Dairy-free baby

Being dairy-free as an adult isn’t really too bad most of the time, once you get used to it. However, when you become pregnant a whole new set of issues pop up. When I first became pregnant, some years ago, I tried to find out what I should do about food, given the possiblity that my baby could be allergic to milk protein. I asked everybody: the midwives, the health visitor, my GP, the nutritionist at the surgery, the obstetrician at the hospital. They all sent me in circles back to each other and were frankly unhelpful. I ended up talking to an allergy specialist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital by which time my baby was six months old! He confirmed that what we’d worked out was probably the best we could have done in the circumstances … which was at least reassuring, but rather late! A friend recently reminded me of the experience and I remembered just how lost we felt at the time. The result is what follows. It isn’t a cast iron guarantee of success. You should always talk to your midwife/GP/obstetrician for medical advice. This is just how it was for us.

The posts which will follow in this series will cover what we did and what happened. It is not medical advice: we’re not medics. It’s just what happened to us.

6 comments to Dairy-free baby

  • jennifer

    Hi, just came across your website and would love the opportunity to discuss milk protein allergy and solid introduction for my 6 month old. I have been bf her and have introduced basic cereals, veges, and fruit. She has pretty fast reactions to things I eat. If I eat cheesy pizza alone she will react. I have spoken to many health professionals who are very dismissive of any problem. I have found soya products are ok alternative for me – but hesitant on soya product intro to her. Any advice or just general knowledge would be great. I came across this site when looking for a dairy free tirimisu recipe. Missing that favourite!!

  • Hi Jen,
    It’s very lonely out there isn’t it! When you say that your daughter “reacts” to things you eat, what form does this take? Gut pain & diarrhoeia or rashes and wheezing?
    I hope you like the tiramisu. It’s not hard, especially not if you use the quick version!

  • jennifer

    Hi Sian,

    Sorry for the slow reply! Yes she gets green mucous poo, sore tummy, congestion, sounds wheezy… and gets super constipated. No fun!

    Dr’s are useless. My son is 2.5 years older and had the same reactions just much less intense. He used to get really constipated and I would be told that breast fed babies cannot be constipated and to just wait. Poor little guy was in heaps of pain. We endured really bad bouts of constipation – he drunk heaps of water – I fed him lots of food like Kiwi and Blueberries – which seemed to counteract and cause him to eventually go. Only really figured it out when we introduced cow milk to his diet and he got really bad. Now at 3 he is on a limited dairy diet and seems to have outgrown his problems.

    My daughter got really constipated about 4 days after being born. It took a while and quite a bit of trial and error in my diet to figure out the cause of the pain, constipation, wheezing, and green poo. Once dairy was completely eliminated there is absolutely no problems. I have tried reintroducing some dairy to my diet every now and then – but the reaction is predictably the same. Once my diet was completely clean I introduced Soy. Soy seems to be ok so far which is great! I am yet to discover any other reaction – fingers crossed!!

    Would love to hear others experiences and other substitutes used in babies solid intro.


  • Hi Jen,

    This sounds more like a lactose response than an allergic response to milk protein. Generally, gut responses are not allergic ones. Have you tried using Lactofree for your milk intake (as opposed to hers)? They make milk, cheese, yoghurt and ice cream all of which are real milk, but without the lactose. If her response is to your lactose intake, using them might well help. If there is an underlying allergy to something, then it will make no difference, but it could be worth a try to eliminate one possibility. Lactose intolerance in infants is quite common and most outgrow it. One of mine has re-developed it and now lives on lactofree and soya with lactase tablets for when we eat out. (Holland and Barratt sell these. Not cheap, but they make life better as you can get away with small amounts of lactose exposure without ill effects. I find the enteric coated ones sold by H&B better than the chalk based ones which other people sell, as they’re digested further down the gut, where the lactase is needed.)

    Lactofree is now widely available in all the major supermarkets in both whole milk and semi-skimmed. The ice cream is also in most big supermarkets (and it’s lovely too!) The yoghurts are more patchy in distribution. The cheese is widely available, but very rubbery.

    If you have been eating soya, then your daughter will have been getting some soya protein coming through in your milk, so she has already been exposed to it to some extent. I kept our children soya free (apart from what was in my milk) until they were 8 months old to try to reduce the risk of an allergic response. Since we already knew there was at least a tendency to an allergic response to milk protein in the family, the last thing we wanted was to end up sensitising the baby to soya as well! I cooked things with rice milk at first, since very few people are allergic to rice. It makes good fruity rice pudding and fruity porridge. You can also do the same with veg like sweet potato, carrot and parsnip.

    I hope this helps. Do keep in touch and let me know how you get on.

    All the best,


  • Rachael

    Hi Sian,

    I have a 4.5 month old and am breastfeeding. A couple of weeks ago we tried regular formula for the first time and my baby had an allergic reaction to it – bubbling in her chest, rash and difficulty breathing. Thankfully she is fine now. She has however had eczema for the last couple of months and general skin issues from about 4 weeks – we thought initially it was as a result of the warm weather we were having, baby acne which then developed into dryness but it is definitely eczema now and hasn’t gone away. She has also always vomited alot after feeds often very mucusy, usually going on for a couple of hours after being fed, which brings us to the next feed! She has also had a number of mucusy poos in the past. Due to the reaction to formula we are suspecting she has a cows milk protein allergy (neither myself nor my husband have allergies however there is some eczema in the wider family and suspected lactose intolerance also). I have therefore gone dairy free and am on my 5th day (it is hard!) – I have been having some soya milk though – do you think it is a good idea to cut this out also? Are you aware of how long it should take before it makes a difference (if it is going to)? We have been prescribed pregestimil formula but are too scared to try anything at the moment – do you know much about it and what the difference is between that and nutramigen?

    Many thanks,

  • Hi Rachael,

    It sounds as though you’re having a rough time! It can be very frightening when something like that happens. You feel very vulnerable don’t you.

    Pregestemil and Nutramigen are both infant formula milks which have the protein chains broken down into much smaller units (not the way techies might describe it, but I hope that makes sense!) which makes them much easier to digest and less likely to set off an allergic reaction. The baby’s immune system shouldn’t recognise the proteins as cow’s milk because they are so much smaller, so no reaction. There isn’t much difference between the two as far as I can tell. they’re both made by Mead and are both expensive. They also taste FOUL, having tasted what we were giving our kids! However, remember that your daughter doesn’t know what cows’ milk is supposed to taste like, so won’t have that comparison to make. One of ours had to be weaned off it gradually by diluting in cows’ milk as cows’ milk on its own tasted strange and got the “Yuk” reaction at first! Nutramigen seems to be used for a wider range of digestive reactions in infants, so may be more hydrolysed (broken down). I presume you have seen your GP since you have a prescription. I hope he/she understood the problem and was supportive. If you have a user-friendly health visitor/midwife in the area, you might get some support from them…?? Some are good at this sort of thing and then again some aren’t. My health visitor at the time wasn’t much use, but you might well be luckier. I found the neo-natal unit at my maternity hospital knew their stuff best, because they use these hydrolysed formula milks sometimes with very sick new-borns in their care.

    I came off the soya while I was breast-feeding just to be extra safe. The last thing we wanted was to end up with a child who was allergic to dairy and soya if we could possibly avoid it. The general advice seems to be that you should try to avoid exposing an infant with a tendency to be allergic to things to known allergens until after about 7 months. As a breast-feeding mother, the soya proteins from your food will come through in your milk and your baby will effectively have soya in its diet. I used rice milk as rice is the least allergenic starch out there. You are very unlikely to end up allergic to rice: it’s used as part of an exclusion diet when allergies are being diagnosed (lamb, rice and pears I believe). These days there is also coconut milk (not as in the delicious but very fat filled tinned stuff, but a milk made from coconuts) which might make a change. Tesco do their own brand chilled coconut milk and there’s also an Alpro one out there. You can also think about Oat milk. Have a look at our review pages where there are details of a range of milk choices. You should probably avoid the hazelnut and almond ones because of the nut allergy risk.

    If you are sure that you have completely eliminated all trace of dairy products from your diet (I hope that doesn’t sound patronising, it really isn’t meant to be. It’s just that milk protein can end up in some fairly surprising places and it can take a while to be absolutely sure that you’ve read every single label on things you have always used to cook with.), you ought to see an improvement within about a week. It can take a while for the effects of exposure to wear off. If a moderately allergic adult is exposed to a small amount of casein (milk protein), the reaction sets in fairly quickly, but the after effects of sinus congestion and itchy skin can last for up to a week. If you have a very allergic baby, you should check all the skin products you are using on her too. Some baby bath and skin creams can have milk protein in them. I read the labels on everything these days, after discovering that I’d been accidentally poisoning my husband by using Ecover washing up liquid which had casein in it! It took me ages to track down what had been causing the problem. (Don’t know whether it’s still toxic, haven’t used it since!)

    I do sympathise with your position. I hope you can find some recipes on the site which might make being dairy-free seem a little bit less dreadful. It does get easier, I promise. This may sound impossible at the moment, but try not to let it get to you too much. There are some good alternatives out there and in the long run, if it helps your daughter, that’s the main thing. Do get in touch if there are any specific kinds of recipes you are looking for

    Keep smiling!


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