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How Do I Know if My Baby Has Dairy Allergies?

You’re beyond sleep deprived, but it doesn’t matter. You’re at the pediatrician’s office...again. You know deep down something isn’t right with your baby. Your mama instinct is sounding off the alarms.

Maybe your baby won’t stop crying but you don’t believe the whole colic thing.

Maybe you’re noticing mucusy stool or even blood in your baby’s poop.

Maybe your baby’s skin breaks out in rashes randomly.

You can’t figure out what’s wrong but you’re determined to make it better. The pediatrician tells you your baby may have a dairy allergy or intolerance. The doctor recommends you stop eating dairy immediately. And some doctors, not all, will tell you it can take weeks for dairy proteins to leave your breastmilk. (Hint: it doesn’t, keep reading!)

Infant dairy allergies or intolerances are often called cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA). Dairy allergies or intolerances are caused by the proteins found in dairy products. These proteins transfer through your breastmilk and directly go into your baby's body for absorption.

Lactose intolerance is not the same as dairy allergy or intolerance. Lactose intolerance has to do with the inability to break down the sugar lactose, which is found in milk. We like to clear up that confusion real quick!

Here at Free to Feed, we are on a mission to empower and educate families who have babies with food allergies or intolerances. There is a lot of misinformation or flat-out confusing information surrounding this diagnosis.

We’re here to help you and inform you with science-based information about infant food allergies and intolerances. In this blog, we’ll cover the basics of what you need to know about dairy intolerances and allergies.

Why Do Babies Have Food Allergies to Dairy?

Cow’s milk protein allergy or dairy is the most common food allergy and intolerance in infants and young children. And unfortunately, baby food allergies are increasing all over the world. [1]

Since dairy is the most common food allergy and intolerance for babies that are breastfeeding and formula feed, it makes you wonder, “Why do babies have food allergies to dairy?”

There are many theories on this issue but there are also some science-based facts and that’s what we’re all about, so let’s talk about it!

Studies have found that babies with first-degree relatives with food allergies often have food allergies themselves and are at a higher risk of developing them. [2] So, if mom or dad has food allergies, there is a higher chance your baby will too.

Another large study done in Finland found there is a higher risk of babies having cow’s milk protein allergy if their parent had antibiotics before or during pregnancy. [3] Antibiotics can be used for many reasons before and during pregnancy. Two main reasons are treating any type of bacterial infection and cesarean sections (C-sections).

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2018, almost 32% of births in the United States were delivered by C-section. [4] It’s interesting to note how C-section deliveries encompass almost a third of all deliveries and infant food allergies are on the rise…

Other factors like genetics, male babies, and ethnicity have also been shown to play factors in babies developing food allergies. [5] The bottom line, there are a lot of reasons and more research needs to be done.

If you don’t have allergies and didn’t have a C-section – you can still fall into this category and many do. If you’re more concerned about what the symptoms are so you can fix them, let’s take a look.

What Are the Symptoms of Dairy Allergies in Your Baby?

Sometimes babies only have one symptom and other times they have many symptoms going on all at once. Symptoms can range in severity of reaction with each baby. Just when you thought parenthood couldn’t get you are. Here are common symptoms of baby food allergies, your baby could have one or several of these symptoms: [6]

  • Reflux

  • Vomiting

  • Rash

  • Eczema

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Mucousy stool or bloody stool

  • Failure to thrive

  • Colic

  • Lethargy

  • Airway restriction

It’s quite the list and we don’t mean to overwhelm you. We want you informed of the scientific information and after Dr. Trill has talked to hundreds of families, these are the most common symptoms of dairy allergies or intolerances.

No matter how bad the symptoms are, you want a diagnosis so you can fix it. This can be challenging. Let’s look at why.

How Do You Get a Diagnosis and Treat Dairy Allergies In Babies?

We don’t want to disappoint you here, but this part is challenging, especially if your baby is a newborn. There are two types of tests: a blood test or a skin prick test. Allergy testing isn’t recommended until babies are at least 6 months of age because test results are often inaccurate at younger ages. [7]

Diagnosis of dairy allergies in infants is a bit complicated because there are different types of allergies. IgE and Non-IgE are the main types and they also have subcategories.

For example, if your baby is at least 6 months old and you have skin-prick testing done and they don’t test positive for dairy, this could mean it’s likely a non-IgE mediated allergy or intolerance and they will outgrow it – which is great news, but also confusing.

The best form of treatment when breastfeeding is eliminating all dairy products from your diet. The proteins from the diary are transferred from your breastmilk to the baby, so removing dairy from your diet will remove the irritation it’s causing to your baby.

Hidden Names for Dairy

Cutting dairy products out of your diet might seem easy, but it can be more challenging with all the hidden names dairy can be under. You aren’t just cutting the cheese and milk out here.

Here a few names that include dairy products to help you get started:

  • Artificial butter flavor

  • Casein

  • Ghee

  • Paneer

  • Sour Cream

  • Whey (in any form)

  • Yogurt

Some may be obvious to you but others are not. All dairy products must be removed from your diet when you’re breastfeeding your baby who has suspected dairy allergies or intolerances. When removing dairy products from your diet, you should see some type of improvement within 5 days.

Free to Feed Is Here to Help and Educate You

You probably have a lot more questions and are concerned about your baby. Make sure to read our blog, What is the Truth About How Long Proteins Last In Your Breastmilk? This particular topic is filled with misinformation online.

Sometimes your baby can have more than one trigger food too, so hang on tight. It can take time and trials to find all the foods causing symptoms in your little one.

We want you to know you are not alone in this journey and there is a whole community of families going through the same thing. We’re here to help with elimination diets and reintroducing allergens into your diet when your baby is ready.

Oh, and inspect your babies’ poop pictures. If you need some laughs during this time and let’s be honest you do! Follow Dr. Trill on Instagram, not only for awesome reels but science-based information on everything baby food allergy.

If your family is suffering, consider a one-on-one consult. We'll listen to your personal story and give you recommendations on how to move forward to help everyone.

Hang in there, you’re doing great!



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