Sensitivities in a baby from mom’s diet may cause symptoms such as colicky behavior, frequent screaming, fussiness at the breast, restlessness, agitation, sleep problems and digestive issues. Eliminating the offending items can bring relief to your baby. If you suspect a milk or food allergy or sensitivity is the reason for your baby’s irritability, the following information may be helpful for you.
If your baby is experiencing sensitivity or an allergy to a particular food, the following symptoms may be present:
• Red ring around his bottom
• Red earlobe or cheek
• Stuffy or runny nose
• Excessive Crying and/or Irritable Behavior
• Mucous or blood in stool
The onset of symptoms after eating a problem food can vary from baby to baby. It may present itself immediately (usually 4 hours for a breastfed baby) or have a delayed reaction of up to 24-48 hours. The most common types of foods that cause sensitivities in babies are protein foods. The foods that cause the most allergies include: cow’s milk, soy, nuts (especially peanuts and almonds), red berries, and tomatoes. A food protein intolerance will usually occur between 2 and 6 weeks of age. Cow’s milk protein accounts for 50-65% of food allergy cases in infants. If a cow’s milk protein allergy is suspected, some doctors will recommend switching to a hypoallergenic formula or suggest an elimination diet for nursing moms.
Other offending foods that have been known to cause sensitivities in babies are:
• Cruciferous vegetables: cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts,
• Beans and lentils
• Onions and garlic
• Caffeine (sodas, teas, coffee and chocolate)
• Red berries (strawberries, raspberries, cranberries)
• Citrus Fruits
Typically, if you experience digestive issues after eating a certain food then it is likely that your baby will have a reaction as well. If you suspect a food sensitivity or allergy in your baby, then you may want to keep a food journal. Write down everything you ate and notate the reaction your baby had (crying, rash, sleepless night, etc.). By analyzing the journal, you may find some connections as to what foods may be the culprits.
Remove the offending food for a few weeks and pay attention to your baby’s behavior. If you see a change in your baby, then you can slowly begin to add back in that food in small amounts and measure your child’s tolerance to that particular food. Studies have shown that there are several other treatment options that can be helpful to babies experiencing food protein intolerances.
Probiotics can be very helpful for babies with a protein food intolerance.
The most effective probiotic for this situation is one that contains Lactobacillus reuteri. In one study, ninety breastfed colicy infants were randomly assigned to receive either a Lactobacillus reuteri probiotic or Mylicon (simethicone) drops each day for 28 days. Mothers were also asked to avoid cow’s milk in their diets. 95% of the babies had improvement from food protein intolerance in comparison to only 7% of babies in the simethicone group within 1 week of treatment! Bio Gaia Lactobacillus reuteri liquid probiotic drops was the product referenced in the study. These drops are readily available online and in many retailers so you can check locally where you live.
The use of lactase enzymes have also been studied and shown to significantly reduce lactose intolerance in babies whose milk is treated with the enzyme. These digestive enzymes can help babies better digest lactose contained in breast milk or formula. Colief Infant Drops is a commonly used product and can be found in many retailers and pharmacies.
An elimination diet is a popular suggestion among doctors and lactation specialists.
Most of these diets revolve around removing any food that contains cow’s milk protein (cow’s milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.). Try not to replace your milk products with soy products as more than 50% of babies will have the same allergic reaction to soy if they are sensitive to cow’s milk. A good replacement to milk products would be to switch to rice milk.
Try removing the offending food items for one week if you are nursing and see if your infant’s symptoms subside. It may take some babies up to 10-14 days for milk proteins to completely clear from their systems. Most mothers will notice a difference in one week if milk allergy was the culprit.
The process of following an elimination diet is difficult for some mothers. If you suspect any milk or food allergy or sensitivity, the first step is to check with your baby’s doctor, an allergist, or a lactation specialist if you are nursing. A doctor can order a fetal occult blood test that can look for blood in your baby’s stool which could be an indication of food protein intolerance. Before removing important and healthy food from your diet, please seek your doctor’s and a lactation consultant’s advice to ensure there are no other underlying issues that could be causing your baby’s fussiness and symptoms.