Breastfeeding is a proven way to provide your infant with healthy, safe nutrition during their first months of life. However, new mothers might have to avoid certain foods, such as milk products, when breastfeeding their infants, because they cause the infant distress or more serious allergic reactions. Infants with an allergy to milk products will react to receiving one or more of the common milk proteins, such as casein or whey, through their mother's breast milk. Most standard milk allergies are to cow's milk products, but an infant with a milk allergy might also react to soy or goat's milk, or products made from them.
Allergies and Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is recognized as a means to help children develop a strong immune system. Not all allergies can be prevented, however, and if your infant has allergies to certain food substances, he may react to these substances being present in his mother's breast milk. When infant allergies are suspected, your pediatrician likely will advise you to avoid those foods that seem to cause problems for your baby. She may also do skin or blood tests to determine exactly which substances are causing problems for the baby.
Infant Milk Allergies
Infant allergies to milk and milk products are generally caused by the proteins in the milk, rather than lactose. This means virtually any products containing these proteins, notably casein and whey, can cause allergy symptoms. Milk and milk products from sheep and goats also can cause an allergic reaction, according to the staff at the Mayo Clinic. Some babies with milk allergies also are allergic to soy milk products. Milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies among children, and most outgrow the allergy within the first three years of life.
Symptoms and Treatment Options
The symptoms of infant milk allergies vary depending on the severity of the allergy. Symptoms of a serious milk allergy can appear within minutes of consuming breast milk with traces of milk protein; other symptoms can take longer to develop. Milk allergy symptoms typically include hives, wheezing and vomiting. Skin rashes, watery eyes, sneezing and other gastrointestinal symptoms can also occur. The best option is for the breastfeeding mother to avoid consuming products containing milk proteins. This includes any dairy products made from cow's, sheep's or goat's milk, including goat cheese. If milk proteins are inadvertently ingested and passed to the baby through breast milk, your doctor may recommend an antihistamine for the baby. Severe anaphylactic reactions require immediate medical treatment.
Other Food Products
Milk proteins are found in processed foods as well as dairy products, so parents of milk-allergic infants need to check nutrition labels carefully on products such as cereals, baked goods and processed meats. Avoid any that list casein or whey as an ingredient. Infants with milk allergies may also have allergies to other substances, such as peanuts, soy or eggs. Nursing mothers should avoid eating these items if their infant displays allergic reactions after consuming breast milk containing traces of these foods.