Author: Belinda Martin, Accredited Practising Dietitian | ALLERGY DIETITIAN
My Baby has Cow’s Milk Allergy. How do I know she is getting enough Calcium? This is one of the most common questions we get asked. With the rise in allergies, more and more mums have been told to not only cut dairy out of baby’s diet but also their own diet if they are breastfeeding. The good news is that if you are breastfeeding baby, breastmilk is so amazing and dynamic that it changes to baby’s needs over time and bub only needs a small amount of calcium especially whilst they are under 12 months age. Even if you are formula feeding your bub or mix feeding, all commercially produced infant formula products available in Australia and New Zealand must comply with the composition and safety requirements outlined in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. Standard 2.9.1 of this code specifies the mandatory nutrient content for infant formula and follow-on formula to ensure that the nutrition requirements of infants aged up to 12 months are met. So bottom line, if your bub is under 12 months, they tend to be getting enough calcium.
However, the average breastfeeding mum needs 1000 mg/ day of calcium which usually equates to 2 ½ -3 serves of dairy per day. BUT if you can’t have dairy, this is very hard to meet. Firstly, you need to choose a milk alternative such as soy milk, pea milk, rice milk, oat milk, almond milk that has been fortified with Calcium and aim to choose one that has 120mg/100mL. Now let’s do the maths. This means you would need to drink in the vicinity of 800 mL of a fortified milk alternative to meet your calcium requirements; which if you are needing 4-5 flat whites to get through the day, this can be achievable! Alternatively, you could chow down on 15 cups of broccoli per day to meet your calcium requirements! Of course, there are some other foods that contain small amounts of calcium such as almonds or salmon with bones, but my point is you would need to eat a lot of these foods to get the equivalent amount of calcium as a cup of milk. As dietitians we are all for you trying to obtain as much nutrition from food first before you entertain the idea of supplements, but sometimes in this situation you may need a little help with a combination of diet and a calcium supplement to meet your requirements. We can help you with this.
In practice we also find that breastfeeding mums who cut out dairy from their diet for their baby’s cows milk allergy (BAM – that’s the sacrifice of motherhood right there!), tend to lose a lot of weight too fast and are so HANGRY! A simple way of looking at your calorie requirement when breastfeeding is you need the equivalent to an extra meal in the day plus your protein requirement goes up about 50%. When you completely cut dairy out of your diet, there goes a whole heap of calories, protein and of course calcium! A way to get around this is to try to make sure you include protein foods such as egg, meat, fish, chicken, lentils, at lunch and dinner and try to include dairy free high energy snacks at morning tea and afternoon tea.
If your baby is over 12 months, their calcium requirements increase to 500 mg/day which is about 400 mL of breastmilk, formula or a calcium fortified milk alternative. However, the calcium fortified milk alternatives tend to be very low in protein and fat. So, if your little one has a cow’s milk allergy, extra thought needs to go into their meals to make sure they get enough calories and protein to grow. This is where we come in. For more individualised advice, , book in to see us and we can help you make sure you and bub are meeting your nutrition needs during this tricky time. If you follow us, you may know my baby had a cow’s milk allergy and I had to eliminate dairy from my diet when he was breastfeeding. He absolutely refused to take the bottle, so I breastfed on a dairy free diet for 20 months and boy did I miss my cheese and chocolate! I’m happy to say that he has grown out of it now at 2 ½ years and I’m back to eating tim-tams when the kids are finally in bed!
About the Author
Belinda Martin is a Perth Dietitian specialising in paediatric nutrition, infant nutrition, allergies and pregnancy nutrition. She is the co-founder of Advanced Dietitians Group and loves working with people and families. She has been a dietitian for 20 years. She has worked as a Senior Dietitian and Paediatric Dietitian in various teaching hospitals in Western Australia and the United Kingdom. When she is not working, she is trying to tame a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old (and a 40+ year old) at home.
About Advanced Dietitians Group
Advanced Dietitians Group was founded in 2014 by Belinda Martin and Ingrid Roche, Perth dietitians with a combination of over 40 years’ experience in the industry. Both dietitians have a range of experience across the lifespan but specialise in paediatric nutrition, pregnancy nutrition, infant nutrition and allergies. They provide up to date evidence-based nutrition advice. This coupled with their wealth of experience in dietetics ensures you get the best possible nutrition service. They get a buzz out of helping their clients and their families.