Infant Food Allergy

Breastfeeding and Infant Food Allergy

Most babies are not fussy as a result of food allergies. Most times these colic symptoms are due to growth spurtsacid reflux, and healthy baby development.

Recent research suggests that it is not necessary for breastfeeding mothers to avoid any dairy products within the first few weeks after the baby's birth.

A mother should notice a difference in her baby’s behavior after eating certain foods, but fussiness on its own is not a sign of food sensitivity. Below are some symptoms of food allergy to look out for.

Breastfeeding Protects

Allergies are common in non-breastfed babies. Colostrum contains high concentrations of sIgA, and anti-infective, which coats the baby's gut; this prevents the passage of foreign proteins and germs that cause allergic reactions. 

Even just a small amount of formula can alter your baby's gut protection against bacteria for a month! Therefore, increasing the risk of allergies and diabetes. If the mother's breast milk is not available, donor breast milk should be considered first. Formula should always be used as a last resort. 

More about the gut protection that breast milk offers.

More about the immune protective properties of breast milk.

Baby Food Allergy Symptoms

baby eating a strawberry, food sensitivities, food allergies
  • Eczema, hives and dry, reddened skin (mostly found on the face).
  • Chest wheezing, asthma, and trouble breathing.
  • Colic, incessant crying, and poor sleeping patterns.
  • Acid reflux and vomiting.
  • A runny nose and red, itchy eyes.
  • Diarrhea, constipation and diaper rash.
  • Less absorption of nutrients, which can cause weight loss.
  • Anaphylaxis may also occur, but this is a very severe reaction towards an allergen, which can be fatal and usually involves restriction (swelling closed) of the airway.

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Should I Continue to Breastfeed?

Infant food allergy Fact

Breastfeeding protects against food sensitivity in infants, and for later in life.

Also, breastfeeding strengthens a baby’s immune system and digestive system, providing more immunity against food sensitiveness.

Should I continue to breastfeed, if my baby is allergic to some foods?

Yes, the mother needs to continue to breastfeed. She should take her baby for allergy tests to determine which food is causing the allergy. Once she knows the specific culprit food, she will need to eliminate it from her diet.

If a baby is allergic to cow’s milk, she should keep away from all dairy products. A reaction towards a specific food, can show immediately or only after 24 hours.

The mother should stay away from the specific food for at least four weeks, to see if her baby still has the same symptoms.

Some babies may seem to experience worsened symptoms, for about a week after eliminating the problem food.

Most Common Food Allergies

Some common foods that cause food allergies include; peanuts, shellfish, cows milk protein, eggs, wheat, citrus fruits, fish, soy and food additives. What bothers one baby may not affect the other.

More about foods to avoid while breastfeeding.

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What Causes Baby Allergies?

If you introduce solid foods too soon, or formula before the age of 4 months, your baby is more likely to develop an allergy and less severe food sensitivity. More about this below.

cow, dairy, milk and cheese

Cow Milk Sensitivity
Dairy Allergy

When babies have a sensitivity towards cow's milk, it is the protein in the milk that causes the milk allergies, not the lactose; this is why switching to lactose-free products will not help. A milk protein allergy can create all of the symptoms mentioned above.

Breastfeeding mothers will need to eliminate all forms of cow’s milk protein, including cream, yogurt, butter, and cheese. Also, anything containing casein, caseinate, sodium and calcium caseinate, lactalbumin or whey. The mother will need to start reading labels on purchased foods, that may contain cow’s milk protein.

Most of these babies will outgrow their sensitivities, by the age of two. It's best to wait at least until your baby is six months old, before trying to introduce dairy products again.

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Egg Allergies

Babies with egg allergies may also be allergic to albumin, dried eggs, egg powder, egg solids, ovomucin, ovomucoid, ovovitellin, ovalbumin, livetin, and Simplesse. Egg allergy symptoms are the same as the symptoms mentioned above.

Peanut Allergy
Peanut Intolerance

One in every 150 children are affected by peanut allergy. A peanut allergy can be quite severe in some cases.

Traces of peanuts can be found in almost anything; it can even be found in baby formula, ice cream, and cereals.

Nut allergy symptoms are also the same as the symptoms mentioned above.

Waiting to Introduce Solids?

Your baby's digestive tract needs to mature before you start to introduce solid foods. Why? Because of two things, namely: Allergens and Enzymes. 

If you give your child solid foods before the four-month mark, the lining of your baby's intestines are not sealed off properly against allergens yet; this causes problems like eczema.

Before the four month mark your baby is also not producing sufficient Enzymes for breaking down foods. So when you give your baby foods before this period, it might result in runny stools, gas issues and undigested food (which means that your child is not absorbing all the nutrients in the food).

More about the introduction of solids here. 

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Treatment Options for Food Sensitivities

  • Food elimination should only be done as discussed above if tests prove that there is a real allergy.
  • Medication.
  • Allergy tests.
  • Immunotherapy.

New Research Suggests Peanut Allergy Avoidable if Eaten as a Child

Prevention of All Food Intolerances

  • Pregnant mothers can avoid foods that cause allergy problems in themselves. Mothers should remember to replace the eliminated food, with another food option or with an equivalent supplement.
  • Breastfeeding exclusively for at least four months can reduce the risk of infant allergy, the occurrence of eczema and the development of asthma.
  • Any culprit foods, other than the ones that cause the mother any allergic reactions do not need to be avoided in her diet. Recent research suggests that the earlier the culprit foods are introduced into the baby's system, the less likely they are to develop an allergy. 

Reference: Sage journals, Infant food allergy - where are we now? 

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Lactose Intolerance?

by Margaret (Ireland)

"My baby is 14 weeks old, during the first 4-6 weeks I had her on cow's milk formula and she would cry a lot and always had a runny stool, so I changed her to "Optimal" got her tested for lactose intolerance, which I was informed she has a mild form of and will outgrow, is this possible? 

From reading this article I think she might have a food allergy, she is always caught up and her nappies are always a loose stool. I have noticed a big difference from changing her food, but is that enough?"

Re: Lactose Intolerance?

by: Tracy

"Hi, Margaret. Many babies who are fed anything other than "breast milk" have tummy issues early on. Their tummies struggle to digest cow milk and formula.

My first child was the same; he had terrible colic (I could unfortunately not breastfeed my first baby) until we found a formula that did not upset his tummy. So, if you can't find a formula that works for her, you can maybe find out about donor breast milk, which is always the best option."

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