Meal Plans & Recipe Ideas for Your Dairy-Free Baby or Tot
Some babies and toddlers are not able to tolerate dairy, whether from a lactose intolerance or a cow’s milk protein allergy.1 Knowing what foods and beverages to feed your little one while avoiding dairy can help make sure they are getting the nutrients needed for growth and development.
When do babies need to avoid dairy?
If your breastfed baby has been diagnosed with a cow’s milk protein allergy or lactose intolerance, you can likely continue to breastfeed as long as you eliminate sources of dairy from your own diet.23 Continue to work with your or your child’s health care provider as you eliminate sources of dairy.
Be sure to always read all foods labels to see if there are any dairy ingredients in the product you purchase.
Formula Fed Baby
If your formula fed baby has been diagnosed with a cow’s milk protein allergy or sensitivity to lactose, you will likely need to choose either a low lactose or lactose-free formula, or a formula that does not contain intact cow’s milk protein.4
Always speak with your child’s health care provider before switching formulas.
Once your baby begins to eat solids, look at labels carefully to avoid dairy ingredients. Read on for information, tips, and meal ideas.
For more information on lactose intolerance versus a cow’s milk protein allergy, check out this article:
Making sure your child gets the right nutrition while eliminating dairy
Dairy foods provide several important nutrients, including protein, calcium, and vitamin D (which is often fortified, or added to, dairy products).5 When eliminating dairy, it is necessary to incorporate other food sources (in the texture your baby is ready for) that are rich in these particular nutrients.6
Food sources of calcium: Fortified plant-based milk alternatives, fortified orange juice, canned sardines and salmon with bones, fortified dairy alternatives such as a non-dairy yogurt, tofu, soybeans, spinach, kale.8
Food sources of vitamin D: Salmon, fortified plant-based milk alternatives, fortified cereals, eggs, canned light tuna, portabella mushrooms, and sunlight.9
Food sources of protein: Fish, poultry, meat, beans, legumes, peas, nuts, seeds, tofu, eggs, whole grains.
Read more: Protein: Getting Enough and the Best Sources
Offer a wide variety of dairy-free foods to your child
It’s important to know that there are plenty of other foods that do not contain dairy. Offer these foods often as long as your child is not allergic to them. All whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, poultry, fish, and eggs are dairy free. Be sure to feed your child a wide variety of these foods to help meet their nutrient needs.
Search out non-dairy alternatives
Non-dairy alternatives can be used for a child with a lactose intolerance or allergy, such as plant-based milk alternatives and plant-based yogurt alternatives. But it’s important to note that not all of these products have the same nutrients as their dairy equivalent.1
If you do choose a plant-based milk alternative, such as almondmilk or oatmilk, be sure the product is fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Note that plant-based yogurt alternatives often have more added sugar and less protein than regular yogurt. Read nutrition fact labels and ingredient lists to ensure you’re providing your little one with foods that best meet their nutritional needs.
*While a plant-based milk alternative can be used in small amounts in baked or cooked foods, or plant-based yogurt alternative can be provided as a snack or part of a meal, babies under the age of 12 months should not be given cow’s milk nor a plant-based milk alternative to drink by the cup-full.11
These drinks do not contain all the nutrition your baby needs, and adding them in by the cup may take up valuable space in your baby’s tummy – edging out more nutritious foods, formula, and/or breastmilk.
Read more: What Type of Milk Should My Toddler Drink?
Reach out to your child’s healthcare provider
If you suspect that your child has lactose intolerance or a cow’s milk protein allergy, call their healthcare provider immediately for further support.
Wondering what might be the best choice for your baby or tot? Reach out to our team of registered dietitian nutritionists and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am - 6pm (ET). Chat Now!
Some babies and toddlers will react to dairy ingredients that are “hidden” and not so obvious.10
Hidden dairy may be found in foods like breads, cereals, crackers, pancakes, waffles, soups, sauces, toppings, dressings, and deli meats. It’s important to read labels and avoid any foods that list “contains milk or milk ingredient.”10
Meal Plan and Recipe Ideas for your Diary-Free Baby and Tot
The below meal plan, snack, and recipe ideas will help you choose the right foods for your baby when progressing from mostly single purees to more advanced textures and finger foods, while also excluding dairy.
Be sure to check all labels for both obvious and hidden sources of dairy.
Option 1: Scrambled eggs, clementine
Option 2: Dairy free yogurt such as soy, coconut, or almond, with sliced berries
Option 3: Strawberry Quinoa Cereal for Baby
Option 4: Whole grain French toast fingers with nut butter* and 100% fruit spread
Option 5: Banana pancakes (combine 1 ripe banana, 1 egg and 2 tbsp. whole wheat flour. Cook 3 minutes on each side over medium heat)
Option 1: Whole grain tortilla strips with mashed avocado dip
Option 2: Tuna sandwich cut into quarters, side of sliced peaches
Option 3: Chickpeas with soft cooked carrots
Option 4: Cubed and roasted butternut squash, with turkey slivers
Option 1: Black beans with soft cooked peppers
Option 2: Whole grain pasta with ground turkey, marinara, and roasted veggies
Option 3: Baked fish fingers with cubed and roasted sweet potato
Option 5: Lean hamburger cut into pieces with baked zucchini fries
Option 1: Soft cooked veggies with hummus
Option 2: Warm Peach Chunks with Nutmeg
Option 3: Hard-boiled egg, diced
Option 4: Fruited dairy free yogurt such as coconut, soy, or almond
Option 5: Applesauce mixed with small amount of nut* or seed butter
*Speak with your baby’s pediatrician before introducing allergenic foods
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionist certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am - 6pm (ET).Chat Now!
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Our meal plans offer recipe and meal suggestions for your child. They are not designed to replace your doctor’s recommendations, nor do they take into account special nutritional needs, including allergies and intolerances, other than lactose intolerance and a cow’s milk protein allergy. The meal plans suggest serving sizes that may or may not be appropriate for your child. Please consult your doctor to determine what is best for your child.