Does your baby spit up often after eating or have weird, unexplained rashes? Do they get extra gassy or fussy after they feed? If so, you may wonder – is my baby allergic to breastmilk?
While natural breastmilk proteins are extremely mild and won’t typically result in allergies in your baby – this isn’t always the case.
Your baby may be allergic to the foods you eat, of which small amounts are found in your milk.
Because there is a possibility that what you are eating is getting into your baby’s milk and causing problems, it’s a good idea to learn more about milk allergies and sensitivities and what you can do to prevent them.
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What Is Breast Milk Sensitivity?
In some situations, the terms allergy and sensitivity are used interchangeably. However, they are quite different.
An allergy occurs when your immune system reacts to something (like food). Intolerances occur during the digestion process.
Usually, an allergy will have more severe symptoms, causing breathing and skin reactions issues. Food intolerance or sensitivity occurs when food can’t be digested easily and gastrointestinal symptoms.
If your baby has mild reactions after eating and is gassy and fussy, they are likely dealing with a breast milk sensitivity caused by something in your diet.
Common Milk Allergy Symptoms in Babies
Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to protect the rest of the body from a foreign protein. In adults and older children, the fight is “higher,” causing things like sneezing or a runny nose. However, for infants, the intestines are typically the battleground.
Some of the most common symptoms of a milk allergy in babies include:
- Excessive spit-up
- Slimy diarrhea
- Blood in stools
- Abdominal pain (grunting and crying)
- Eczema on the neck, elbows, and knees
- Wheezing or coughing
- Stuffy nose, runny nose, or watery eyes
- Swelling of the throat, tongue, or lips
If you notice any of these symptoms in your baby after they eat, it could signify a breast milk allergy.
It’s worth noting that the most common sign of food sensitivity in your baby is a change in their bowel habits. Constipation, diarrhea, bloating, more gas, and being fussy after eating indicate that the baby isn’t handling the foods you eat well.
If you have a baby who continues to cry excessively day after day for long periods, this may be colic rather than a food allergy or sensitivity. It’s a good idea to talk to their pediatrician about this.
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How to Properly Diagnose Your Baby’s Symptoms
After you (mom) eat a meal, the tiny proteins will make it from your belly to your breast in 30 minutes. The proteins can remain in the breast for several hours.
The most common food allergies for babies are soy and cow’s milk; however, some that are less common but still may occur include shellfish, eggs, wheat, citrus, and nuts. As you can see, babies are usually allergic to the same things that older people are.
Sometimes, your doctor will recommend that you go for a week without eating these common allergy causers (also called an elimination diet) to see if your baby’s symptoms worsen. It will typically take between three and seven days to notice a difference.
If things don’t get better for your baby, your doctor may start a food challenge. This is done to see if symptoms return. It usually happens in just one to two days.
If you find that your baby cannot tolerate your breastmilk and no changes you make seem to solve the problem, there are some alternatives to consider.
Formula is a smart alternative to breast milk. However, if you want to avoid the options sold in the store, you can consider organic formula or homemade formula. While these take more time, effort, and sometimes money, they are popular alternatives for some moms.
Goat milk has been touted as being the closest thing to your breastmilk. While goal milk is full of fat, it must be used carefully for feeding your baby. It does not contain folic acid and is also low in vitamin B12. Both are essential to the development and growth of an infant. The best way to compensate for these lacking nutrients is with nutritional yeast and other additives.
Another alternative is coconut milk, a non-dairy plant-based option that many parents use. It’s popular because it is full of lauric acid, which is found in breastmilk. This makes the milk easy to digest while strengthening the immune system. While this is another possible alternative, it does not contain calcium or other minerals and vitamins that infants need. As a result, you will have to add these in.
Dealing with a Breastmilk Allergy or Sensitivity in Your Baby
If you believe your baby has a sensitivity or allergy to your breastmilk, it is best to consult with their pediatrician. They can determine the cause of your baby’s symptoms and suggest treatments or remedies that may help.
You may also want to consider some of the breastmilk alternatives mentioned above. Each of these has benefits that make them worthwhile. Remember that you may have to add in certain nutrients to ensure your baby stays on track with growth and development. While this is true, there are options if you have a baby with a breastmilk allergy or sensitivity. Keep this in mind moving forward to make the best decisions for your little one.
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Related: How to Get Rid of Baby’s Hiccups