Is Your Breastfed Baby Allergic to Milk?

If your baby becomes gassy and irritable after nursing, he might be allergic to the dairy in your diet. Here's what you need to know about cow's milk allergies in breastfeeding babies. 

Sometimes babies get gassy and irritable. But if these symptoms often appear after feedings, he might have a negative reaction to something you’re eating. “Most moms are able to eat anything they like during breastfeeding and experience no issues,” says Molly Petersen, Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) at Lansinoh. But occasionally tiny food particles might “leak” into your baby’s bloodstream through nursing, and his immune system might overreact to these unfamiliar invaders, according to La Leche League International.

While plenty of foods can cause baby allergies, one of the most common culprits is cow’s milk. That’s because the protein molecules in dairy can trigger sensitivity. (Lactose isn’t a problem, since babies are made to digest lactose in human milk.) Here’s how to handle diagnose and treat a milk allergy in infants.

Is My Baby Allergic to Milk?

Babies often develop food sensitivities that come and go throughout their first year because of their immature immune systems. An infant might also have an allergy to certain trigger foods. These scenarios are especially common if you have a family history of food allergies, eczema, or asthma.

Symptoms of food sensitivity and allergies in babies include vomiting, diarrhea, sore bottom, abdominal pain, irritability, and rashes.

Consider visiting a pediatrician or a pediatric gastroenterologist. She will likely perform a Hemoccult test, which looks for traces of blood in your baby's poop. A cow's milk allergy can cause inflammation of the intestines, often leading to small amounts of blood.

mother and baby buying cheese in grocery store
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What to Do for a Baby Milk Allergy

If you suspect Baby has a cow's milk allergy, you can still breastfeed. You simply must eliminate dairy foods like milk, ice cream, cheese, and yogurt from your diet. This will avoid passing on the proteins that trigger the allergy.

Your baby should get better once the cow’s milk clears from your system in two or three weeks. If her condition doesn’t improve, though, consider eliminating other allergens (like soy, wheat, peanuts, and eggs) from your diet and see if that helps. Even if your baby's symptoms persist, most doctors agree that there's still no reason to stop nursing, since the benefits far outweigh a little intestinal inflammation in an otherwise healthy baby.

After Baby recovers, your doctor may recommend slowly starting to reintroduce dairy (unless she has a severe allergy). Simply stop again if the symptoms return.

You should also know that your baby likely won't be allergic to cow's milk forever; many kids outgrow it by age 5. Cow milk allergies are also different than lactose intolerance, which usually shows up in older children or adults.

Can Your Baby Be Allergic to Breast Milk?

Some moms may wonder if babies can be allergic to breast milk itself. According to Petersen, the general answer is no. “There are some extremely rare medical conditions that could cause a breast milk allergy, but it happens so infrequently, that this isn’t something mothers should worry about,” Petersen says.

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