- How closely do I need to watch what I eat?
- Normal Baby Fussiness
- Possible signs of food allergy
- What foods are most likely to be the problem?
- What do I do if I think a specific food is a problem?
- Dairy sensitivity in babies
- Additional information
Most babies have no problems with anything that mom eats. It’s generally recommended that you eat whatever you like, whenever you like, in the amounts that you like and continue to do this unless you notice an obvious reaction in your baby.
There is no list of “foods that every nursing mom should avoid” because most nursing mothers can eat anything they want, and because the babies who are sensitive to certain foods are each unique – what bothers one may not bother another.
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Most infant fussiness is normal for a young baby, and is not related to foods in mom’s diet. If your baby is sensitive to something you are eating, you will most likely notice other symptoms in addition to fussiness, such as excessive spitting up or vomiting, colic, rash or persistent congestion. Fussiness that is not accompanied by other symptoms and calms with more frequent nursing is probably not food-related.
Read more here about normal baby fussiness.
A small percentage of breastfeeding mothers notice an obvious difference in their baby’s behavior and/or health when they eat certain foods. Cow’s milk products are the most common problem foods and the only foods conclusively linked by research to fussiness/gassiness in babies, but some babies do react to other foods. Food sensitivities in breastfed babies are not nearly as common as many breastfeeding mothers have been led to think, however.
If a breastfed baby is sensitive to a particular food, then he may be fussy after feedings, cry inconsolably for long periods, or sleep little and wake suddenly with obvious discomfort. There may be a family history of allergies. Other signs of a food allergy 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.
The severity of a food reaction is generally related to the degree of baby’s sensitivity and to the amount of the problem food that mom ate—the more food eaten and the greater baby’s sensitivity, the more severe the reaction. Food reactions may occur within minutes, but symptoms in breastfed babies more commonly show up 4-24 hours after exposure. If 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. If baby is sensitive to a food that mom eats frequently, symptoms may be ongoing.
- Recognizing and Avoiding Food Allergies
- How long does it take for what I eat to get into my breastmilk? by Anne Smith, BA, IBCLC
Some of the most likely suspects are cow’s milk products, soy, wheat, corn, eggs, and peanuts.
Other suspect foods:
- Any food that a family member is allergic to
- A food that mom recently ate a large amount of
- A new food (if baby’s symptoms are new)
- A food that mom doesn’t like, but is eating while breastfeeding (and/or ate while pregnant) for the benefit of her baby
- A food that mom craves, or feels she has to have after a bad day
Conscious likes and dislikes of foods are signals that your body may be reacting to them in an abnormal way.
Keeping a food journal with a record of foods eaten and baby’s behavior/symptoms, with time of day for each, may be helpful when trying to pinpoint a problem food.
If you think your baby is reacting to a particular food, then eliminate that food from your diet for 2-3 weeks to see if baby’s symptoms improve. If baby’s symptoms do improve, then this food may be a problem for your baby. Eliminating a food for less than 2-3 weeks may not be effective—cow’s milk protein, for example, can persist in mom’s body for 1½ – 2 weeks, and it may be another 1½ – 2 weeks before the protein is out of baby’s system.
Baby’s symptoms will usually begin to improve within 5-7 days of eliminating a problem food. Your baby may not improve immediately, however, especially if the reaction is to a food that has been a regular part of mom’s diet. Some babies seem to feel worse for about a week before symptoms begin to improve. Sometimes it takes several weeks to see an improvement.
One way to confirm that a particular food is a problem for your baby is to eat that food again to see whether baby has the same reaction. The more severe your baby’s original symptoms, the longer you may wish to wait before reintroducing it into your diet–for a very severe reaction you may not reintroduce the food at all. If you reintroduce a food and your baby does not have the same reaction as before, then baby is probably not sensitive to that food. If he does react in the same way, you will want to limit or avoid this food for a time — until baby is older or in some cases until baby has weaned.
If baby is only a little sensitive to a particular food, you may be able to simply limit the amount that you eat, rather than eliminate that food altogether. Most babies grow out of food sensitivities within several months to a year, but some food allergies persist long-term.
If your baby is sensitive to dairy products it is highly unlikely that the problem is lactose intolerance, although many people may tell you so.
See Is my baby lactose intolerant? for more information.
Although cow’s milk protein sensitivity and lactose intolerance are not the same thing, they can sometimes occur at the same time, since food allergy can cause secondary lactose intolerance.
Breastfed babies who are sensitive to dairy in mom’s diet are sensitive to specific cow’s milk antibodies, in the form of proteins (not lactose), which pass into the mother’s milk. Cow’s milk (either in the mother’s diet or engineered into formula) is a common source of food sensitivity in babies. Cow’s milk sensitivity or allergy can cause colic-like symptoms, eczema, wheezing, vomiting, diarrhea (including bloody diarrhea), constipation, hives, and/or a stuffy, itchy nose.
If your baby is sensitive to dairy in your diet, it will not help to switch to lactose-free dairy products. The problem is the cow’s milk proteins, not the lactose. Cooking dairy products may reduce but will not eliminate the allergens.
A significant percentage of babies with cow’s milk protein allergy will also react to soy. Most dairy-allergic babies will also react to goat’s milk or sheep’s milk. Some will also react to beef.
If you think that your baby may be sensitive to dairy products in your diet, remember that it can take 10 days to 3 weeks to eliminate cow’s milk protein from your system—allow a full 2-3 weeks of dairy elimination before evaluating the results.
If your baby is only a little sensitive to dairy proteins, you may be able to relieve baby’s symptoms by eliminating only the obvious sources of dairy (milk, cream, yogurt, butter, cheese, sour cream, ice cream, cottage cheese, etc.); you may even be able to eat small amounts of dairy without it affecting baby.
If your baby is highly allergic, it will be necessary to eliminate all sources of dairy proteins, which requires a careful reading of food labels. See the Hidden Dairy “Cheat Sheet” ().
If you’ve cut out dairy because your breastfed baby is sensitive to cow’s milk proteins, you may be able to phase it back in after a few months. Many dairy-sensitive babies outgrow their sensitivity by 6-18 months, and most outgrow it by 3 years.
If you reintroduce dairy into your diet and baby reacts, cut out dairy products again for at least another month. If baby’s allergy to cow’s milk protein via breastmilk is severe, it’s best to wait at least 6 months before trying to reintroduce dairy. For allergic babies, avoiding the allergen makes it less likely that baby will develop a lifelong or life threatening allergy.
- Cluster Feeding and Fussy Evenings
- My baby is fussy! Is something wrong?
- My baby fusses or cries during nursing – what’s the problem?
- How does mom’s diet affect her milk?
- What causes blood in baby’s stool?
- Can a nursing mom eat this food?
- Can I continue to breastfeed if…?
- Why Delay Solids?
- First Foods: Recognizing and Avoiding Food Allergies
- Reflux and Breastfeeding
- Nondairy calcium sources
- Hidden Dairy “Cheat Sheet” ()
- Allergic Proctocolitis in the Exclusively Breastfed Infant. Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol #24, from Breastfeeding Medicine ( 2011) Volume 6, Number 6, pp. 435-440.
- Food Allergies from La Leche League, Intl
- Coping with Colic by Dr. Bill and Martha Sears. Includes information on tracking down the hidden causes of colic.
- Tracking Down Food Allergies by Dr. Bill and Martha Sears
- Food Allergy Survival Guide – lots of great information, including some allergen free recipes and meal ideas
- Restless Babies by Sue Dengate; reprinted from the Summer 2001 newsletter of Nursing Mothers Association (now the Australian Breastfeeding Association).
- Sicherer SH. Clinical aspects of gastrointestinal food allergy in childhood. Pediatrics. 2003 Jun;111(6 Pt 3):1609-16.
- The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network
- Muraro A, et al. Dietary prevention of allergic diseases in infants and small children. Part III: Critical review of published peer-reviewed observational and interventional studies and final recommendations. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2004 Aug;15(4):291-307. “The results of the analysis indicate that breastfeeding is highly recommended for all infants irrespective of atopic heredity…”
- Allergy Elimination Diet: More calcium info and lists of foods/ingredients to avoid while on an elimination diet (dairy, egg, soy, wheat, peanut, tree nut).
- The Elimination Diet from AskDrSears.com
- The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network FAAN’s mission is “To raise public awareness, to provide advocacy and education, and to advance research on behalf of all those affected by food allergies and anaphylaxis.” Tons of information here.
- Veggies Unite – “your online vegetarian resource guide,” has lots of vegan recipes – very useful if you are avoiding dairy, eggs, etc.
- Doesn’t my daughter need milk and other dairy products? by Dr. Jay Gordon
- Milk: Do you really need it? by Dr. Bill and Martha Sears
- Eating Dairy-Free. Are you a nursing mother who needs to stop eating dairy for your nursling’s health? Are you wondering how you will ever survive without milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt? Never fear! You can do it! This is a great, practical guide for going dairy-free.
- Eating Without Casein: A Practical Primer for People with Milk Allergy by Beth Kevles
- The No Milk Page. A list of links for people who must be cautious about consuming milk and milk byproducts.
- Avoiding Corn by Ephraim Vishniac. Information on determining whether you have a corn allergy and on corn-derived ingredients that should be avoided by those with corn allergy.
- Food Intolerance Network by Sue Dengate, BA. Dip. Ed.
- Tartrazine (FD&C Yellow Number 5 or E-102 in Europe) info
- Wheat & Gluten Allergy from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology
- Wheat allergy diet from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital
- Is this your Child? : Discovering and Treating Unrecognized Allergies in Children and Adults by Doris Rapp, MD, published by William Morrow & Co., ISBN 0688119077. website
- Dairy-Free Cookbook by Jane Zukin, published by Prima Publishing & Communications, ISBN 0914629883.
- Allergy Cooking With Ease : The No Wheat, Milk, Eggs, Corn, Soy, Yeast, Sugar, Grain, and Gluten Cookbook by Nicolette M. Dumke and William G. Crook, published by Starburst Pub, ISBN 091498442X.
- Whole Foods For the Whole Family Cookbook edited by Roberta Bishop Johnson, published by La Leche League International, ISBN 0912500433. This book has a large number of dairy-, egg-, and (to a lesser extent) wheat-free recipes.