run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

Wednesday 6 June 2018

Dairy-free weaning, breastfeeding and CMPA: a survival guide

When tiniest man was teeny, he got a bad tummy. Pooping as much as 15 times a day, occasional strands of blood in the nappy - it was enough to get this stresshead-mama-at-the-best-of-times frantic with worry. After it went on a few weeks, we went to see a paediatrician, who thought he might be allergic to cow's milk. It was the first time the word 'allergy' had entered my family at all. As a breastfeeder, I had to give up dairy. 

I wasn't used to a restrictive diet and, in truth, surviving on zero sleep with a bouncy baby, an energetic toddler and NO chunks of cheese on crackers / slabs of Dairy Milk etc didn't feel good. Especially since I can't stand coconut, and an expensive trip to Planet Organic armed with all the dairy-free chocolate/cheese/yogurt etc options resulted in the discovery that, er, basically everything tasted of coconut.

Then there were the other worries... how to get enough calcium into my diet? What to do about weaning, making sure dairy-free didn't mean tiniest man missing out on vital nutrients?

As it turned out, after some time on this diet, the babe had just had a really bad reaction to his rotavirus jab (basically getting a bad dose of it that took ages to leave) and I was eventually back on the white stuff. But in the meantime, I'd realised how common CMPA is for babes, and spoken to babies' nutritionist Alice Fotheringham, of my favourite weaning brand Piccolo fame, about all her tips. Here are her answers to my most burning of dairy-free weaning and mum questions:

* I just found out my ready-salted crisps have dairy in! What other surprising foods that contain dairy should I watch out for?

Casein and whey, two milk proteins are found in many unusual products as preservatives, so if you are intolerant to milk sugars, you may be OK with these, but if you have cow’s milk protein allergy, you will have issues with these. Medications and supplements can occasionally contain whey, as can some skin moisturisers and conditioners. Whey is also a common preservative in bread and baked goods, so check the label or ask your baker if there is no ingredient list with it.

* When weaning a cow protein-allergic baby, what are your top tips?

Remember that their breast and or formula milk is still giving them the majority of nutrients and calories they need until they are one, so these first foods are more about tastes and textures, and don’t get too worried about specific nutrients. If you start with a good variety from day one, they should be getting everything they need. However it is important to speak to your GP about their allergy and offer other calcium rich foods. 

When you are starting to introduce, don’t be afraid to move onto the proteins early on. Start with the broccoli and kale, and from six months your baby can start trying energy dense foods such as oily fish like mackerel or salmon (watch out for bones), or eggs, avocado and nut butters, which are energy dense, taste delicious and are good sources of lots of minerals and vitamins.  If you are breastfeeding, get some of those calcium rich foods into your diet as well.

Piccolo's Alice Fotheringham

* What are the best non-dairy sources of calcium for breastfeeding mums?

Whole Milk contains around 34mg of calcium per 1fl oz (30g), but there are lots of other foods that contain good amounts of calcium, and other nutrients that milk contains, such as vitamin b12, vitamin A and vitamin D. Leafy greens and oily fish are my favourite as they also are packed with other vitamins and minerals, as well as leafy greens being a great source of fibre, and oily fish of omega 3 and protein. Calcium rich greens include kale, broccoli and edamame beans, whilst tinned sardines and salmon are great store cupboard quick fixes.

* Any good recipes to share for these weaning babies?

I love making porridge fingers using the same amount of oats with a sugar free nut milk mixed with nut butter and cinnamon and baked or microwaved. Other good breakfasts include vegetable frittata baked in a tin and cut into squares or coconut yoghurt with berries. Making fruit and veg smoothies or ice-cream with banana, coconut milk or nut milks instead of yoghurts is also a good alternative for ‘creamy’ treats.

* Any other advice for mums on a dairy-free diet..

Sorry to say that coffee works much better with milk alternatives than tea, you just aren’t going to get the builders' brew you are used to... But experiment with breakfasts. Using different milks in porridges and soaked oats tastes great. Milk alternatives are mostly about personal preference so play about and find the flavour you like most. Invest in some nut and seed butters. Tahini is a good replacement to butter in flapjacks, and spreading them on apple or an oatcake with a square of no dairy dark chocolate is almost like a chocolate digestive, but a bit better.

* And babies?

Try not to worry too much about specific nutrients, if you are offering a wide variety of foods and they are having either your breastmilk (with you on a dairy free diet), or special diary free formula, they will very likely be getting what they need. It’s a good idea to start them trying greens like broccoli and kale early on anyway as they can take a bit of time to be introduced, so you are killing two birds with one stone, getting them trying their greens, and getting calcium into them!

* And toddlers?

Oily fish and greens are not the easiest foods to get into toddlers, but try making fish cakes or goujons with salmon rather than white fish, or use foods like dried figs, sesame seeds and black strap molasses in baking, and offer cooked edamame beans and broccoli florets as cold snacks to dip in hummus.

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