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A dairy free guide for Mummas and Bubbas

From a NMSG Mum who has been through the journey of navigating going dairy free with her baby, here are some words of wisdom and helpful tips from her experience to share with you.

Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) can be a daunting diagnosis for parents and throw up so many questions.

This article sets out to soothe some of your worries. Please note, it is important to seek advice from a Paediatrician to confirm diagnosis, and potentially also a Paediatric dietician if you are in need of more in-depth dietary advice or monitoring.

CMPA is one of the most common childhood allergies, affecting 7% of babies under 1, the majority of which grow out of it. The treatment until then is to ensure your child’s diet is cow’s milk free, which usually also extends to Mummy’s diet if breastfeeding. So this includes cutting not only milk, but also butter, cheese, yoghurt, cream and milk chocolate.

Eventually, when and if they feel it is appropriate, your Paediatrician or Dietician will guide you through a process called the ‘milk ladder’, which gradually introduces cow’s milk protein back into your child’s diet while monitoring symptoms.

Will this affect my baby’s nutrition?

There will be some adjustments, but your baby will still get all the nutrients they need from their diet. Seek advice from a Dietician to ensure you have this covered. You may also be advised to give your child a multi-vitamin supplement, just to be sure, however this is usually advised for babies without allergies also.

Will my baby still get enough all important calcium?

The simple answer is yes, with a little bit of monitoring.

Breast-fed babies pre-solids: Even if Mummy excludes all cow’s milk from her own diet, baby will still get the right amount of calcium through breastmilk. However, Mummy’s own calcium levels will deplete because of this, which risks onset of osteoporosis. It is therefore important for Mummy to take a daily calcium supplement. Please speak to your doctor or dietician for further advice.

Formula-fed babies pre-solids: Most CMPA formulas contain calcium, check this with your Paediatrician or whoever prescribes it.

Babies on solids: Calcium can be obtained from many other sources, including sardines (300mg in 60g), white bread (75mg in 1 slice), wholemeal bread (50mg in 1 slice), kale (150mg in 100g), and broccoli (36mg in 2 spears). Extensive lists are available from your dietician or online, please use a valid dietary association. Always ensure the meal is prepared appropriately for your baby’s age, for example purees for younger babies.

Babies over 1: At this point you can introduce other non-dairy milks outside of breast or formula milk, some of which contain calcium, so you may wish to select one of these as another calcium boost. Yoghurts with added calcium do exist, but at the time of writing these options were not available in Singapore.

Please seek advice from your Paediatrician or Dietician about the right amount of calcium appropriate for your child’s age so you can ensure this is met.

Do I need to adjust all of my home cooking to dairy free recipes?

You can use all of your usual recipes with ingredient substitutes. There are some fantastic cow’s milk free alternative products out there, meaning your child still gets to enjoy the flavour and texture of things like cheese and yoghurt. This can make life easier when cooking the same meal for the whole family as well, everyone can switch to these products without noticing too much of a difference, and not feel like they are missing out on what they are used to. It may also help your child accept and enjoy these foods when re-introduced to their diet. See below for a list of alternatives to recipe ingredients.

What products are available in Singapore?

There are many products available, below are just a select few. You will find other options in several places, including Fairprice, Cold Storage, Little Farms and the Lazada/Redmart app (note availability is accurate at time of writing and may change). Ice cream, chocolate and biscuit options are included for Mummy!

Other tips:

  • If you aren’t exclusively breastfeeding and using formula, an alternative will be prescribed. CMPA formula has a less than desirable smell and taste to us adults, but most babies take it well. They may resist at first because it is a change from what they are used to. You can try mixing it with some pumped breast milk if you happen to be also breastfeeding or are weaning from breast milk to formula. For example, you could try a 50:50 mix then gradually reduce the amount of breast milk if you wish.

  • For breastfeeding Mum’s who have also been advised to cut cows milk from their diet, remember that if you have pumped and frozen any breast milk prior to cow’s milk being completely out of your system, unfortunately this cannot be given to your baby.

  • When eating out, explain to your waiter that your meal cannot contain anything with cows milk in, such as milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt or cream. It feels long winded to say it but it is sometimes poorly understood. If you say dairy free they often think you also cannot have eggs, or don’t consider the other listed products. Good options for eating out with easy cows milk free options include Prive, Little Farms, and most restaurants serving South East Asian food. Be reassured that eating out with this dietary restriction is not difficult in Singapore.

  • It’s understandable to become anxious about a CMPA diagnosis, but try not to be. Once into your flow of finding good replacement products, try your best to relax into it and not make your child over aware of any differences between them and others. The last thing you want is for this to create any issues with them and their food. When visiting friends and family, let them know about the allergy if you wish, and take appropriate snacks for your child so that if food is offered that they can’t have, they don’t feel left out.

  • Always check food labels for products that may contain milk, allergens are usually in bold.

  • Most major chain food outlets provide tables of allergen information online.

And last but not least, but most importantly:

  • Social Kitchen restaurant at Jurong Bird Park has dairy free Magnums, yay!

  • Subway is an easy fast food option on grab food delivery, just select ‘no cheese’ and avoid any other dairy products when selecting your fillings

  • Kind Kones on grab food delivery is an all vegan dessert menu, everything is delicious and they also do larger cakes for special occasions

  • Oreos and Lotus biscuits are widely available and don’t contain any cows milk, yippee!

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