Following a milk-free diet while breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding and diet
When you are breastfeeding, it is important to follow a healthy diet that includes:
• At least 5 portions of a variety fruits and vegetables a day
• Starchy foods such as wholemeal bread, pasta, rice and potatoes
• Protein such as lean meat and chicken, fish (but no more than 2 portions of oily fish per week), eggs, pulses, soya and tofu
• Calcium-rich foods

During breastfeeding, calcium requirements are increased. Women need an extra 550mg of calcium every day to make a total daily requirement of 1250mg. Since cow’s milk and dairy products are major sources of calcium, it is important to ensure that you get sufficient calcium if you are following a cow’s milk-free diet as you may be at risk of deficiency.

Vitamin D
It is important to have an adequate intake of Vitamin D as it helps the body to absorb calcium from the food we eat. It is recommended that breastfeeding women take supplements containing 10 mcg Vitamin D every day.

Remember to check the label
EU law states that all foods containing milk, even in the smallest quantities, must have this clearly emphasised on their labelled ingredients list but manufacturers may choose how they do this. This includes all foods that are pre-packed, sold loose or served when you are eating outside of the home. It is important to remember to check the ingredients label of all the foods you purchase because many processed and prepackaged foods unexpectedly contain cow’s milk.

Avoiding cow’s milk in cooking
It is now easier to avoid cow’s milk in cooking and preparing foods thanks to the large number of milk-free versions of commonplace foods and ingredients available. Many supermarkets have their own ‘Free From Dairy’ range of products and you may also find it helpful to adjust your own recipes by using milk-free substitutes such as:

• dairy-free margarine
• fortified dairy-free ‘milk’ such as oat, almond, coconut, soya, rice and hemp
• dairy-free cream, yoghurt, custard and ice cream
• dairy-free cheese and cheese spreads

The following chart will also help you to follow a cow’s milk-free diet:

Don’t forget!
Since food manufacturers may change the ingredients in their prepackaged and ready-made foods always check the label of all the foods you buy. Some of the dairy-free ‘milks’ and products are great sources of calcium but they may also contain high amounts of sugar. Always look after your teeth by brushing them at least twice a day and be mindful of the different foods and drinks you eat containing sugar. Keep sugary foods and drinks to mealtimes to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Some of the organic milk-free foods available are not fortified with extra calcium. Read the label to ensure that you are choosing the version of foods and drinks that are fortified with calcium where possible.