When my daughter was born, my husband and I decided that she wouldn’t be given cow’s milk and dairy products for at least a year. The traditional Chinese medicine view of dairy is that it is “phlegmy” and difficult to digest, and I wanted to wait until Violet’s system was more mature before I gave any milk products to her. I’m glad we did. We might have saved Violet a lot of discomfort and reduced her risk of developing an intolerance to dairy as she grows up.
Here are a few reasons why it’s a good idea to consider a dairy-free diet for your baby for his first year:
- milk/dairy makes it harder for iron to be absorbed into the body, necessary for healthy growth and development, and necessary to avoid anemia
- the proteins in cows’ milk is much harder for baby to digest than breast milk
- baby receives less essential vitamin E
- baby receives fewer Essential Fatty Acids
- cows’ milk has too much sodium, taxing baby’s kidneys and leading to possible high blood pressure
After at least 6 months of breastmilk, what about feeding baby yogurt, cheese and foods that contain dairy? You can decide to start giving your baby things like baked goods that contain milk. Cooking food that contains milk helps break down the milk proteins that are harder to digest. Yogurt might be a decent addition too. Lactose and proteins are already broken down, and yogurt contains natural enzymes that are great for keeping baby’s natural intestinal flora (“good bacteria”) doing its job.
If you choose to go further, see if your baby likes cheese: you can serve it up either in tiny graspable squares or melted in something like a grilled cheese sandwich.
I found this site really helpful in learning about dairy for babies…
When I did start giving Violet dairy products, I started with raw goat yogurt. You will know the best decision for how long to breastfeed, but I strongly recommend breastfeeding for a MINIMUM of 6 months. After that, if adding dairy into your baby’s diet is your choice, then I recommend finding sources for raw goat milk products if possible instead of cow milk products. Milk and milk products in general are best in raw form, meaning they haven’t been heat-pasteurized; therefore the vitimins haven’t been stripped away and you’re getting what nature intended! Of course, getting your milk products directly from a local farmer is ideal, but many raw cheeses and lightly pasteurized non-cow yogurts are prevalent in supermarkets like Whole Foods.
The bottom line is that breastfeeding is the most recommended as your baseline nutrition source for baby for her first year, if it’s possible for you. (While we’re on the subject, take a look at this cool article about saving lives in Africa by encouraging mothers to breastfeed!)
Always be aware during breastfeeding that what you eat, baby eats. If baby is developing skin irritations, digestive upsets, or fussiness, don’t rule out the possibility that it may be an allergy of some kind. Dairy allergies have been linked to manifestations such as eczema and other skin reactions, fatigue, digestive issues, anxiety, and ADD/ADHD, among others. Finding out of your baby has a dairy allergy can be very important if you have food allergies that run in your family.
Milk and dairy products show up in a lot of ingredient lists in stealthy ways. Be sure that if you are a label-watcher, it might a good idea to keep these in mind if you are trying to avoid dairy, either for yourself or your little one:
- Acidophilus Milk
- Lactic Acid
- Malted Milk
- Potassium Caseinate
- Ready Sponge
- Sodium Caseinate
Elimination diets can be especially effective in finding out if your baby is allergic or has an intolerance to something in your breast milk.
This usually includes taking dairy, soy, wheat and possibly eggs and nuts out of your daily diet for at least 2 weeks and adding each one back in by itself for a few days to see how things affect both you and your baby. It’s a good idea to follow the 4-Day Rule for baby food.
Here’s an experience for you: my assistant, Andrea, tried an elimination diet for herself a few months ago – she cut out dairy, soy and wheat for 2 weeks, and then added dairy back in first. She had no problems with milk, cheese, or yogurt, but the next week when she had a soy milk/soy protein powder smoothie for breakfast (something she’d had before), she had intense stomach cramps and vomiting within about ten minutes! Clearly, no more soy for her! As well, she discovered a week later that eating wheat, especially in the morning, depleted her energy level considerably – she said after eating two bagels, she wanted to take a nap. You are what you eat, as they always say!