How To Cut Out Dairy While Breastfeeding? Do You Need To?

Generally, there is no list of food that moms should avoid while breastfeeding. Food sensitivities are not nearly as common in breastfeeding as formula feeding. You only need to reduce or limit intake once you notice that certain food causes unusual reactions to your baby.

If your baby shows little sensitivity to a certain dairy source, you can only eliminate the obvious cause. Luckily, you can still eat that food in small amounts. However, if your little one exhibits extreme reactions, say after you take dairy products, then it is about time to consider going dairy-free for a while.

Are you thinking about cutting dairy from your diet while lactating since your baby has food sensitivity? It sounds easy but can be challenging because you also need your protein and calcium intake.

Reducing dairy intake sometimes means consuming plant-based milk, vegan protein sources, and dairy-free food alternatives. But scrapping dairy is not all the time needed, only when absolutely necessary, and your baby cannot tolerate your breastmilk.

Food sensitivity in breastfed infants

When you are nursing your little one, it seems that your freedom to eat anything is clipped out.

Every breastfeeding mom feels the unfounded struggle of keeping an eye on their food in case their babies have food sensitivities.

When there are food allergy concerns, the common culprit usually points out dairy products. Sometimes, it may mean that your baby has protein sensitivity, although not necessarily lactose intolerant.

These two conditions are often mistakenly identified as the other, but they are actually different cases.

  • Lactose intolerance is the inability of the baby’s digestive system to break down the lactose or sugar in milk. It is a harmless food sensitivity. However, it can make a baby feel uncomfortable, bloated, and colicky.
  • Milk protein allergy is a food allergy that is the body’s immune response towards food. It ranges from mild reactions to dangerous responses like growing rashes, hives, and having breathing difficulties.

Either of these conditions needs the doctor’s diagnosis, so do not rule out the symptoms on your own. Your pediatrician has the knowledge and experience to vouch for the food sensitivity in your little one.

They will also recommend whether you need to completely change your diet while breastfeeding to manage the symptoms.

When to cut out dairy from the diet

Lactose intolerance is temporary and will resolve on its own. It is a rare condition and is mostly linked to other digestive issues in infants like a viral or bacterial gut infection.

A food allergy may cause secondary lactose intolerance sometimes. But, it will ward off on its own once the lactase activity in the baby’s body stabilizes. Rest assured that when the infection clears out, or your baby’s digestive system is stable, it will function properly and cure lactose intolerance.

If infants suffer from allergic reactions because of milk protein sensitivity, then this is a different story. Some breastfed infants will react to the milk protein casein, which is passed into the breastmilk.

If your baby has a cow’s milk protein allergy, you will need to cut out dairy from your food as well. Dairy is not only limited to milk. Products like cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, and butter are also considered dairy and should be avoided.

How to cut dairy while breastfeeding

If the doctor diagnosed milk allergy in your baby, switching to a lactose-free diet for yourself may not help. The problem is not in the lactose but with the protein in milk.

Here’s how to transition your diet dairy-free without compromising your and your baby’s nutritional needs.

1. Use plant-based milk

Most of the time, babies with dairy allergies are also allergic to soy. Fortunately, there are many cow’s milk alternatives you can try.

Coconut milk, hazelnut, almond, rice milk, or oat milk are just some of the readily available products. Plant-based milk is dairy-free, lactose-free, and vegan. Just be careful and read the label when choosing plant-based milk products since they might also contain nuts and soy.

2. Boost calcium from non-dairy sources

Milk is the best source of calcium, but you can also get it elsewhere if you are cutting out dairy. Some of the rich sources of calcium are sardines, salmon, beans, and green vegetables like kale and broccoli.

Seeds like sesame and chia also deliver calcium along with protein and healthy fats.

Plant-based calcium sources are also an excellent source of other trace nutrients that are essential for you and your baby.

3. Get protein from other sources

A bowl of prepared poke is recommended as a protein source for breastfeeding moms who are going dairy-free.

Breastfeeding means eating healthy to impart all essential nutrients to your baby. If you need to set aside dairy, then it is a must that you supplement yourself with protein.

You can get it from beans, peas, lentils, some fish, and seeds like poppy and pumpkin.

Nuts are also a rich source of protein, but then again, you have to be wary if your baby also has a nut allergy.

Diet elimination when breastfeeding

Contrary to most moms’ beliefs, food sensitivities are not common in breastfed babies. It is rare, and only the doctor can diagnose the baby’s condition. But as parents, it is natural to feel anxious if your baby reacts differently when you breastfeed after taking certain food.

Diet elimination is a good way of evaluating your baby’s reaction to specific foods. To do this, you have to eliminate the food that you think is the culprit for 2 to 3 weeks.

The symptoms will not clear out immediately. So, it is an ideal timeframe to ensure that the product is out of the baby’s system.

You can confirm the food sensitivity by eating it again and see if he will still exhibit the same reaction. If so, you will need to limit taking the food until he is older and maybe weaned.

If there is no reaction, he is not sensitive to the food in question.


When can I phase back to dairy if I have to cut it out because of my breastfed baby’s sensitivity?

Some food sensitivities in babies mostly clear out at around 6 to 18 months. Reintroduce the food by testing it first to see if your baby still gets the same reaction. Otherwise, you will have to wait until he is weaned off breastfeeding before getting dairy again.

Will babies outgrow dairy sensitivity?

Many babies will outgrow their allergy to milk protein by three years of age.

What is the best thing to do if I suspect food sensitivity in my breastfed baby?

Track your food intake and family allergy history and talk to your pediatrician for a diagnosis.

If they suspect food sensitivities, they may run a series of tests for confirmation. In severe cases, expect your doctor to refer you to a pediatric allergist.


Food sensitivity in breastfed babies is not very common. But there are cases where babies tend to manifest allergic reactions to milk protein or casein. But unless your doctor diagnosed a milk protein allergy, there is no need to go dairy-free.

If your baby is casein sensitive, eliminating dairy sources in your diet may help alleviate his symptoms. You may still be able to eat such food in small amounts if his sensitivity to it is low.

However, if the reaction to dairy is severe, you will need to cut it off entirely and find alternative nutrient supplements from other sources.

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Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She experienced handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also trained in labor rooms and pediatric wards while in nursing school - helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.

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