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Dairy-free Diet While Breast-feeding

author image Nicole Van Hoey
Nicole Van Hoey is a pharmacist and medical writer/editor in Washington, D.C. She has worked extensively on National Institutes of Health and trade pharmacy publications and is a contributing textbook writer on topics in infectious disease, nutrition and more. Van Hoey currently enjoys applying her drug information expertise to writings on women's health, complementary medicine and pediatrics.
Dairy-free Diet While Breast-feeding
Observing a dairy-free diet while nursing an infant is an alternative to formula. Photo Credit: oksun70/iStock/Getty Images

If you suspect you baby has a dairy allergy, as a nursing mother you are faced with two options: switching to an infant formula or avoiding dairy yourself while nursing. Because both your and your infant's nutritional needs must be met by the your diet, the nutrients from dairy must be replaced from other food sources to ensure good health for you and your baby.

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Dairy Replacements

Soy products are a common replacement for dairy.
Soy products are a common replacement for dairy. Photo Credit: caroljulia/iStock/Getty Images

When dairy is eliminated from your diet, soy products are common replacement options. Soy milks, cheeses, yogurts and ice creams typically do not contain casein or whey, the two allergenic protein parts of dairy milk and cheese. If soy avoidance is recommended as well, rice products can replace dairy. Rice-based cheeses, however, may contain small amounts of milk proteins, so if you are breast-feeding you must check ingredient lists carefully for casein or whey.

Vitamin and Mineral Sources

Dairy free diets can meet nutritional needs as well as diets including dairy.
Dairy free diets can meet nutritional needs as well as diets including dairy. Photo Credit: shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

With attention to food intake, dairy-free diets can meet nutritional needs at least as well as diets that include dairy. Important vitamins like D from fortified dairy products are also added to soy products; vitamins B and C can be obtained from green vegetables and citrus fruits. Extra calcium intake from almonds, figs, spinach and some fish is essential for your baby's growth and for your own bone health. Whole grains and beans or nuts ensure proper levels of zinc and phosphorus as well.

Hidden Dairy Sources to Avoid

Avoid hidden sources of dairy.
Avoid hidden sources of dairy. Photo Credit: dziewul/iStock/Getty Images

In addition to avoiding milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream, if you are breast-feeding you must avoid hidden sources of dairy. Casein and whey can be found in processed snacks, such as cookies and crackers; in baked and frozen pasta meals; and in granola bars, cereals and many more grocery items. Contamination of non-dairy items, such as deli-sliced meats, that come in contact with dairy products, such as sliced cheeses, may cause an allergic reaction in extremely sensitive infants.

Adequate Calories and Fat

Increase your intake of tofu and soy products and of nuts and beans.
Increase your intake of tofu and soy products and of nuts and beans. Photo Credit: Katie Nesling/iStock/Getty Images

According to, breast-feeding mothers require, on average, an extra 500 calories each day to provide the body energy to nurse an infant and an extra 15 grams of protein each day for adequate nutrition of mom and baby. Removing dairy from the diet takes away calories, fats and protein from both people. Protein stores can be met by increasing your intake of tofu and soy products and of nuts and beans. Nuts provide fatty calories as well. Eating a well-rounded diet with at least five servings of fruits and vegetables will help you stay healthy while breast-feeding on a dairy-free diet.

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