Breastfeeding baby with cow’s milk protein allergy

  • If your baby has a cow’s milk protein allergy, his doctor may advise you to cut milk and milk products from your diet.
  • Read labels carefully.

Congratulations on choosing to feed your baby breastmilkbaby’s perfect food! If your baby has cow’s milk protein allergy, there’s a chance cow’s milk protein can pass from your diet through your breastmilk and cause an allergic reaction. However, cow’s milk protein allergy is rare in breastfed babies, with only about 1% of babies affected.

Common symptoms of cow’s milk protein allergy are atopic dermatitis (an allergic skin rash, sometimes called eczema) or digestive problems such as vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms usually start two to six weeks after birth, though they can appear even sooner.

It’s great that you’re breastfeeding. So don’t be discouraged if your baby has a cow’s milk protein allergy. The good news is you can continue to give him the best nutrition with breastmilk by cutting cow’s milk protein from your own diet.

Unless your baby has been diagnosed with a cow’s milk protein allergy, you don’t need to avoid certain foods when breastfeeding. In fact, breastfeeding helps protect your baby from allergies.

Breastfeeding has many benefits for both Mom and baby, and it may even protect against cow’s milk protein allergy.

  • Only small amounts of cow’s milk protein are found in human milk.
  • Breastmilk contains probiotics and antibodies, which support a healthy immune system.
  • Breastfed babies tend to have more “good” bacteria in their digestive systems compared to formula-fed babies. 

How you can help your baby
If the doctor thinks your baby has cow’s milk protein allergy, he or she might advise you to cut out all foods containing cow’s milk from your diet. It’s not easy to eliminate cow’s milk and dairy from your diet, but just think of the benefits breastmilk has on your baby. Since dairy foods are a major source of Calcium and Vitamin D in your diet, you might need to take supplements to make sure you and your baby get the nutrition you both need. 

Need help getting cow's milk protein out of your diet? Dotti has the know-how. She's backed by our Certified Lactation Consultant and Registered Dietitians, just shoot her a text for expert advice!

If your baby has severe symptoms that include anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening) or growth failure, then your baby’s pediatrician may suggest a hypoallergenic formula, an amino acid formula that is for very special conditions. Remember, you can always pump your breastmilk to keep your milk supply up until your baby’s physician says it’s okay to begin breastfeeding again.

Reading food labels
Read ingredient statements on food labels carefully. Cow’s milk is a major food allergen that must be clearly labeled on any food packaged in the U.S. if it’s an ingredient.

Cow's milk can hide in unexpected places. Get help finding it.
If your baby definitely has a cow’s milk protein allergy and you’ve done your best to cut out all milk and dairy from your diet, but he still has symptoms, visit a dietitian. It may be helpful to keep a food diary for a few days, so the dietitian can help uncover hidden sources of cow’s milk.
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