I’m Breastfeeding. How can my baby be allergic to milk?

Your baby is not allergic to your milk. He or she is allergic to proteins from foods you eat or drink that get into your breast milk. If your baby has a milk allergy, keep in mind that your milk and cow’s milk are not the same. Human babies are designed to be perfectly nourished by human milk. Cow’s milk is perfect for nourishing calves. While both cow’s milk and human milk are sources of protein for growth and development, there are many fewer proteins in breast milk, and they are easier for human infants to digest. For example, cow’s milk has 2.7 grams of casein per deciliter of milk; human milk has 0.2 grams per deciliter.

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I heard that breastfeeding protects against allergies. Why is it causing an allergy instead?

Breastfeeding helps to decrease the severity of allergies that a child might have to the environment, particularly for children who have a family history of allergies. The cause of Allergic Proctocolitis is not well understood, but this type of allergy is less common than allergic reactions to formula.

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Should I Eliminate Soy?

Research has shown that about 1 in 3 (30%) infants who are sensitive to dairy proteins are sensitive to soy as well. This is because dairy proteins and soy proteins have a similar structure, and the infant’s body sometimes cannot tell them apart. If eliminating dairy does not lead to improvement in your baby’s symptoms after 1 or 2 weeks, try eliminating soy as well. Many doctors recommend removing both dairy and soy from your diet at the same time. Once symptoms have resolved, you may choose to eat something with soy protein and see if AP symptoms return. [Note: food challenges should not be done without a doctor’s approval. If there is any possibility of a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction, all food challenges must be conducted at a medical facility.

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All of the Milk I Pumped and Stored Has Dairy In It! What Do I Do?

If you cannot use your stored milk, you may be able to donate it to a non-profit that helps premature and ill infants. Residents of the US, Canada and Mexico can check the Human Milk Banking Association of North America website to find a non-profit donor human milk bank. According to the website, if there isn’t a non-profit bank in your state you can contact the bank closest to you and inquire about having your milk shipped to the bank. Costs of screening and shipping are typically covered by the receiving bank.

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I Have Been Supplementing With Formula. What Should I Do?

If you plan to continue supplementing your breastmilk with formula, you will need to switch to a hypoallergenic (extensively hydrolyzed) or nonallergenic (amino acid) formula. Your doctor can tell you which formula will be best based on your baby’s symptoms. These special formulas are expensive and not all babies like them. If you are interested in trying to exclusively breastfeed, a Lactation Consultant in your area can help you determine the best ways to increase your milk supply.

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I Haven’t Had Dairy for Weeks and My Baby Is Still Miserable!

If your baby’s symptoms do not improve after a week or two of a dairy-free diet, try the following:

  1. Check your usual foods carefully for hidden sources of dairy.
  2. Try eliminating soy along with dairy.Remember, soy protein hides in many processed foods, so read labels carefully.
  3. Return to your health care practitioner to discuss next steps.

Allergic Proctocolitis can be caused by any protein. After dairy and soy, corn and eggs are the most common causes. If you see no difference in your baby’s behavior or symptoms when you are eating dairy and soy and when you are not, you may be able to add those foods back into your diet and try eliminating something else. Some doctors may recommend a special kind of elimination diet, in which you eliminate all but a few low-allergy foods, and then add foods back one at a time and watch for a reaction. NOTE: Your health is important. If you plan to eliminate more than two foods from your diet, please work with a Registered Dietitian to make sure you are getting the nourishment your body needs.

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What About Milk from Goats and Sheep?

Most people who are allergic to cow’s milk will be allergic to goat and sheep’s milk as well.

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Will My Breast Milk Still Nourish My Baby?

Absolutely! Your body makes sure that your breast milk contains all of the essential nutrients, antibodies and other factors your baby needs to grow and develop. Even though you may feel your diet is missing something, chances are that you are getting all the nutrients you need from the foods you are still able to eat. Even in mothers who do not have enough food to eat, levels of micronutrients such as folate, calcium, iron, copper and zinc in their breast milk remain relatively high. A multi-vitamin is a good idea for all breastfeeding mothers, and taking 500 mg of Calcium twice a day with meals plus 1,000 to 2,000 IUs of vitamin D3 will help protect your bone health while you are avoiding dairy.

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Should I Switch to Formula?

Allergic Proctocolitis is not a reason to switch to formula. In fact, since special formulas are expensive and not always well received, breastfeeding is the least expensive, tastiest, and healthiest choice! Breastfeeding has been proven to be very important to your health as well as the health of your baby. Working with a Registered Dietitian can help make the elimination diet more manageable, and be sure to look into support groups on the internet. Please see Support Groups in the Resources section of this website. That being said, there are good reasons why not everyone can manage an elimination diet. If you need to switch to formula, talk to a doctor about which one is best for your baby.

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I Plan to Have More Children. Will They Have This Too?

There is no official data showing that Allergic Proctocolitis (AP) runs in families, but we know that other allergies do. There is no guarantee that your next baby will or will not have AP. If your next baby has AP, you will no doubt recognize the signs immediately and can start the elimination diet before symptoms get too bad. Some mothers choose to start the elimination diet near the end of their pregnancy and then add soy or dairy back into their diet when the baby is a few weeks old and watch for symptoms.

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Where Can I Go To Get More Information?

There are many websites, books, blogs, chat rooms and organizations out there that have great information and support. A sampling is listed in the Resources section of this site.

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