Tuesday, March 12, 2013


The number of women worrying about allergies in their breastfed babies has risen exponentially.  Babies that cry too much, babies that have eczema and babies that appear to have an overload of nasal mucus are all contenders.  Mothers today are well informed.
Cow’s milk products are the most common problem foods mothers ingest that cause a reaction of fussiness and gassiness in babies.  Eggs and peanuts are the second and third most common products that may cause problems, and soy is nothing to sneeze at either (pun intended).  Many infants are considered to have MSPI (milk, soy protein intolerance).  Rounding out the list of possible problem foods would not be complete without including wheat and corn.
 Other food allergy reactions may include: “ rash, hives, eczema, sore bottom, dry skin; wheezing or asthma; congestion or cold-like symptoms; red, itchy eyes; ear infections; irritability, fussiness, colic; intestinal upsets, vomiting, constipation and/or diarrhea, or green stools with mucus or blood” (www.kellymom.com/health/baby-health/food-sensitivity/  The more a mom eats, the more severe the reaction may be.
            I always feel badly when I ask a mother to stop eating dairy; it’s such a woman-diet.  Milk in the breakfast latte, pat of butter on the English muffin, a yogurt for lunch, a little cottage cheese for dinner, sour cream on the dinner baked potato, a piece of cheese at the neighborhood happy-hour, and a sneak spoonful of Haagen-Dazs after dinner.  Really?  Give up dairy?  Have mercy.  These women, however, are usually willing to throw themselves under the proverbial bus, in order to give their babies (and themselves) some peace and quiet.  (I do remind them to take calcium supplements though).
            These mothers will eliminate the offending-food from their diet for two to three weeks to see if there’s a marked difference…….Although, there are women who notice less fussiness in their babies the very next day! 
While navigating these waters, it’s important to keep in mind that the entire immune system is located in the baby’s gut, so adding a probiotic like Bio Gaia Protectis (yellow box, 5 drops per day) can also be very helpful.  From birth to six months the baby’s gut is “leaky” to allow the antibodies in mom’s breast milk to pass into the baby’s body. By six months, the gut has some closure, meaning it’s not open to proteins leaking across the gut wall barrier; that’s the reason for waiting six months until introducing any solid foods.  It’s not usually the lactose that baby’s are sensitive to, it’s the protein.  The cow’s milk protein is 47 times larger than the human milk protein.  Having said this, protein sensitivity and lactose intolerance can coexist.  What this means is that products like Lactaid Milk (broken down milk sugar called lactose) will rarely, if ever, make a difference.
Although the first food offered was usually rice cereal, the newer recommendation is for meat.  The reason for this is that the iron sources conveyed from mother to baby are gone by the six months mark.  Although cereals are iron fortified, meat can contain better sources.
There are children that have severe food allergies, and need to carry epi-pens, which can be life-saving.  A recent article in the New York Times did an incredible job of explaining how serious allergies like this can be.  Although ten webpages, if you have a child like this, it’s well worth the read. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/magazine/can-a-radical-new-treatment-save-children-with-severe-allergies.html
Food allergies can also manifest themselves as eczema, which is called the itch that rashes.  I recently saw an infant who had such severe eczema, I wanted to admit her to the hospital.  The skin was bright red, scaly and thickened; she looked so uncomfortable, she couldn't even lie still on the exam table.  When being held, she would nuzzle her face into her dad’s shirt and rub back and forth, in order to provide some scratching relief.  The body actually toughens up on the outside to protect itself from the allergen.  This infant had been breastfed and then weaned to a cow’s milk artificial breast milk product which clearly did not agree. 
For further reading, stick with an extremely reputable source like the:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathleen McCue, RN, IBCLC. Kathleen is both a family nurse practitioner as well as a board certified lactation consultant. For over 37 years, she has been helping parents with breastfeeding, infant care, nutrition and other women's issues. She is the author of two books, "Start Here; Breastfeeding and Infant Care with Humor and Common Sense" and "Mother to Mother" and "Father to Father" Her website can be found at www.allbabybasics.com which has links to her twitter account (AllBabyBasics) and blog. Published with permission from The Whole Pregnancy.