Dear Dairy-Free Breastfeeding Momma:
To the moms who make milk but can’t drink dairy: I feel you.
Before having my first child, I was prepared to give up sleep.
I was prepared to give up weekends full of late nights out and sleeping in.
I was prepared to give up the hot coffee and long stints at the gym.
I was even prepared to give up going to the bathroom by myself.
What I wasn’t prepared to give up, though, was my long-term relationship with ice cream. Luckily, since trying Hudsonville Ice Cream‘s Dairy Free line, I’ve found that I can still enjoy this staple of summertime without sacrificing my dairy-free lifestyle.
The Sacrifices of Motherhood
For years, I’ve known that motherhood requires sacrifice. We are sharing our bodies with another human and we are working through morning sickness, a constantly changing figure, and hormonal roller coasters. We then wake at unheard of hours of the night to be with our babies as they learn day and night. We continue to live our lives, sacrificing for their benefit. However, I don’t remember seeing any movies growing up where the mom nearly loses it because she can’t have dairy and yet, this seems to be a fairly common part of motherhood for moms who are breastfeeding.
You want me to give up what?
As you can probably imagine, when my midwife for my first child recommended I ease into giving up dairy before my son was even born, I wanted to laugh and cry simultaneously. She discussed the rates of dairy intolerance in infants and said it can be tough for moms to make the switch quickly once the baby is born. I heeded her advice, dragging my feet but wanting to do all I could to set myself and my son up for success, and was able to carry on dairy-free from my third trimester until my son was nearly a year old. My husband was a trooper and was fine with no dairy in the house. We made a lot of our own alternatives and came up with some fun ways to make our favorites.
When I was pregnant with my second, I decided to play a little riskier. I decided that I would only cut out dairy IF she needed it, and wouldn’t do so before birth. As the mom of a toddler it was getting increasingly difficult to make everything myself and most of the store-bought alternatives I found for cheese and ice cream just didn’t fill my need.
Low and behold, the pediatrician said those words: “I think we need to try cutting out dairy to see if it helps her.” If you’ve been there you know the feeling. Of course, you’ll do it and see if it helps your little one feel better but oh, the mental and physical labor it can cause:
Altered meal planning
Reading all the food labels
More intention when going out to eat
Communicating with family and friends at a gathering
5 Tips for Being a Dairy-Free Breastfeeding Mom
I can’t take away all the woes for you, momma friend, but I can share a few tips that have helped me along the way in hopes of making this journey a little smoother for you.
Learn to read food labels
Talk with your doctor to learn what terms on a food label you should avoid. There may be dairy by a name you’re not familiar with. Also, you may find that your baby tolerates low amounts of dairy in which case you may be okay if it is an ingredient that is towards the end of the ingredient list. Women going dairy-free can be at risk for not taking in enough calories if they aren’t confident in what foods are acceptable.
Look at menus before going out to eat
Being dairy free doesn’t mean you can’t go out and enjoy someone else’s cooking. It means you have to be more intentional about it. Look at menus before going out and ask your server to confirm that there are no dairy ingredients. Ask for something to be specially made if necessary. This is not high- maintenance, it’s service and you’re taking care of yourself and your baby.
Share your decision with friends and family
People will most likely want to support you if they know what you’re doing and why. Share how being dairy-free helps your baby to feel better and don’t be afraid to ask before a gathering what the food choices will be. Bring your own alternatives so you can enjoy the party.
Have a tasty treat you can indulge in now and then
Naturally, we like to have treats we can enjoy. In the midst of raising an infant, these can be important breaks and mini vacations. Ice cream is my love language. Ice cream is also usually made from dairy milk. Thankfully, I still indulge regularly in my favorite treat. Hudsonville Ice Cream recently released a Dairy Free line and it is hitting all the marks for me. My struggle with dairy free ice cream is that it’s usually hard in consistency and lacking good flavor options, but Hudsonville has impressed me by keeping their Dairy Free ice cream smooth and creamy and offering all of the good flavors. Whatever way you indulge, give yourself some space to do so! (If you’re looking to grab some of Hudonville’s Dairy Free ice cream for yourself, you can pick it up at your local Meijer store).
Keep your mind on why you’re dairy-free and never sacrifice your own health
From my experience, there are times that committing to being dairy free can be tough. There are so many things to mentally, emotionally and physically juggle as a new mom and learning a new way of eating can be a big undertaking. Remember this is short-term and it is for your baby. However, if the stress gets in the way of your own mental health, never hesitate to talk to your doctor about it.
To the moms who make milk but can’t drink dairy: I feel you. We’re in this together. Let’s have an ice cream date soon.