes, I've found that although you can buy expensive cookbooks or free from magazines (I've bought loads over time, which I hardly use), actually you can find a recipe for most things, just by looking online. This page lists a selection of other blogs which you may find useful.

If you're looking for dairy free cooking sauces, check out Tesco Free From section - they even now have a ready-made dairy free white sauce!

15) Celebrations

Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day etc. means chocolate and all kinds of other goodies. There are dairy free alternatives and this page can help you find what you're looking for - so you don't have to miss out.

A few other little top tips for you:

1) Shopping

When I first went dairy free, food labelling was done a little bit differently, to how it is now. You will need to check every food label for 'milk' usually written in bold. You do still need to keep your wits about you, as one food manufacturer didn't think goat's cheese need to be labelled (as it wasn't cow's milk) and another listed yogurt, but didn't highlight that it was made with milk. 

Depending on how sensitive you/your little one is to milk and milk traces, you may also need to watch out for items that say they 'may contain' milk. This post explains why.

For tips on where to find your dairy free essentials (and luxuries) see here.

2) Medications

Medication can sometimes be made with dairy. Always remind your doctor/pharmacist and ask them to check anything that is prescribed/recommended for you/your little one.

3) Soaps & Lotions & Other Stuff!

Cleopatra famously bathed in milk and in modern times milk is still considered good for the skin. It's worth knowing that a LOT of soaps, shower gels, hand creams lotions, potions and even some washing-up liquids are made with milk! You may need to be aware of other words associated with milk, such as whey and casein, when you check through ingredients labels.

Just to warn you, although you may not be abstaining whilst breastfeeding, wine might also contain milk - believe it or not, it's used for clarifying the wine (as is egg, funnily enough). However, you may be pleased to hear that it's not always the case!

4) Probiotics

There's been a huge wealth of research recently into how allergies may be due to the kinds and lack of 'good' bacteria in our gut. It seems strange but true. Very recent research has shown that formula with this good bacteria added to it, has appeared to help overcome allergies in allergic babies (see here for article). 

If you're breastfeeding, your milk is packed full of probiotics anyway (see here), but scientists are still carrying out research into whether lactating mothers might be able to take probiotics to boost the probiotics in their milk and help their allergic little ones. You can't add just any probiotics Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG seems to be the most beneficial, but they've not yet reached the stage where it is regarded as a treatment.

5) If you slip up...

It's not unknown, slip-ups can happen. Somehow you eat/drink something with milk in. If this happens, and if your baby is quite sensitive, it will go through you and affect your baby. Don't beat yourself up about it, but there are some things you can do about it. 

It goes against the grain if you want to solely breastfeed, but it could be best for baby if you express your milk for a day or so, and formula feed instead. There are some dairy free formulas out there (see here), which you have to get on prescription. If you can get your doctor to get you an advance prescription, these will speed things up in the long run, as pharmacies don't tend to keep stocks of it and it can take a few days to order the formula in.

6) The mechanics

Any purely practical help, regarding the mechanics of breastfeeding, I would suggest getting in touch with La Leche League (their counsellors are excellent), or checking out Kelly Mom, a website from across the pond, with really great advice.

Well there it is, a whole load of stuff for you to consider! It's taken me some while to put all this info together - things I wish I'd known at the outset and some of which I've had to learn the hard way. And here's me still hoping I've included everything and still wondering what else I've missed! 

Hope you're not too overwhelmed by it all. It will get easier for you I promise!!

Be kind to yourself - the chocolate is pricier than normal, but actually...
I think you NEED, nay DESERVE it!  ;)

7) Finally...

Some advice from Carina Venter specialist pediatric allergy dietitian shared via Twitter:

  • No need to change diet during breastfeeding (except where allergen affecting child passes through breastmilk)
  • Aim to breastfeed for at least 4-6 months
  • Introduce food from 4 months, but don't delay beyond six months
  • If from a high risk family and breastfeeding is not possible or insufficient, use a partially hydrolysed  formula or extensively hydrolysed formula (as prescribed by a doctor).

Happy Breastfeeding!! 

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