Babies, breast milk, and allergies

You’re the love of Baby‘s life right now, but if your Baby is nursing, breast milk is a close second. Without a doubt, breast milk (or formula) is the best thing for Baby at this age. While babies aren’t typically allergic to their mother’s breast milk, some babies can have a reaction to certain foods or drinks that get passed through breast milk. It’s not common, and it absolutely doesn’t cancel out all the wonderful benefits that come from breastfeeding. But it’s good to know this is possible in case you notice any allergy-like symptoms in Baby after they breastfeeds. 

The usual (allergy) suspects

Cow’s milk is the most common allergen for adults and children alike, because dairy products contain a number of proteins that can potentially trigger an allergic response in a sensitive baby. Some other foods that might trigger a response include eggs, wheat, corn, fish, peanuts, and cabbage.

What’s a breastfeeding mom to do?

You can take the following steps to keep Baby allergy-free.

  • Keep up the good work breastfeeding! Exclusively breastfeeding Baby in their first few months lowers their risk of food allergies, even if you have a family history of allergies. You’re helping keep Baby‘s immune system strong and healthy!
  • Know the signs of an allergic reaction. If you notice any signs, you can contact your child’s doctor as soon as possible. Signs of an allergic reaction include colic, skin rash, vomiting, severe diarrhea, difficulty breathing for a few hours after breastfeeding, and signs of abdominal discomfort.
  • If you have a family history of allergies, consider limiting certain foods. Unless your provider recommends this, it isn’t a necessity, but it might not hurt to steer clear of dairy products and other commonly-allergenic foods while breastfeeding. 

Allergies vs. sensitivities

Food sensitivities are more minor than food allergies, and symptoms tend to disappear in under 24 hours. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if a baby cries, fusses, or nurses more often after their mother eats certain foods – especially ones that are spicy or typically gassy – this could indicate a food sensitivity. Pay attention to any signs, and if you notice them, experiment with cutting the food out of your diet for a while to see if symptoms go away. If any symptoms continue, talk to your child’s pediatrician.

  • “Infant Allergies and Food Sensitivities.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, Nov 21 2015. Web.
  • Zeretzke, Karen. “Allergies and the Breastfeeding Family. ” New Beginnings. (15)4: 100. Web. Jul-Aug 2008.
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