Going Dairy-free while Breastfeeding a dairy intolerant Baby

posted in: Family | 55

Giving birth to my second born went so much faster than my first. And even though it was incredibly HARD work, it still was easier to get through (cause it went so fast!!).

Breastfeeding was also easier, at first… (you can read about my first experience here)

Then at about 3 weeks, Ebron started get very fussy during and after feedings (I called them scream feedings), was uncomfortable all the time, spitting up forcefully (at times), and sleeping in short spurts. And I couldn’t lay him down much – that made his reflux worse! He was eating very frequently and it was incredibly exhausting!! After talking with his pediatrician, she confirmed he had reflux (after hearing him swallow a lot, and not quite gagging, but I just heard the fluid going up and down in his throat – not sure how else to describe it, after a feeding).2015-06-17

If you are wondering what some of the symptoms for reflux are:

  • Fussy after a feeding for one to two hours
  • Fluid going up and down in throat after eating
  • Wants to comfort nurse all the time
  • Pulling away frequently and fussy during a feeding
  • Pulling knees up to chest or a “tight” tummy
  • Explosive stools (more than 10 a day)
  • Frothy or mucousy stools (sometimes green)
  • Runny nose or congestion
  • Reluctance to nurse


It was tough, since he was nursing frequently!! On the right is the first week of feeding Ebron (feedings in pink) and below is Ebron when he was a few weeks old (again feeding in pink and sleeping in blue).



I think in the early weeks (and actually continuing on a couple months), Ebron was also trying to deal with the forceful letdown. So sometimes his fussiness was because he was having a hard time swabreastfeeding positionsllowing fast enough. (If this sounds like what you are experiencing, check out this article! I transitioned to side lying nursing and that helped a LOT. Side lying nursing is amazing!! If you want some helpful tips on side lying nursing, check out this article!!


Since I knew it was reflux, I started making notes on what I was eating to see if that was a factor. And sure enough, after I had dairy he was a LOT fussier and was choking on the milk more, and spitting up more, and sleeping worse. So I had to eliminate dairy from my diet since Ebron was intolerant to dairy. (Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean he is allergic to dairy. He could be. But it just means dairy is hard for his body to process right now. My oldest didn’t handle cow’s milk well when he turned 1, so I’ve limited the dairy in his life as well. And we’ve been drinking Almond milk in our house. We like it.

Going Dairy-free

Although, let me tell you, at first it was HARD to go dairy free. I missed yogurt. Also, I had made up a hole bunch of freezer meals beforehand and cheese was in a LOT of those meals. MmmM – but I couldn’t have it now. It wasn’t worth the cost of a fussy baby.

When I stopped eating dairy, his symptoms COMPLETELY went away by 2 weeks later!! He was a new baby. He was content lying on his back. He slept longer. It was amazing!!


Then, when he turned 4 months I tried a little bit of dairy again, just to see if it would make a difference. (Cause who knows, maybe it was just that his digestive system was immature and that’s why he had reflux.) But, his reflux definitely came back as a result. So I know for sure he is intolerant to dairy. Then, about a month later I had soy milk 3 days in a row and his reflux came back again! So, I’m on a dairy and soy-free diet. (Soy I don’t eat too much of anyway, so it’s not a big deal.)

***So, note to all you pregnant moms – make dairy-free freezer meals, just in case you have a baby that is dairy intolerant!! You want to be prepared.

Someone suggested to me that I come up with a freezer menu plan that is dairy free for pregnant moms. (And I still will come up with a freezer menu plan in the future.)

Other things that helped cope with a fussy reflux baby:

  • babywearing – check out your local Babywearing International meeting for help/a carrier to borrow!!
  • offer a pacifier during pauses, between sides and after a feeding (that way there is constant sucking motion after a feeding, so the milk won’t come back up!)
  • let them lay in the same position (particularly on the left side, or roll them onto their left side – that helps to keep the milk down) after a feeding for a bit (DON’T burp immediately)
  • jiggle the baby up and down to help them burp, because patting them will aggravate the reflux
  • offer short feedings, more frequently
  • hold baby upright 20-30 minutes after a feeding (this is where babywearing came in handy!)
  • avoid putting baby in carseat or in another lying down position after feeding (unless you were side lying – I found it okay to leave him lying down on his left side)
  • when changing diaper, roll baby on side instead of lifting the legs

2015-08-04Helping them sleep:

It’s hard to get into a routine and it varies when you can start the routine. But the first “routine” I establish is having a rhythm to the day and night. And I establish the rhythm by being consistent in encouraging him to fall asleep every hour and a half after he has woken from his last nap. That really is the first step to bedtime.
Then, once you have been doing that awhile, your baby can get used to sleeping in a more consistent manner, and then bedtime can be more consistent.
I was starting to be Intentional about the wake times and rhythms around 2 months, maybe just before.
Then at 3 months, I think, Ebron started going to bed more consistently a little before 9pm (I was aware of the no dairy by then and had been off dairy awhile), then by 3 and a half months it was a little after 8pm he would go to bed.

And then, I also recommend reading this: Stack Feedings in Your Favor for Sleep

More article and resources on breastfeeding:

Dairy and Other Food Sensitivities

The Dangerous Game of the Feeding Interval Obsession

Pumping for an Occassional Bottle


55 Responses

  1. Lisa/Syncopated Mama

    Gosh, I just don’t know if I could give up the cheese…(athough I know I would do it if I had to for my baby!) Glad you got things figured out and you’re smart to just keep trying dairy again, every so often. Love his name, by the way!
    Lisa/Syncopated Mama recently posted…Project Snapshot Week 90My Profile

  2. Haley

    My oldest had this problem and I never figured out it was the dairy till we gave him some yogurt at close to a year. He broke out hives and has been allergic ever since along with tree nuts. He did outgrow his egg allergy. So there is always hope… Our second showed some of the same problems and I new a little more. I even went vegan for awhile. Beans and broccoli never bothered her which is what a lot of people thought. But eventually once was on more solids foods around 7 months I was able to add a little more in. She even was allergic to cows milk at 1 year old but out grew it by 2. Our last was fine with everything. I hope your little one will outgrow this too.
    Haley recently posted…Laugh and Learn – Homeschool and Parenting Linkup 51My Profile

    • mothersroad

      Thanks! Yes, I hope he outgrows his dairy intolerance. We shall see. It’s good to hear your second outgrew her dairy intolerance!

    • mothersroad

      I didn’t necessarily keep him on his side all the time. Though, there were some times during the day, I did have him leaning more towards his left side in the rock ‘n play sleeper.

  3. Shelah

    This is such important information for parents. Sometimes the symptoms of a dairy intolerance are subtle. It’s good to know what to look for.
    Shelah recently posted…X is for Explore!My Profile

  4. Rachel

    What a great method side lying is. A restful and relaxing way of feeding your baby.

    I did wonder how intense the cravings for dairy were before you body adjusted being without.

    I don’t have children but have friends that do. What a wonderful result, going from having an uncomfortable baby then tweaking a few things so that both you and bubs benefits.


    • mothersroad

      I don’t think I had any intense cravings for dairy. I just missed it some. (Although I did crave ice cream – because I crave sugar. But that’s gone now.)

  5. Stacy

    I wish I would’ve seen this when my now 6yr old was a baby. We had the same exact issues and could not find a solution anywhere. Hopefully, your post will be able to help others!
    Stacy recently posted…Tom Thumb Deals 9/23-9/29My Profile

  6. Monica

    I love when mothers decide to breastfeed their babies! I had to stop breastfeeding my youngest because I wasn’t making enough milk for him. That was a big bummer! One of my little guys has a problem with dairy as well. What is your diet for yourself and your children like? This was a really great post!
    Monica recently posted…How To Potty Train Your Little OnesMy Profile

  7. Leilani

    I guess that makes sense but I’d never have thought! Will pass this news along to my expectant niece. She used to be lactose intolerant as a baby herself.

  8. Lisa

    It’s wonderful that you were able to discern the problems through careful observation and some trial. Reflux is a painful problem for sweet little ones!

    On a side note, I’m pretty sure you can make coconut yogurt fairly easily, so that may be something to look into to enjoy your yogurt while dairy free!

  9. Miranda

    Wow you have a lot of great info here and I’m sure it will be a help for many moms. I have friends who’s babies were very affected by food they ate-one couldn’t eat garlic, one couldn’t have coffee, etc. But so far, all 5 of my babies have been easy nursers. It doesn’t matter what I eat, either. I can have coffee, spicy food, onion-it doesn’t affect them. Which I am so thankful for because I can imagine the struggle of cutting things out, especially dairy. What a great mom you are to make that sacrifice!
    Miranda recently posted…Praying Hard ThingsMy Profile

  10. myriam

    So glad that you were able to figure out the root cause for the sake of the baby. Luckily I didn’t experience this with my babies. And we do minimize our dairy intake and have been drinking almond\soy milk for years.
    Enjoy your little ones.
    myriam recently posted…5 Things I Wish I’d Known About PRAYERMy Profile

  11. Talent Hounds

    Wow how scary. My younger daughter developed reflux and intolerances later- dairy is one of the problems. So glad you identified the problem quickly and found quite a few good ways to deal (I love cheese so that would be tough for me too).
    Talent Hounds recently posted…Dog Pushes other dog in swingMy Profile

  12. bex stark

    as someone who likes to make freezer meals for new moms, making them dairy free is such a HUGE tip for me, and one I would have never thought of. So glad things are going better for you!
    bex stark recently posted…life update 9/25My Profile

  13. Shannon Gauger

    It sounds like you did the right thing, glad you discovered it! I had a very fussy baby too and they thought he had reflux. I pumped and we bottle fed. The rock and play cradle was a LIFE saver for us! He’s such a cute baby!
    Shannon Gauger recently posted…Food and Fitness FridayMy Profile

  14. Crystal Green

    All of this information would have come in handy when I was TRYING to breastfeed my babies. However, NO one mentioned this as a possible reason for their discomfort. I was just told I couldn’t do it. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge with us.
    Crystal Green recently posted…Small Victories Sunday LinkupMy Profile

  15. Ronni @ The Screenwriter's Wife

    That’s a good idea for moms who make freezer meals before a baby is born to make some with low or no dairy! I did find that low-diary helped both my kids with BFing. I found that I didn’t need to all out eliminate all dairy from my life, but that even just cutting out milk, ice cream and yogurt still helped. That way I could still do cheese in small amounts and dairy cooked in things was also ok. I realize that won’t help everyone, but either way, I think the idea of making some freezer meals that are low or no dairy are a great idea, just in case. 🙂
    Ronni @ The Screenwriter’s Wife recently posted…GIVEAWAY: At-Home Date Night Subscription Box from Unbox LoveMy Profile

  16. Erin @ American Mom in England

    I think the most important thing Moms can do, no matter how they choose to feed their babies, is to pay attention to their little ones. I know that I was very lucky that I had no problems nursing my little one. Well done to you! Cherish your time – You’ve reminded me of a post I wrote long ago as we were nearing the end of our breastfeeding journey: http://americanmominengland.com/2009/10/21/a-tribute-to-love-you-forever/
    Erin @ American Mom in England recently posted…7 cookies, 1 doughMy Profile

    • mothersroad

      Yes, I am cherishing my time breastfeeding this baby. Thanks for sharing your post!!

  17. Linda

    My oldest had a dairy intolerance (he still does and he’s now 22 years old!) I love the idea of side-lying feeding, I never really thought of that to try and keep the milk down. We also use almond milk in our home, and find that it’s tasty and fills the place of milk very easily. Glad you got it figured out, those first few months are hard enough without digestive issues thrown in too!
    Linda recently posted…Five Things I LOVE About RomeMy Profile

  18. Julie S.

    This is really helpful information. It would be really hard for me to go dairy-free. I would really have to re-evaluate everything I eat. Though I tell you, I bet I could lose some weight if I stopped eating so much cheese lol. You did great figuring out how to help the little one and it is awesome that you saw such an improvement after stopping dairy. I wonder if the little guy’s intolerance will go away or if this is something that continues?
    Julie S. recently posted…Flying With Frozen Breast MilkMy Profile

    • mothersroad

      Yes, I hope the dairy intolerance will go away. (And yes, I did lose weight – back to my wedding day weight!!)

  19. Heather

    I went through something similar and I understand your pain. My little one suffers with eczema and there would be days it would be so sever that he couldn’t sleep. I noticed once I started juicing his skin cleared up. So I decided to cut dairy out and it has made a huge difference.
    Heather recently posted…What Does Serving Really Mean?My Profile

  20. Lerie

    How I wish I read this post when I was pregnant. I have a 19 month old and I am still breastfeeding him. My journey was so difficult it was such a shocker how difficult breastfeeding was. This post will definitely be useful to my pregnant friends and friends with newborns. Thanks!
    Lerie recently posted…The Journey of a ChallengeMy Profile

  21. c. lee

    it must be so difficult dealing with the allergies and intolerance. My husband still can’t handle dairy so we’ve been on soy and rice for as long as I can remember. Never really thought about having to adjust the mom’s diet for baby. Glad that this is a resource to help other moms struggling with dietary restrictions.
    c. lee recently posted…Smuckers snackation was great, now it’s back to schoolMy Profile

  22. Margaret in MN

    I’ve never had to go dairy-free while nursing my (7!) babies, but this is a very helpful post for those mamas that do. Thank you for sharing your insight and experience!

  23. Jen

    Way to go on continuing to breastfeed through challenges and making these changes for your precious baby!! This is such important information for parents. The symptoms of a dairy intolerance are subtle. It’s good to know how to identify. Go mama!!

  24. TJ

    You shared a lot of great info. I’m sure a lot of parents dealing with this issue would appreciate someone taking the time to share.

  25. Rebecca

    I experienced this with my first child. Of course since it was my first time at mommy hood and breastfeeding it took me awhile to figure it all out. We had some really bad days where she was miserable. The hardest thing for me to cut out was cheese. I love cheese! When she weaned off breastmilk we had to go with soy for several months. Eventually, she was able to drink cows milk without issue but she did have a sensitivity for a good amount of time.
    Rebecca recently posted…The Pressure to Make StridesMy Profile

    • mothersroad

      That’s hard when you have dairy sensitivity issues to figure out as well as first time mommyhood stuff! I’m glad your daughter is able to have dairy now!

  26. Crystal

    Last year I learned that I was allergic to dairy. I had to cut out all dairy products from my diet and it was hard! I miss cheese and yogurt the most! Occasionally I will slip up and have some ice cream or cheese but within 20 minutes I’m regretting it! Thanks for sharing these tips, especially the positions for feeding.
    Crystal recently posted…Let the Magic BeginMy Profile

    • mothersroad

      Yes – giving up yogurt was hard. I loved yogurt and fruit smoothies! And ice cream. But I’m glad there are almond milk and coconut milk options!!

  27. ChristyK

    I know you were definitely enjoying the sleep. 😉 And so glad to hear you learned what the problem was because it just made life that much easier! If the Lord blesses us with another I will keep this in mind. With my first, I had no problems except for the fact that she wasn’t gaining weight and so we had to supplement. But that was probably due to my c-section. Thanks for sharing!
    ChristyK recently posted…Stop and Taste Some Tea!My Profile

    • mothersroad

      Thanks Christy! Yeah, isn’t it tough when you are used to getting longer periods of sleep, and then all of a sudden your infant has sleep regression?