Dealing with Dairy Allergy in Breastfed Babies
I recently returned from an all-inclusive trip abroad. About two days after we returned, my six-month-old baby started acting really fussy. She could not sleep on her own anymore and had to sleep in my arms only. She seemed really uncomfortable overall. I took her to the pediatrician and found out that medically, there was nothing wrong with her. There was no fever, ear infection, strep throat … nothing. It was very frustrating. Over four days, I only slept 12 hours. We both were exhausted. Although the doctor did not diagnose her with any illness, I just knew that her problems had to do with digestion (that mommy instinct, right? You know what I mean!) My daughter was not spitting up, but she couldn’t lay on her back either. She was also passing more gas than usual. About 24 hours later, I observed tiny specks of coagulated blood in her poop, along with streaks of mucus (sorry about the graphic description!). The blood specks were small, but the presence of blood in her stools reminded me of something too familiar … her dairy allergy.
An allergy to dairy is easy to diagnose … but takes time to clear.
I nursed my youngest daughter for 15 months. I am currently nursing my six-month-old baby as well. They are both allergic to the protein found in cow’s milk, called caseins. This is not to be confused with an intolerance to lactose. Basically, her little internal digestive track cannot digest the protein, and it gives her colitis – an inflammation of the intestines. Breastfed babies are allergic because the proteins pass through the breastmilk and into their digestive track (it really makes you think about what to eat while breastfeeding, right?!).
Most babies will be very fussy, have gas and diarrhea (green mucous in stools), spit up a lot, and the possible blood specks in the stools. I’m not sure if it is hereditary, but I was allergic, and both my daughters are. The good news is that the allergy usually clears by 12 months of age. It was the case for my toddler. In the meantime, the nursing mom (aka me) cannot consume any dairy products. My daughters did not show any other symptoms, and I can only thank my first pediatrician who immediately diagnosed the dairy allergy when my first daughter was about 10 days old. My second daughter was diagnosed at three days old. I was somewhat expecting it I guess, so I looked out for the symptoms. So, when she started being fussy and gassy last week, I suspected her allergy had returned. I wish I could say that avoiding the dairy would stop the symptoms right away, but it takes 2 to 4 weeks to clear the dairy from the mom’s body and breastmilk. It took 3 weeks after I stopped eating dairy for both my daughters to stop having the diarrhea, but I could see a change after about 10 days. After speaking with other moms, I have realized that it seems a lot more common than I thought.
You may ask … why did you eat dairy during your trip if you knew she was allergic? I didn’t eat dairy. I avoided the dairy, but I guess that it was “hidden” in the food. You would think that it would be easy to spot dairy in what I eat. It’s not. The easy products I avoid are cow’s milk, cream, yoghurt, butter, ice cream, cheese and anything made with them such as cookies, cakes and most sauces. Now, some people have asked me if I can eat eggs (???!). Folks, eggs are NOT from the cow. The hidden dairy can be found in … margarine for instance. Margarine can contain butter flavor, which is made with real butter. Or whey. Whey is a derivative of milk. It is used a lot as a protein supplement for body builders. I keep a printout of that card as a resource when I shop. I also have learned to avoid takeout and pre-made foods.
What do I eat then?
I have found that cooking with soy milk works very well. I use coconut oil in cakes instead of butter. I use olive oil to cook meats and in sauces. I tried making crawfish étouffée with olive oil though… It’s just not the same. Luckily, there are lots of recipes available online for people with a dairy allergy, so if you just determined that your breastfed baby is allergic to dairy, do not lose all hope. Say goodbye to pizza and the Creole Creamery, but say hello to a healthier diet!