Ok mamas. This is it. The posting you’ve been asking for. Let’s talk dairy shall we?
Now I know that as a new mom (or new again mom) you want to make the best possible choices for your child(ren). Their health is your number one priority and you’ll do whatever you can to make sure you’re filling them up with all sorts of good stuff – and the occasional dinner of fishy crackers and Nutella, but I digress. I know you have lots of questions about what you should be feeding them and hopefully this answers some of those for you!
Let me preface this whole posting by saying that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of situation. You do you, boo.
When dealing with non-dairy milks, prepare yourself for some trial and error and the occasional sippy cup whipped across the room. Fret not; it will all work out in the end and you will eventually find what works for you and your little ones. Have patience, persevere, and drink red wine… because antioxidants. It’s practically a health food.
So what is dairy exactly?
Basically it’s anything that is made from animal milk: cheese, ice cream, sour cream, butter (although it’s a fat, it’s made from milk so it’s dairy), yogurt, anything containing whey, any baked goods containing milk or milk products… you get the idea.
I am personally not a fan of dairy. It’s not necessary for you to consume it in order to be healthy and many of us can’t actually tolerate it. We’ve just never given it up to see how we feel without it. I’m not about that preaching life but if you want to read a little more about my divorce from dairy you can check out this blog posting.
Back to you and your babies. Here’s the nitty gritty.
Do you need to give your baby dairy to keep them healthy? No, you absolutely don’t.
I, like you, grew up drinking dairy. I was told that it was good for me and would give me strong bones because it’s full of calcium. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that is also full of other stuff too like casein, which is known to cause allergies.
Not only that, but a large portion of the population actually has some sort of dairy intolerance. Gas, bloating and diarrhea are nobody’s friends.
When my son was small I gave him milk because that was what I knew. He always had terrible gas and I was never able to figure out why. I thought it was the type of bottle we were feeding him with. It was only when I started studying nutrition and eliminated dairy from his diet that things got better. Now he is 8 and hasn’t had milk in years. And in case you’re worried about his bones- he grows like a weed and is by far the tallest in his class. I make tall babies.
Fun fact: you can find calcium in tons of other places like nuts, seeds, beans and dark leafy greens.
Are there alternatives to dairy that you can feed them? You bet there are!
You will want to wait until your baby is at least a year old before going down the non-breast milk/formula road. Their little systems need to develop. We all know that nut allergies can happen and you want to make sure your baby isn’t ingesting anything they shouldn’t be.
Once you know that your little bundle of joy is good to go on the allergy front then the world is your oyster…or whatever the vegan alternative to an oyster is. Maybe a caper? The world is your caper.
You can make or buy your own nut milk – it depends on how adventurous you’re feeling. If you are not making your own milk at home there are a couple of things to look out for when buying it.
- Make sure your nut milk is fortified with calcium if possible. It is important for healthy bones, that part is still true. As I said before, you can find calcium in a lot of different foods. I like to throw a big ol’ handful of spinach in my son’s morning smoothie to cover my ass on the dark green leafy veggie part. Buying a fortified beverage allows for even more ass-coverage on your part.
- Make sure you’re buying an unsweetened one. Many nut milks contain added sugar – that shit is everywhere! Look for cane sugar in the ingredients and unsweetened on the label.
- Look for carrageenan on the label. It’s a preservative that you’ll want to avoid because if has been linked to chronic inflammation and can lead to heart disease and cancer. Luckily, there are lots of brands that don’t contain it.
- You also want to make sure that you’re filling your little one up with lots of healthy fats like avocado or coconut milk to make sure they’re little brains stay healthy. Nuts contain lots of healthy fat but because the nut milk is mainly water you’re not going to get a lot of fat in the milk itself.
Personally, I like to make my own nut milk because it is way creamier, tastes better and I know exactly what’s in it. This is the recipe I use, but in there I talk about using cheesecloth and a strainer. Don’t do that. It’s a terrible and messy idea. Bite the bullet and get yourself a nutbag. It’s the shit and you’ll never look back.
With anything new you’ll want to introduce a bit at a time to make sure there are no adverse reactions. Your baby’s health and safety are the number one priority so go slow and see what works best for you and your family. And as always, if you’re unsure about something speak to your health care professional, doctor or naturopath about your concerns.
And if you do your research and find that you want to stick with regular milk just make sure you are buying the best quality grass-fed milk you can find. Rolling Meadows is a good brand and they didn’t even pay me to say that!
If you’re still on the fence and feel like you need a bit more info, this website is the best resource I have found for all of your dairy-free needs: http://www.godairyfree.org/
Now go! Explore the dairy-free world and see what’s out there for you!
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Featured Image: Sculpture by Noriko Kuresumi