Lactose Intolerance vs. Breast Milk Allergy - Health Education - DesiMD Healthcare - India

Lactose Intolerance vs. Breast Milk Allergy

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 24 Mar 2016 - 11:14


The best gift you can give your baby is to feed her with breastmilk. Considered as "liquid gold", the American Pregnancy Association claims that it has multiple benefits - boosts baby's immune system, increases bonding and guarantees his/her perfect nutrition. Unfortunately, breast milk is equal to a night mare for some babies and their mothers. This could be because the baby might be allergic to some milk proteins or sugars which make breastfeeding nothing short of a mini battle experience. If you think your baby is allergic to breastmilk, you need to get him/her thoroughly checked by a doctor to avoid malnourishment.

"Is my baby allergic to my food?"

Most babies have little to no issues with their moms' food or eating habits. There is no specific list of foods that a nursing mother needs to avoid as they get to eat whatever they like and whenever they want. In case there is something wrong with mom's food, fussiness is often associated with excessive vomiting, rash, colic or constant congestion.

Some nursing mothers notice an evident difference in the health and/or behaviour of their babies whenever they eat specific foods. Although the commonest problem foods are cow milk products, there are also some noticeable food sensitivities in breastfed babies. If the 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. The best way to deal with this problem is to limit or eliminate that particular baby-sensitive-problem-food from your diet as they eventually grow out of these food sensitivities in a couple of months, although some allergies persist long-term.

Here are some answers to questions every mother has about feeding her baby:

"Does my milk have foreign proteins?"

Sometimes, the proteins from a mom's diet may affect her baby through her milk. Cow's milk protein is most common, amongst other proteins. It is actually not a bad thing because it will help desensitize your baby to all these proteins.

"How do I address this issue?"

To treat colicky breastfed babies, the mother could remove dairy products from her diet, one at a time and not all at once. These dairy products include milk, yoghurt, cheese, ice cream, salad dressings with casein or whey protein. Ensure you check prepared foods if they have milk/milk solids. If eliminating specific foods from your diet doesn't work, you could take pancreatic enzymes such as Pancrease 4, Cotazyme (under doctor's supervision). Start with one capsule at every meal to break down proteins in your intestines so that the whole protein content getting into your milk can get reduced.

A study conducted by Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, "The theory is that, by giving the mother exogenous pancreatic enzyme, the protease component will help further break down the potential protein allergens in the mother's gastrointestinal tract, before they are absorbed into her bloodstream and secreted into her milk. Specific dosing has yet to be defined, but generally one starts with the lowest dose of pancreatic enzyme".

"What if my baby is lactose-intolerant?"

A lactose intolerant-baby has less severe reactions when compared to one having an allergy. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps but definitely not breathing difficulties or hives. Another clear sign is that it won't show up in a skin-prick test or blood test.

First of all, lactose intolerance is grossly misunderstood by the Indian community. Here are some facts you need to know –

  • If the mom stops eating dairy products, the lactose content in the breastmilk does not reduce
  • There is no link between a lactose intolerant baby and a lactose-intolerant mother or other adult family members
  • Never wean off a lactose intolerant baby from breast milk to lactose-free or soy-based infant formula
  • Lactose intolerance and intolerance to cows' milk protein is totally different

6 Symptoms of Breast Milk Allergy

1.      Weight Irregularities

It is normal for a new born baby to lose a tad bit of weight, but if that weight is not regained, it can indicate allergy to breast milk. It is mandatory that babies must gain at least 25grams per week, failing which you need to contact your doctor to probe into the underlying reasons.

2.      Gastrointestinal Abnormalities

A baby who is allergic to breast milk may have many gastrointestinal symptoms such as spitting up or vomiting milk soon after feeding sessions or developing colic problems. It is also possible that they may develop diarrhoea which may or may not contain blood. Although loose stools and colic may appear after couple of weeks, vomiting might occur right away.

3.      Respiratory Issues

Respiratory distress is another symptom of breast milk allergy. La Leche League International claims that symptoms like constant congestion, wheezing and difficult breathing mark the onset of allergy to breast milk. The allergy could have been caused because of something passed on to the baby via breast milk, rather than breast milk alone. Doctors usually advice elimination of diets until they determine what sparks the baby's reaction.

4.      Allergic Reactions

You could also notice other allergies such as runny nose, coughing and watery eyes. Some babies also develop itchy rashes near their mouths. If situations get serious, they might also develop anaphylaxis which can be fatal if left untreated. Some of the anaphylactic symptoms include throat swelling, unconsciousness and drop in blood pressure.

5.      Extreme Fussiness

Every baby cries, but crying continuously and inconsolably for extremely long time periods is abnormal. This is usually known as colic pain if there is no clear reason. This is usually as a result of gastrointestinal pain that comes from allergy caused due to proteins present in milk.

6.      Failure to Thrive

Babies having breast milk allergy suffer from lack of nutrition categorized by loss of appetite, dehydration and lack of energy. This general failure is due to the effect of various other symptoms on the baby's body. 

Now, that you have an awareness about various types of allergies, there is no need to panic when your baby faces any of these allergy issues, rather you can deal with it better and definitely seek your doctor's advice.


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