One of the most frequently asked questions on Instagram is about my daughter’s diagnosis of Cows Milk Protein Intolerance (CMPI) and tips for successfully breastfeeding.
In this post I wanted to share our story with Cows Milk Protein Intolerance and my tips for successfully breastfeeding with CMPI as a Nutrition and Psychology Practitioner.
From birth my daughter struggled with severe reflux and colic. My first baby was a content little one so having a child with reflux and colic (while my husband worked away via the mining industry) was a massive shock and struggle. I remember expressing to hospital staff that I felt something wasn’t right for my daughter 3-4 days after birth as she continued to vomit after every feed and she wouldn’t settle for more than 10 minutes at a time. I was told that she just had a little phlem from birth and that it would settle with time. It never did.
I reflect on the food I was served in the hospital after birth. Full dairy products and if it wasn’t dairy it was soy. While I didn’t consume a lot of dairy when my daughter was born, I still had a small amount here and there which was ultimately enough to result in the challenging symptoms that come with CMPI.
When we left the hospital her symptoms became progressively worse. She wouldn’t sleep unless upright.
A blessing in disguise was that I was heavily invested in the health and wellness space and I had heard about babies being intolerant to the protein in milk. Her symptoms prompted me to explore this further and to start a food and symptom diary so that I could assess* whether this was, in fact, a possible reason as to why she was struggling with colic and reflux.
*Please note that I encourage you to be guided by your chosen health care provider in any instance regarding your children and their health. It is important to avoid self-diagnosing as it is essential that your little one meets their nutritional needs as they grow. Please ensure you are seeking appropriate support at all times as sometimes reflux and colic can be a sign of something more serious.
I was able to identify that every time I ate a food containing cows milk, my daughter struggled with reflux and colic later that day or the following day. I knew I had her six week paediatrician review coming up so I trialled a period of eliminating dairy completely from my diet two weeks prior to this appointment. AND WOW, what a difference it made! Within two weeks her symptoms had reduced, she was sleeping longer, vomiting less, crying less and generally happier.
As mentioned above, while I am heavily invested in the health and wellness space I would never self-diagnose so I took my food and symptom journal along with my daughter to her paediatrician appointment and my doctor confirmed what I had suspected. It was highly likely that she was intolerant to the protein found in cows milk (aka CMPI).
It’s important to note my daughter is not allergic and there is a VERY big difference between an intolerance and allergic reaction. Her symptoms of intolerance (still to this day at 2 years old) are vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps – all symptoms that are not necessarily life threatening but also not symptoms I wish my daughter to experience.
Ever since I have minimised both her and my exposure to cows milk dairy while ensuring she continues to meet her recommended daily intake of calcium. She is thriving without cows milk and I personally enjoy the alternatives and have consumed very little dairy since this day (with the exception of my husband’s chocolate – of course).
As a nutrition practitioner and a mum I have a few tips that have helped us along our journey, both to make life easier and to ensure little ones still meet their nutritional requirements without cows milk.
IMPORTANT CHECK LIST:
- Have you consulted with a medical professional regarding your worries?
- Have you consulted with a health care provider regarding your/your child’s diet to ensure they are meeting their RDI of nutrients?
TIPS FOR BREASTFEEDING
If you are breastfeeding and your little one has CMPI there is an overwhelming sense of responsibility that sits with you. What you eat can have an impact on your little one (and subsequently on you if they are unsettled, won’t sleep or are vomiting regularly resulting in loads of washing).
It can feel overwhelming initially, especially if cows milk is a bigger part of your diet, as you do have to make some changes. But from my experience you can go on to successfully breastfeed with a few adaptions.
Here are my top tips to make it easier:
- Start a food and symptom diary, if you haven’t already. You can use THIS template or simply start your own diary on your phone or in a notebook. This will help you to identify any foods that might be triggering a reaction from your little one (and is helpful for you too if you struggle with bloating or any other symptom relating to food).
- Audit your pantry and fridge for any regular food items that contain dairy. This may take some time, especially if your little one is sensitive to milk solids in foods such as crackers. Make a list or take note of the items that contain dairy.
- Head to your local supermarket or health food store (sometimes health food stores are best when first starting out) and look for alternatives to the foods you usually eat. If you aren’t sure don’t be afraid to ask staff. Some examples might be swapping your greek yogurt for coconut yogurt, your cows milk in coffee for almond, rice, coconut or oat milk and your cheese for a dairy free alternative (thankfully there are lots of options).
- Make a list of dairy-free meals and snacks and stick this to your fridge. In my opinion, the journey feels easier when you can open the fridge and find yourself a snack easily. There is nothing worse than feeling as though there is nothing for you to eat.
- Ensure you regularly review your diet (alongside a health care provider if necessary) to check that you are meeting your RDI of nutrients. This is especially important when breastfeeding as you are not only providing for yourself but your little one too. If necessary, chat to a naturopath or nutritionist about a suitable supplement.
- If you do accidentally (or purposefully – hello chocolate) consume dairy, don’t worry. Take note of your little one and their symptoms. As they grow they may be able to tolerate small amounts of dairy on occasion.
- Remember that you are not alone! Look out for support groups or mums (like me) on social media or IRL that you can chat to about your little ones, food ideas and more. If you ever feel overwhelmed please reach out.
If you are considering formula or alternative milks please ensure you consult with a health care provider. There are some special formulas available on prescription that are easier for your little one to digest. There are also options such as goats milk formula (this is what my daughter transitioned to at the age of one, with the support of a naturopath) but these are not suitable for every child with an intolerance to cows milk. Standard milk alternatives are not suitable to replace breastmilk or formula, especially under the age of 12 months (they can be consumed in small amounts as part of meals etc).
WHAT ARE THE RECOMMENDATIONS?
One of the main concerns when consuming a diet free from dairy is CALCIUM. It is surprisingly easy to ensure you are meeting your RDI of calcium, but it is still important to take note and regularly review your diet alongside a professional (don’t forget about your own nutritional needs as a mum!).
The RDI for calcium in New Zealand and Australia are as follows (Source: NRV):
0-6 months: 210mg/day (this was set based on breastmilk so if you are exclusively breastfeeding your little one is likely meeting this requirement).
7-12 months: 270mg/day
1-3 years: 500mg/day
4-8 years: 700mg/day
Breastfeeding mums: 1000mg/day
My go-to calcium-rich green smoothie recipe:
- 1 cup (250ml) rice milk (enriched with calcium – Aussie Dream Brand): 275mg calcium
- 1 tbsp (20g) unhulled tahini: 156mg calcium
- 1 medium banana (frozen or fresh): approximately 5mg calcium
- 1 large handful spinach: approximately 99mg calcium per 100g
- 1 tbsp chia seeds: approximately 78mg calcium
- 2 tsp Morlife Greens Kidz (optional): 78mg calcium – use ‘krissy’ for 15% off Morlife products
Blend until smooth and creamy.
You can see how, with one smoothie, you can easily meet half of your recommended daily intake of calcium as a breastfeeding mother. You can also add smoothies like the above into your child’s day once established on solids to easily meet their calcium requirements.
Do you have questions? Was this helpful? Would you like more information like this? I’d love to hear from you!
For more SUPER easy, kid-friendly meals made using easy-to-find ingredients you’ll LOVE my new recipe book HER NOURISHED KIDS! Her Nourished Kids is available in printed and ebook format. It’s a must-have for any parent!
Learn more about Her Nourished Kids and my meal time success program for toddlers HERE.
Krissy Ropiha is a Certified Nutrition and Health Coach specialising in early childhood nutrition and a Psychology graduate (BScPsycHons). She is passionate about supporting, inspiring and empowering busy mums to take back control of their family’s health, get nourishing meals on the table in less than 30 minutes and achieve happy and successful family meal times.
Strive for nourishment, not perfection.