MedWatch Today: Baby’s Intolerance to Cow’s Milk Protein Transferred Through Mother’s Breast Milk

Med Watch Today

Sometimes breastfeeding can be challenging. But the experience can be even more complicated if your baby has an allergic reaction to your breast milk.

When Jana Brewer had her second daughter Brielle, she looked forward to breastfeeding her baby, just as she did her first. But in the first four weeks, Jana noticed Brielle was extremely fussy.

“She spit up constantly and we thought that she had colic or infant reflux… As her consistency of her stools started to change, basically we decided to go to the doctor and have it evaluated further,” said Jana.

Doctors told Jana that Brielle had an intolerance to cow’s milk protein. Meaning, she was having an adverse reaction to the dairy that Jana had been eating.

Pediatrician Dr. Amy Evans explains, “Antigens from cows milk can get excreted into the mother’s breast milk and through processing in the mother and processing in the baby, they develop what’s called a cell mediated immune response. It’s different from an allergic response that we think about with allergies and eczema and wheezing and all that and so it’s treated differently and the mechanisms are different.”

Babies with cow’s milk protein intolerance or CMPI, may have colic like symptoms, may be wheezy or vomit often. They may have diarreah or blood in their stool, or even constipation.

“What we typically do is we have the mother eliminate it in their diet and it has to be a real elimination, a serious elimination. She has to learn how to read labels and make sure she’s not sneaking in some butter or some cheese in something so it can be a difficult diet to do, and if they do it, well then usually within three to four days we start seeing a response in the baby,” stated Dr. Evans.

Dr. Evans said though cow’s milk protein is often the most common food allergy in a baby under 12 months.

“Other things that can cause it are wheat, corn, fish, shellfish, berries all sorts of crazy things. Even chocolate,” Dr. Evans commented.

Jana said when she went dairy free, it wasn’t easy at first, explaining, “I loved dairy until I had to cut it or eliminate I never realized how much dairy I ate.”

She leaned on her family to change her diet, and she also found a dairy free support group online.

“We kinda took a look at the meals that we often cooked and figured out what substitutes we could make then I also looked at what traditional snacks I liked and then kinda found alternatives that fit within that,” said Jana.

Brielle’s condition improved within weeks of Jana eliminating dairy. Dr. Evans encourages mothers to stick to a dairy free diet for nine months to a year while breastfeeding and hopes mothers continue to breastfeed despite any challenges.

“It’s very, very doable and pretty fixable. And there’s only a very rare baby that goes on to have a serious type of enterocolitis syndrome, very rare I think I’ve seen three cases in my 31 year career, so it is definitely not something to stop breastfeeding about we can help you,” ended Dr. Evans.

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