• Can My Baby Be Allergic to Breast Milk? Here's Some Expert Advice

    Experts weigh in and advise what you can do and yet still continue nursing.
    by Rachel Perez .
Can My Baby Be Allergic to Breast Milk? Here's Some Expert Advice
PHOTO BY Sasiistock/iStock
  • A lot of moms, if not all, would love to be able to breastfeed her baby. Not only is breast milk healthy for the little bundle of joy, but nursing also offers other benefits even those for the new mom. It is not a walk in the park, but many moms choose to persevere and brave through its challenges.

    On Facebook, we got asked if one of those challenges could be an allergic reaction to breast milk, which was news to us. Here was the situation: A breastfed baby developed rashes. It couldn't be the "food he eats" because he has not started on solids, only breast milk. Baby care products were also eliminated as possible causes. Was it the breast milk? 

    We decided to ask the experts. According to Dr. Jamie Isip-Cumpas, a pediatrician and international certified breastfeeding and lactation counselor (ICBLC), "It's very rare that a baby becomes allergic to his/her mother's milk. Other things should be considered first," she stressed. Dr. Isip-Cumpas cited that the baby's eczema may not be related to food or topical products, but may be due to exposure to specific materials or the weather changes. 

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    Sylvia Malabanan, a lactation counselor from L.A.T.C.H. Philippines, agrees. Quoting another pediatrician in a private forum of breastfeeding consulting groups, Malabanan says breast milk allergy is unusual. "There are rare cases of metabolic conditions where babies cannot take breast milk because they need specific amounts of protein, etc. But, as for allergies, no," Malabanan said. 

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    The lactation counselor continued, "Many proteins are transferred in breast milk though so if a baby is allergic to cow's milk, for example, and a mother drinks it, then the baby may develop an allergic reaction." Other allergenic foods such as peanut, tree nuts, egg, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish, can also trigger a reaction in babies if they are sensitive to these foods, and the nursing moms consume them. 

    So how do you know if your baby is reacting to your breast milk? "Food reactions may occur within minutes, but symptoms in breastfed babies more commonly show up four to 24 hours after exposure," wrote Kelly Bonyata, an IBCLC on Breastfeeding.Support. "If the baby has an acute reaction to a new food, or to a food that mom ate a large amount of, then he will probably be back to normal within a couple of hours," she added. 

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    The most common allergic reactions manifest in the skin, such as eczema, patches of dry skin, rashes, hives, swelling of the eyelids or lip, or having flushed or unusually pale skin. Allergies can also manifest in the stomach or intestinal problems, such as reflux, diarrhea, constipation, inflamed intestine or esophagus; breathing problems such as having cold-like symptoms, wheezing, or asthma, and other signs such as fussiness. 

    Malabanan suggests that before discontinuing breastfeeding, the most appropriate approach is to identify what is causing the allergic reaction. The first step is to do a process of elimination from the mother's diet. Your breastfed baby may have a food intolerance or the inability to digest certain foods, and you have to remove the food your baby is sensitive to in your diet.

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    Don't let a simple rash automatically stop you from giving you your baby the best. "It's best for the mom to bring the baby to a doctor so the doctor can diagnose the condition," Dr. Isip-Cumpas stressed. She's the best person to guide you in determining the cause of the reaction in your baby and preventing it from happening again, especially if your goal is to breastfeed for at least six months or longer. 

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