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Review of Plant Based Milks for Breastfeeding Moms

Updated: Nov 28, 2019



Hi there, mama!

I assume you're here for one of three reasons:

1. You are breastfeeding a baby with an allergy, sensitivity or intolerance to dairy

or

2. You are a breastfeeding mama who is vegan

or

3. Now that you're breastfeeding, it just feels plain weird to be drinking the milk of another species so you're looking for plant based alternatives!

Whatever the reason - I wrote this blog post for you after realizing there just wasn't a comprehensive plant based milk review out there that takes into account the specific dietary needs of us breastfeeding mamas and our babes!

You see, I've been in the business of dairy alternatives for a while now. As a Registered Dietitian and Lactation Counselor specializing in Lactation Nutrition, most of my clients either have a baby with food sensitivity or allergy issues or they are vegan or vegetarian and looking for guidance to make sure they are meeting all of their nutrient goals while breastfeeding.

Let's face it, having a 'safe milk' to drink that is also nutritious makes motherhood a bit easier. I mean, who's got time to fix fancy breakfast scrambles or granola muffins in the morning when you're running on 4 hours of interrupted sleep and are carrying a baby around everywhere you go? Not me.

Grabbing a quick bowl of cereal with dairy free milk, and topping it with some fruits and nuts can be a life saver at this stage! Dairy free milks are also great to have at hand for smoothies, or just as another way to stay hydrated! And of course, there's coffee...


(One of my Go-to's: Oatmeal with Dairy Alternative, topped with Walnuts, Blueberries, Strawberries & Flaxseed meal)

So, let's dive straight in:

A Review of Plant Based Milks for Breastfeeding Moms!

Disclaimer: I am writing this blog post for informational purposes only. Please discuss your or baby's individual medical concerns with your health care provider. Also, products and ingredients can change daily so make sure you read the ingredient list carefully and, if necessary, ask your doctor, before adding or removing any foods/food groups to your diet.

Almond Milk


Nutrition: C+

Taste: C

Cost: Low ($2 to $3 per half gallon)

Overall grade: B-

Pros: Budget friendly, widely available, low in Phosphorous, especially the unsweetened versions are low in calories and sugar. Calcium and Vitamin D may be added.

Cons: Very low in protein and fat, most 'cheap' versions are made with very few almonds per carton, some have a long list of added ingredients. Not suitable for nut allergies. Calcium and Vitamin D content varies between brands.

Nutrition Info (Silk Almond Original):

Calories: 60

Fat: 2.5 grams

Carbs: 8 grams

Protein: 1 gram

Calcium: 45% (added)

Vitamin D: 25% (added

Taste: I do not care for the taste of Almond milk too much, and especially the 'unsweetened' versions. To me, it is too bitter and too thin. It may work in coffee, a smoothie or for baking but not straight or in my cereal.

Verdict: I think there is too much hype over almond milk, when there are much better and more nutritious alternatives out there. I'm not blown away by its taste, and it doesn't have an ideal nutritional profile for breastfeeding moms (too little fat and protein). Most 'cheaper' versions of almond milk are made with very little actual almond in the product.

However, newer products are coming out such as Elmhurst Milked Almonds which is made with more Almonds per cup than other almond milks and therefore has more fat and protein and tastes creamier! It is also made without carrageenan and gums and suitable for most Elimination diets. However, it does not contain added Calcium and Vitamin D, so be sure to take your supplements!

Soy Milk


Nutrition: D

Taste: C

Cost: Low ($2 to $3 per half gallon)

Overall Grade: C

Pros: Soy Milk has more protein than most other dairy alternatives at a relatively low cost. It may have some health benefits for postmenopausal women or those suffering from heart disease, although this may not be your primary concern right now. Calcium and Vitamin D may be added.

Cons: Large amounts of soy milk may affect milk supply due to its isoflavone (phytoestrogen) content. Soy is the second most common food sensitivity in breastfed infants, so your baby may not tolerate it if he/she already has a dairy sensitivity. Low to moderate fat content. Too much soy can affect thyroid health. Soy may be a GMO (genetically modified plant). Most have a long list of added ingredients and the Calcium, Vitamin D and fat content varies by brand.

Nutrition Info (Silk Soymilk Original):

Calories:110

Fat: 4.5 grams

Carbs: 9 grams

Protein: 8 grams

Calcium: 45 % (added)

Vitamin D: 30 % (added)

Verdict: I do not recommend Soy milk while breastfeeding due to its phytoestrogen content and possible effect on milk supply. If you are looking for a dairy alternative that is high in protein, consider "Pea Protein Milk" or "High Protein Nutmilk" (see below).

Coconut Milk

Nutrition: C

Taste: C

Cost: Moderate ($4 per half gallon)

Overall Grade: C

Pros: Budget friendly, widely available, some with tree nut allergies may tolerate coconut as it is technically a 'fruit'. The taste is ok if you like coconut.

Cons: You'd think coconut milk has lots of fat, but the 'non canned' versions actually have very little fat and close to no protein. This is a big 'con' while breastfeeding as you and baby need lost of healthy fats and high quality protein. Canned coconut milk may be contaminated with BPA (or BPS if "BPA free"). Most have a long list of added ingredients.

Nutrition Info (So Delicious Original Coconut Milk):

Calories: 70

Fat: 4.5 grams

Carbs: 8 grams

Protein: <1 gram

Calcium: 10 % (added)

Vitamin D: 30 % (added)

Taste: If you are a fan of coconut, you might like coconut milk. However, I don't like tasting coconut in all of my smoothies and breakfast cereals so I'm gonna have to rate the taste a C-. I also think it is too thin and not creamy at all as you might imagine coconut milk to be.

Verdict: The nutritional profile as well as taste of Coconut milk doesn't blow me away. It has almost no protein or healthy fats and you're better off adding some shredded coconut to your morning cereal. I wouldn't recommend canned coconut milk, either, due to possible BPA (Bisphenol A) exposure through the cans. This harmful chemical can reach your breast milk, although breastfed babies are usually exposed less than formula fed babies. For more information on BPA and how to avoid your and baby's exposure, see here.

Rice Milk

Nutrition: D

Taste: C+

Cost: Low ($2 to $3 per half gallon)

Overall Grade: C+

Pros: very low allergenic potential, dairy, soy & nut free, budget friendly and widely available.

Cons: Very high in simple carbs, very low in protein and fat. Rice milk is a source of arsenic, which is a health concern for infants, especially if consumed daily. May have a long list of additives.

Nutrition Info (Rice Dream Rice Drink Original):

Calories: 120

Fat: 2.5 grams

Carbs: 23 grams

Protein: 1 gram

Calcium: 30 % (added)

Vitamin D: 25 % (added)

Taste: I guess I was expecting more of rice milk; to me it tastes very thin/bland/boring, almost like water. Did not care for it, although it was a bit sweeter and less bitter than some other milk alternatives I've tried.

Verdict:

I do not recommend rice milk while breastfeeding due to its arsenic content. However, if you must drink rice milk due to multiple allergies/sensitivities or for any other reason, consider making your own by using low arsenic (white) rice and rinsing it several times before you start the cooking process to reduce the amount of arsenic.

Flax Milk


Nutrition: B-

Taste: D

Cost: Low/Moderate ($3 per half gallon)

Overall Grade: C

Pros: contains some healthy fats. Very low in calories. Dairy, Nut & Soy free.

Cons: Flaxmilk is generally very low in (healthy) fat and protein because very little flaxseed is actually used to make it. The taste is terrible (in my opinion) and it may have a long list of additives.

Nutrition Info (Good Karma Flaxmilk Unsweetened):

Calories: 25

Fat: 2.5 grams

Carbs: 1 grams

Protein: 0 gram

Calcium: 30 % (added)

Vitamin D: 25 % (added)

Taste: Nope, nope, nope. This is my least favorite of all the dairy alternatives I've tried. It tastes bitter, it is too thin and tastes nothing like milk. Not for me. I'd rather add flaxseed to my cereal.

Verdict: Taste wise, flax milk is my least favorite of all the dairy alternatives. And although flaxseeds are very healthy, flax milk by itself doesn't contain much of anything. However, there are some 'combination' milk out there today such as Good Karma Flaxmilk + Protein which contains added protein in the form of Pea Protein Isolate, increasing its protein content to 8 grams.

Cashew Milk


Nutrition: B-

Taste: B-

Cost: Moderate to High ($3 to $6 per half gallon)

Overall Grade: B-

Pros: Creamier than most other nutmilks. Contains lost of 'natural' Vitamin E.

Cons: A bit low in protein and fat, and some brands have very little Calcium and Vitamin D. Some brands are pricey. Not suitable for nut allergies.

Nutrition Info (Forager Project Cashewmilk Original):

Calories: 70

Fat: 4 grams

Carbs: 8 grams

Protein: 2 grams

Calcium: 2% (other brands may contain 'added' Calcium)

Vitamin D: 0% (other brands may contain 'added' Vitamin D)

Taste: Cashewmilk is creamier than other milks. It therefore works well in coffee. However, the tastes didn't blow me away. I thought it was a bit too....salty/nutty?

Verdict:

Cashewmilk is an o.k. milk alternative, but the taste didn't blow me away. The nutrition part doesn't excite me, either. Too little protein, not a lot of fat. There are some good brands out there, such as Forager Project's Cashewmilks which are made with 'whole food' ingredients such as dates (as sweetener) and coconut cream (to make it creamy).

Hemp Milk

Nutrition: B

Taste: to be determined

Cost: High ($3 to $5 per quart)

Overall Grade: to be determined

Pros: contains healthy fats (alpha-linolenic acid and gamma-linolenic acid) and high quality protein.

Cons: Not available in most stores, usually only available as shelf stable product, most contain carrageenan and other additives. Protein content is a bit low while fat content is moderate.

Nutrition Info (Living Harvest Tempt Hempmilk Original)

Calories: 100

Fat: 6 grams

Carbs: 9 grams

Protein: 2 grams

Calcium: 30 %

Vitamin D: 25 %

Taste: To be determined!

Verdict: I haven't tasted hemp milk yet. Will update soon!

Oat Milk


Nutrition: B+

Taste: A+

Cost: High ($5+ per half gallon)

Overall Grade: A-

Pros: Taste wise, Oatmilk is a delight, especially the 'creamier' versions with added healthy fats (Oatly Original). The carbohydrate and protein content closely resembles that of human milk, and some even have added healthy fats increasing the fat content close to that of human milk. Oat milk is naturally sweet and usually doesn't have added sugar.

Cons: Not as widely available and can be pricey. Carbohydrate content is higher than most other milk alternatives. Protein content is lower than that of cow's milk.

Nutrition Info (Oatly Oatmilk The Original):

Calories: 120

Fat: 5 grams

Carbs: 16 grams

Protein: 3 grams

Calcium: 25 % (added)

Vitamin D: 20 % (added)

Taste: Amazing! I like the taste of oat milk better than cow's milk, although it's very close to it. The brand I buy (Oatly) is very creamy and has just the right sweetness and creaminess for that perfect bowl of cereal, or anything for that matter. The 'low fat' version is slightly less creamy.

Verdict: Taste wise, this is my favorite milk alternative! It is 'naturally' sweet without the need for added sugar and has a nutritional profile close to that of human milk. Some brands have added healthy fats, such as Oatly "The Original" Oatmilk with added "low eruct acid rapeseed oil". Oat milk is one of my fridge staples. The only downfall is the high price...

Pea Protein Milks (Ripple, Suja, Bolthouse)


Nutrition: A-

Taste: B-

Cost: Moderate to High ($4 to $5)

Overall Grade: B+

Pros: Pea Protein milks such as Suja, Bolthouse or Ripple are actually a pretty good source of protein! What's more, the protein is high quality protein from yellow peas. They are also dairy & nut free. They have a creamy consistency.

Cons: The taste is something to get used to. It is quite creamy - maybe a little too creamy for a bowl of cereal. Naturally, it doesn't have a lot of good fat (although some are enriched). Not available in every store and can be pricey. Cross reactivity is possible with peanut and soy allergies as peas are in the same 'legume' family.

Nutrition Info (Suja Organic Plant Protein Milk Original):

Calories: 80

Fat: 2 grams

Carbs: 9 grams

Protein: 8 grams

Calcium: 30% (added)

Vitamin D: 20 % (added)

Taste: It doesn't taste like peas, but it doesn't taste like milk either. Overall, I think the taste is ok - something to get used to. It's quite creamy, so great in coffee. In smoothies and cereal, I think you'd have to water it down a bit to make it less thick and for the taste not to overwhelm.

Verdict:

Pea Protein based milks are a good option if you are looking for a high protein milk alternative. They are quite creamy - much more so than regular cow's milk or other dairy alternatives. Naturally, pea protein milks don't have a lot of healthy fat, but some brands therefore have added fats. Ripple milks, for example, have added DHA algal oil (healthy DHA omega-3 fatty acids). Peas are a part of the legume family, and so are peanuts and soybeans so you may want to avoid pea protein based milks if you or your baby are allergic/sensitive to peanuts and/or soy.

High Protein Nutmilks


Nutrition: A

Taste: B+

Cost: Moderate ($3 to $4 per half gallon)

Overall Grade: A-

Pros: a hybrid between nut milks and pea protein milks, they offer the best of both worlds: healthy fats and high quality protein. They generally have a good amount of creaminess and a pretty good taste. They are becoming more and more available in stores and prices are reasonable.

Cons: Not suitable for nut allergies, and cross reactivity with peanut and soy allergies are possible.

Nutrition Info (Silk Protein Nutmilk Almond & Cashew):

Calories: 130

Fat: 8 grams

Carbs: 4 grams

Protein: 10 grams

Calcium: 45 % (added)

Vitamin D: 25 % (added)

Taste: Pretty good! What I was missing with regular nut milks - the creaminess - is what I found in these hybrid Protein/Nutmilks. They are not as overly thick as milks made from pea protein only, so that's also a win!

Verdict:

Taste wise, these protein-nutmilk hybrids are my second favorite (after oat milk). They are creamy - but not too creamy. They also have an excellent nutrition profile, and are high in both healthy fats and high quality protein! Most have added Calcium and Vitamin D, so they are about as close to cow's milk as it gets (if that's what you're looking for)! The price is also becoming more and more reasonable, and they are available in most stores.