The Signs that a Baby Is Not Tolerating Breast Milk

By Sara Ipatenco
The foods you eat can influence what's in your breast milk.
The foods you eat can influence what's in your breast milk.

Breastfeeding is a nutritious choice for your baby, but not all mothers are successful with nursing. Low milk supply and latching problems are among the most common reasons why, but your baby might not be tolerating your breast milk, though this is a much less common reason why you might be having a hard time nursing. If your baby has a food allergy, it can make breastfeeding difficult for both of you, but, sometimes, changing your diet is all it takes to remedy the situation.

The Science of Food Allergies

Breastfeeding might actually reduce your baby's risk of developing allergies later in life, according to La Leche League International. Though your breast milk supplies your baby with certain antibodies that protect her from getting sick, a food allergy can still be present. If this is the case for your baby, her body views a certain food as potentially dangerous and produces a different set of antibodies aimed to fight off this so-called invader. When that happens, your baby will develop certain symptoms that can clue you in to whether she is tolerating your breast milk. It's not your breast milk exactly that's causing the allergy, however. If a food allergy is present, it's from something you ate that passed into your breast milk.

What You'll Notice

Be on the lookout for certain symptoms, which will provide clues about a food allergy. The most common symptoms are gastrointestinal, La Leche League International reports. If you ate something that passed into your breast milk and your baby is allergic to it, you might notice that she is uncomfortable, cries more, has diarrhea, is constipated, or spits up larger quantities of food than normal or more often than what's normal for her. Skin changes or difficulty breathing are additional symptoms. If you notice any of these after your baby nurses, seek medical attention immediately.

The Culprits

Cow's milk is the most common culprit when it comes to a food allergy in response to breast milk, according to La Leche League International. Other dairy foods, such as cheese, yogurt and ice cream, can cause a reaction as well, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia notes. Eggs, nuts, peanuts, soy, wheat, berries, tomatoes, shellfish, fish, citrus juice and chocolate can cause allergic reactions, too.

Your Next Move

Speak with your baby's pediatrician about food allergies as your first step in taking action. Likely, you'll need to pay close attention to what you've eaten in the recent past when your baby has a reaction after nursing. Once you have an idea of what could be causing your baby's symptoms, you will need to eliminate that food from your diet, which is often enough to avoid the reaction in the future, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Your baby might be allergic to more than one food, which means you'll need to alter your diet accordingly and continue avoiding those foods until you've weaned your baby.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.