Is Your Breastfed Baby Allergic to Dairy?
Your baby can have symptoms of Dairy Allergy/Cow’s Milk Allergy even if you are exclusively breastfeeding and not directly feeding your baby any dairy.
Firstly, your breastfed baby is never allergic to your breastmilk, so you don’t need to wean your baby. However, your baby may be upset by dairy in your diet, as large protein molecules from cow’s milk pass through your Breast Milk. It’s these protein particles that can affect sensitive babies.
Symptoms of dairy allergy in babies
Cows’ Milk Allergy in babies may cause symptoms including:
Digestive problems – such as stomach cramps, bloating, colic, nausea, vomiting, reflux, diarrhoea (with mucous or specs of blood in the poop) or constipation. These symptoms can result in poor weight gain.
Skin reactions – such as swollen or itchy eyes, eczema, various itchy rashes.
Respiratory symptoms – such as wheezing, runny or blocked noses.
Sleep disturbances – although any of the above symptoms (for whatever reasons) can disturb your baby’s sleep and cause frequent waking, eliminating dairy from your own diet and your baby’s (if he is eating family foods) could help you get more sleep.
In one study at a UK sleep clinic, 12 per cent of infants who presented with persistent night-waking for which no other causes were found, were taken off all milk products when cow’s milk intolerance was suspected. In most of these children, sleep normalised within five weeks: before intervention, babies had slept an average of 5.5 hours every 24 hours. After cow’s milk was removed, babies were sleeping an average 13 hours, with night-time awakenings falling to nil or once per night. A subsequent milk challenge (double blind) induced the reappearance of insomnia and, after a year, when the challenge was repeated, all but one child reacted as before.
(Other medical causes should be ruled out for any of these symptoms)
Occasionally, dairy allergy can cause severe allergic symptoms that come on suddenly, such as swelling in the mouth or throat, wheezing, cough, shortness of breath, and difficult, noisy breathing. It’s important that a severe allergic reaction (Anaphylaxis) is treated as a medical emergency – call 000 (in Australia).
What can you do if you suspect your baby has a dairy allergy?
If you suspect your baby is sensitive to the cow’s milk protein in your diet, your first call should be to get your baby checked by your GP or paediatrician to rule out any illness or medical conditions that could be causing any of these symptoms.
Also consult an IBCLC Lactation consultant for a full feeding assessment as some of these symptoms such as gut issues and runny, mucousy bowel motions could be a symptom of lactose overload, rather than an allergy. This can be simply corrected by small changes to your baby’s feeding style, rather than imposing unnecessary dietary restrictions.
Eliminating Dairy Foods
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, you can remove obvious dairy products (milk, yoghurt, cheese, cream, and ice-cream) from your own diet (butter is dairy fat, not protein, so you may be able to consume it) and see if it makes a difference. Some babies will respond well to this simple elimination process, however if you have a more sensitive baby, you will need to read labels on all foods to make sure you eliminate all traces of ‘hidden’ dairy from your diet.
It can take from 10 days to three weeks for all traces of cow’s milk protein to leave your system, so it’s best to wait around three weeks before you evaluate whether a dairy-free diet is helping or not. Or, whether your baby may be reacting to other foods or elements in your diet.
If your baby is drinking any formula, whether you have weaned or are offering top-ups, if this is dairy based, it could be causing symptoms. Some babies are also sensitive to other animal milks – such as goat’s milk – and soy formula, so seek medical advice about appropriate hypoallergenic or non-dairy based formula options.
Gluten, Dairy and Soy Free Boobie Bikkies - We have specifically formulated this line of specialty bikkies to support breastfeeding mothers and their babies who may have allergies or sensitivities to dairy products, soy or gluten. Our Coconut, Date & Seed Boobie Bikkies® have been lab tested to ensure no traces of gluten have been detected so you can be sure that you are eating a delicious snack while controlling your exposure to your sensitivities.
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How long do I need to eliminate Dairy from my diet?
Most babies will outgrow a dairy intolerance as they grow, so some mothers will reintroduce dairy into their own diet as their baby is eating a more varied diet of family foods; others eliminate dairy foods until their baby is weaned. Watch your individual baby and see if he has outgrown his sensitivity by gradually introducing small amounts of dairy into your diet before you offer any dairy foods to your little one.
If you are concerned about your own nutrition or feel you need to eliminate a variety of foods from your diet, check with a dietician or naturopath for advice to maintain your own health.
As you eliminate dairy from your diet while you are breastfeeding, you don’t need to worry about impacting your milk supply or your baby’s nutrition. Despite old wives’ tales, you don’t need to ‘drink milk to make milk’. Your body will take whatever nutrients from your body stores necessary to make perfect breast milk for your baby. However, because your baby is getting ‘first dibs’ on nourishment from you, it’s helpful to add more calcium rich foods to your diet by eating sesame seeds/tahini, green leafy vegetables, almonds, Brazil nuts, canned sardines and salmon with soft bones.