Can an infant be allergic to breast milk?
In some rare cases, where the baby is suffering from a digestive problem, such as an allergy to Phenylalanine, an amino acid present in the mother’s milk, there is a possibility for allergy to breast milk. In these rare cases, the only solution is to replace breastfeeding with formula.
Other than that mother’s milk allergy is still possible since each woman’s milk is different and is directly affected by her diet.
The most common allergy in babies is cow’s milk allergy. In cases where the infant is allergic to cow’s milk and his breastfeeding mother consumes milk and other dairy products, or any food containing milk, this will make the baby uncomfortable after feeding due to the allergens present in the breast milk.
Signs of cow’s milk allergy in infants
– Constant and repeated crying and fussiness.
– Severe acid reflux and repeated vomiting.
– Abdominal discomfort and bloating
– Refusal of breastfeeding, as the baby associates it with acidity and pain.
– Severe diarrhea or constipation.
– Slow weight gain, due to not feeding and constantly vomiting.
– The presence of blood in stool, is the key symptom in diagnosing cow’s milk allergy in infants.
To ease these symptoms, I advise breastfeeding mothers to reduce their consumption of milk and dairy products. As for the cases where the baby has blood in stool, I advise mothers to completely stop the consumption of milk and dairy products, in addition to any foods containing milk such as certain types of bread and certain cakes, to protect the baby from the symptoms of milk allergy.
In case this cessation is not possible, then the baby can be fed using hypoallergenic formula. Most baby formulae are made of cow’s milk, but some in a hypoallergenic way, as the milk proteins are broken down to amino acids, which prevents milk allergy symptoms in babies.
It is noteworthy that baby formulae made of goat’s milk or soy are not a healthy alternative for babies allergic to milk, because there is a huge cross resemblance with cow’s milk.
Diagnosing milk allergy in babies
This type of allergy is diagnosed only through symptom observation. No blood test reveals the existence of this type of allergy in babies.
Outgrowing Cow’s milk allergy
Many babies outgrow milk allergy by their first birthday, most of them will outgrow it by age six, and very few will carry it through adulthood.
Causes of Milk Allergy in infants
There is no clear medical reason why infants have a milk allergy, while others are not affected by other types of foods passed to them through breast milk. One theory indicates that because of the long duration humans have consumed milk, and because of relying on it for so long in feeding babies, this allergy is more known and spread than other types of food allergies.
The effect of milk allergy on children’s health
The complete elimination of milk and milk-derived products, from the diet of a child allergic to milk, will prevent any further health complications.
As mentioned earlier most babies outgrow this allergy between the age of one and six years.
In case the child has additional allergies, such as being allergic to gluten, or nuts, this might cause a deficiency in certain nutrients. So, in such cases I recommend following up with a dietitian, to ensure that the child has the needed nutrients from alternative sources. It is worth mentioning that any deficiency in nutrients found in milk, such as Calcium and Vitamin D, can be supplemented from other sources.
Treatment of milk allergy in infants
Until now there is no proven and efficient treatment for milk allergy. Treatments available to treat Lactose intolerance can’t be used to treat milk allergies. As it is very rare that infants develop this type of sensitivity in our region. So, the use of lactose-free formulae and Lactase supplements won’t be necessary, unless there is strong genetic evidence that the baby is Lactose intolerant. The lactase enzyme which is responsible for digesting Lactose is weakened by the lack of use, we can say about Lactase if you don’t use it, you lose it! Therefore, I don’t recommend the complete elimination of Lactose to keep this key enzyme active and efficient.