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Does Your Baby Have a Dairy Sensitivity or Allergy?

Updated on February 18, 2008

Is My Baby Sensitive or Allergic to Dairy?

Babies cry. That's what they do. But even experienced moms can have trouble determining if that cry means more than than the normal wet, hungry or sleepy cry. How do you know if your baby is in pain, and how do you know if what they're eating is to blame?

Is Milk to Blame?

All kinds of milk have protein. Certain milk proteins are more difficult to digest, by many people. Pair an immature digestive system, say one you would find in a 3 week old, with a high amount of milk protein, and you may find yourself with a very cranky (and maybe sick) baby.

Signs to Look For

Most babies will cry from time to time, especially in the first 12 weeks of life. And a lot of babies have gas, which can be painful for them to pass and may be the cause of crying. And many healthy newborns are awake most of the night, and that can be totally normal.

It's hard to know when you should seek outside help. The upside of having a newborn is the frequent doctor's visits that accompany the first few weeks of their life. Talk to your pediatrician if you are concerned that your baby is crying too much or is in pain.

Here are some signs that you should consider a milk protein sensitivity or allergy:

  • Inconsolable crying for several hours a day
  • Blood or mucus in stools
  • Bright green stools (in breast fed babies, more on this later)
  • Painful, frequent gas
  • Frequent spitting up or vomiting

These are just a few signs - if you see any of these in your newborn, please contact your pediatrician to discuss these symptoms in your baby.

What's a Mom To Do?

Your baby needs milk to survive. If your baby is breastfed or formula fed or both, you have many options available to you depending on the severity of the sensitivity.

As a breastfeeding mother, you can eliminate dairy from your diet. Your breastmilk has a very low milk protein naturally, but the milk protein that you ingest from cow or goat's milk is passed through your breastmilk, therefore increasing the amount of milk protein that your baby ingests. If you notice a difference in as little as one day, you're on the right track. In all, it may take up to 2 weeks for your body to completely rid itself of cow's milk protein, depending on how much dairy you consumed before eliminating it. But you may notice your baby crying less and sleeping better in as little as a day if a milk protein sensitivity is at play. Continue limiting and eliminating dairy until your baby is comfortable.

As a formula feeding mother, you can switch from cow's milk based formula to soy formula. There may be some risks associated with soy formula, so it's best to discuss a formula change with your pediatrician before you do it. Also, some babies with a milk protein sensitivity have shown to have the same sensitivity with soy. You also have the option of changing to a hydrolysate formula. The important thing to realize is that you cannot just switch to another brand of cow's milk formula, because it is the protein in the cow's milk that is causing the discomfort in your baby.

The important thing is to discuss any feeding changes with your pediatrician.

How Long and How Bad?

Your baby's sensitivity to milk protein can be considered an allergy if the symptoms are extremely bad - for example blood in their stool. But it's best to consult with your baby's pediatrician for their advice.

The duration of the sensitivity or allergy varies from baby to baby. Some are OK with cow's milk protein in as soon as 4 months and others may last a year or two or even longer.

My Story

My firstborn was a cranky baby, and I recall my sister's advice - cut out dairy in your diet. As a new mom, I couldn't imagine that my breastmilk was to blame. After all, isn't breastmilk the perfect food for your baby? I tried my best to console his crying, always carrying him and walking with him and bouncing him and rocking him. Well, he hit 12 weeks, and became a different baby. I attributed it to colic.

18 months later my daughter arrived. Cranky and miserable - both of us. This time, having to balance a toddler and a newborn, I found myself thinking back to my sister's advice. I tried a little experiment of cutting just milk and cheese out of my diet. Overnight, my daughter's crying jags stopped. I started cutting even more dairy out - and we would get compliments on what a good baby she was.

Now by the time my third baby came around - a mere 16 months later - I cut out dairy 2 weeks before he was born. While my mom and husband thought I was crazy, I was willing to avoid having a super cranky baby along with two toddlers under 3. And it was such a small sacrifice. I won't say it was easy all the time, but honestly, when you know that cup of ice cream will rear it's ugly head in a screaming - and I mean screaming, not crying - baby that doesn't sleep? Well, the choice for me was clear.

With my babies, they all got over their sensitivity around the age of 3.5 to 4 months. I slowly introduced dairy back into my diet until I was sure they were OK with it. I could also tell by what was in their diaper - bright green stools meant back off the dairy for me. I should note that bright green stools can also represent a foremilk and hindmilk imbalance - more information on this can be found in the links below.

I always think back to my first born - I know in my heart that he was sensitive to dairy as well, I just wish I wouldn't have been so arrogant at the time. But life is about learning and sharing. So I am sharing my story with others in the hopes that I can help a new mom find the help she may need.

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    • profile image

      Annifach 2 years ago

      refried bean burritos w/cheesereplace ice berg leuttce with romaine in the salad bars. Get rid of chocolate milk and pop machines, instead offer OJ, apple juice or cranberry juice.Whole wheat english muffins with egg cheese sandwiches.Hard boiled eggsraw carrots, celeryfruit bar (apples bananas oranges kiwis melons pineapple)sweet potato oven friesBroccoli salads (many different kinds)Oriental cabbage saladhomemade oatmeal cookiesground turkey meatloaf with oatmeal BBQ sauceold fashioned sandwiches on whole grain bread

    • profile image

      Dionicia 2 years ago

      Chef salad, yogurt, pzlertes. 3 things my 9 yo loves! They took the chef salad away cuz not enough of the grade school kids ate it. They also had cut veggies with ranch dressing and took that off too cuz no child except mine (apparently) would eat it. And they never had yogurt. I told her from the get-go it was a dessert. Now she loves it. And broccoli, spinach, and a lot of other veggies.They only have to meet a certain number with calories and fat for a meal to be accepted in schools. The best thing would be if you can pack your kids' lunch every day. I work full time and hope that the school can provide a decent lunch. There are times though that she's told me she had nachos for lunch. Not a real meal. And I pay for that crap!

    • profile image

      Sarah 4 years ago

      Thank you so much-this is so helpful!

    • Mari Koeck profile image

      Mari Koeck 5 years ago

      This is so helpful. Thank you! I'm going through this with my son right now, but his doctor says there's no way that milk in my diet would affect him. I eliminated dairy anyway and as soon as I did, he was a different baby. He's 4 1/2 months old now and I'm wondering when/if I can start re-introducing it. I'm ready for some cheese again, but it's not worth the pain he goes through.

    • profile image

      mom of 3 5 years ago

      This is been the most informative information I found on the internet that I've needed right now. My baby is 5 weeks right now but when he was 2 or 3 weeks he would projectile vomit after every bottle. sometimes he projectile vomited right after a feed sometimes it would be an hour later. So I knew it wasn't pyloric stenosis. He would blow out of every diaper, arch his back, and cry a lot. I took him into the pediatrician about 3 weeks and he prescribe him zantax and said he had reflux and said it could take a year to go away. After a week of the medicine things weren't getting any better. He started getting green mucusy poop. my Motherly instinct said that's something more was wrong and so I went back to the internet to search and found that it could be milk protien allergy. I've been off dairy for 2 days now and my baby is already improving. He is vomiting less. Thank you for this blog, it helped a lot!

    • ellahall2011 profile image

      ellahall2011 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this hub.

    • profile image

      Anne 6 years ago

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. I'm a first time mom with a 3 month old daughter who just tested positive for a milk protein allergy. After months of "colic", a trip to the emergency room, poor weight gain, and endless hours of crying with my daughter, a new pediatrician finally suggested getting stool samples tested for this. I've been off dairy for a few days now and am so grateful to finally know what's wrong. Looking forward to seeing the full results!

    • Leah Wingert profile image

      Leah Wingert 6 years ago from Texas

      You're sure not the only one. Ditto with my daughter and all 7 of her cousins from my husband's side. Egh.

    • w_elizabeth profile image

      w_elizabeth 7 years ago

      Very nice hub you got here and quite helpful too. Thanks for the info!

    • cbris52 profile image

      cbris52 7 years ago

      Great Hub!super useful info.. thanks for sharing your story!

    • Blogger Mom profile image
      Author

      Blogger Mom 9 years ago from Northeast, US

      How To, I actually think it may be genetic, since all of my kids had it, and 2 of my sisters 3 kids had it. Thank goodness it was temporary! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. - Deb

    • The How To Hub profile image

      The How To Hub 9 years ago from Australia

      My first two children were both lactose intolerant and breast feed. The odds of having a child that reacts to breast milk is very very low but to end up with two I thought I was the unluckiest person in the world. Turns out I was wrong.....we can share that title : )

    • Blogger Mom profile image
      Author

      Blogger Mom 9 years ago from Northeast, US

      Thanks to everyone for the comments. My ped told me that the number one cause of colic in breastfed babies is the inability to properly digest proteins found in cow's milk (passed through the mother's milk). In my personal experience, cutting dairy out made my babies much happier and more comfortable!

    • profile image

      Carrie 9 years ago

      I think my baby's got a milk sensitivity/allergy. He started off as fussy - but that's not abnormal in a newborn. Then, we thought he had reflux because he spit up so much, arched his back, and fussed at feeding time. By the time his stools turned green and had mucous and blood (4 mos old) - I had no idea what was wrong with him. He had frequent diarrhea, was projectile vomiting, and was obviously in pain. Finally, I was told about milk allergies. Within days of eliminating dairy, he stopped spitting up so much, stopped fussing, and his number of bm's went down dramatically (he was going constantly). I thought he had a drool rash on his rosy and dry cheeks - turns out to be mild ezcema and is almost gone. I wish I had known sooner! So many people think I'm nuts and he just had a 'bug' but I know that the milk I consumed was causing him misery. Small sacrifice to stop eating it!

    • funnebone profile image

      funnebone 9 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

      The only thing that should drink cows milk are cows...Milk is bad....bad moocow

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 9 years ago from Connecticut

      Great hub - it can be so confusing to try to figure out!