Can Babies Be Allergic to Breastmilk?

Updated on April 04, 2011
S.G. asks from Tewksbury, MA
20 answers

My cute little girl is 6 weeks old and has had 3 diaper rashes, a bad case of eczema on her face and just recently got diarrhea. My husband looked up diarrhea and found that it is almost always linked to milk allergies and the same allergy can also cause eczema. So my husband thinks that she is allergic to my breastmilk. I didn't think babies could be allergic to breastmilk but what the mother is eating that is passing to her milk. Like cow's milk. My poor baby has been very gassy, hiccups all the time, burping, spitting up. I don't eat very much with cow's milk in it because I started noticing a direct link to how she feels a few hours later. Depending on what I have, some days she does much better

So can babies be allergic to breast milk? I hate to think that I'd have to stop nursing her as she and I have literally invested blood, sweat, and tears into learning how to nurse together. What can I ask my pediatrician to find out for sure what the allergy is and how can if correct it if it really is a cow's milk allergy?

Does anyone have any advice or something to share before I break down in tears (again) over nursing?!!

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So What Happened?

I got a lot of great advice and am happy to say that she just has milk allergies to cow's milk and not my breast milk. I went rigidly dairy free with my diet on April 2nd and she is a different baby now! Her face and bum cleared up and she hardly ever spits up now! Just to test the waters, I ate something that had the tiniest bit of dairy in it and she had an instant reaction to it.

Thanks so much to all the moms with their great advice to help me calm down and hang in there!

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answers from Boston on

Before jumping to any conclusions I'd remove dairy from my diet give it a week or two and see if her symptoms improve.

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answers from St. Louis on

Dont stop breastfeeding. Hang in there! She can be allergic to something your eating and passing to her. It probably is a cows milk and dairy if you have noticed a difference. Try to cut out dariy. You can drink soy milk, I heard almond milk tastes better though. You can also try just lactose free dairy products and see if that helps too. My baby had a lactose problem, was able to do dairy, just had to be lactose free. You can find almost every product you need in non dairy (cheeses, milk, etc...). Maybe look up a Vegan diet and see what they eat except you can still eat meat of course. Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Hi S.---I would say that she is NOT allergic to breast milk, however, she could be having issues with some of the foods you are eating. You should go on an elimnation diet to see which foods affect her the worst.

Cows milk/dairy is one of the most allergenic substances for man, even though it is touted as mother natures most perfect food. It is only perfect for baby cows. I say these things as a reformed milk drinker after taking a series of classes taught by a Naturopath. But, you should decide for yourself. Please go to and put dairy in the search box. A couple of other resources are and

Some other offending foods could be, of course, cruciferous veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, etc. Here is a great list offered by Dr. Sears (he and wife and sons have written over 40 books on pregnancy, babies, vaccines, sleep, etc) I have the honor of knowing and working with them in my health education business.

And, just to reassure you, there are very few true food allergies. There may be multiple intolerances, but those really are allergies. Be patient and in time, everyone will eventually adjust. Until then, keep baby on her tummy, on your lap when comforting her. You can also try a warm water bottle and the old stand-by, have her on your lap, on her back between your legs, her head away from you and take her legs, and push them up toward her stomach so that the knees are at the chest. Keep pumping her legs until she is able to process the gassiness. Take care, especially of yourself. Trust me, I've been there. She'll get over it...even if that seems impossible going through the incessant crying. D.

Other resources confirm that your diet is the likely culprit, So don't stress over this, just be methodical in searching out those foods and eliminate them for a period of time. Only reintroduce these foods back into your diet one at a time so that you can be sure what it is if the colic resumes. Good luck. It will all be over soon.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

She wouldn't be allergic to your breastmilk but she would be allergic to things in your diet. Same happened to my oldest -- she is allergic to milk so it would require a complete dairy elimination from your diet (which is hard) and it takes a WHILE to get out of your system and hers till you would see improvement. It is not an overnight thing....expect about 2 weeks after you quit all dairy until you would see a complete improvement. They usually will not test an infant before 6 mos to a year for allergies....they just have moms do elimination diets for their own foods if they are nursing or switch formulas if they are formula feeding. My daughter ended up peanut, egg, milk, fish allergic (those would be 4 staples of my diet on a normal we are a peanut-free household and the others are not given to her -she is 3.5 now). By the way- it is worth it to do the elimination diet and continue nursing -- hypoallergenic formula is EXPENSIVE and soy is not so great for babies (so drinking a TON of it as soy formula is not something I would highly suggest). Best wishes!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Its not so much the breastmilk itself, but what you're eating that passes into the breastmilk. Yea sounds really odd, but the cow milk protiens do cross over into the breastmilk and so you baby is reacting to that.

So really just cut out all the dairy product in your diet and baby will be much happier. Just realize it takes a good two weeks , or more, before you're body will be rid of the cow milk and another week or two for baby's body to be completely rid of it. If you can, talk to a LC or LLL leader for ways to keep up the calories while avoiding dairy.
Best wishes.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Definitely speak to your pediatrician and have him/her run tests to confirm what is wrong. I have a friend whose baby WAS actually allergic to her breastmilk (this, after she resorted to an all-vegan diet to try and figure out what her baby was allergic to). It was more than just being gassy though, her baby was a preemie and ended up having a perforated bowel and all kinds of crazy stuff as a result of her allergy to mom's milk. They had to switch her to a special kind of formula, after which she was absolutely fine. But from what she experienced, you'd KNOW if it was the actual breastmilk your baby's allergic to. Most likely as the other moms have said, your baby is allergic to cow's milk, or maybe even eggs, or is sensitive to broccoli, or... who knows what! Rather than guessing and having both of you be so miserable, ask the doctor to do some allergy tests and then you'll know.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Most babies are not allergic to breastmilk, but something in it, like you said. Try cutting out dairy for a week and see how she reacts. Also, bring up your concerns with your pediatrician for ideas and suggestions as well. Just tell your pediatrician what you told us here.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

ABSOLUTELY can your baby be allergic to your breast milk. ((Another reason why 'breast is best' makes me roll my eyes, although I'm a breastfeeding advocate. NOTHING is best for everyone, and in some cases it's deadly))

Pick any substance on the planet and SOMEONE is allergic to it. Allergies are just your body reacting to something as if it's a deadly posion. Some are allergic to specific sugars (like certain milk sugars) others to specific proteins (like certain milk proteins). Others have inabilities to process certain nutrients. My uncle-in-law CANNOT process vitamin A. It blinded him by age 1 (vitA toxicity) and caused a lot of organ damage. If they'd had the ability to put him on formula that didn't contain VitA, he'd never have had his lifelong health issues, nor had to deal with blindness.

Do NOT NOT NOT feel bad about formula if that's the route you end up needing to take.

Formula is LIFESAVING for millions of babies who would otherwise just be listed as Baby Girl Jones in the family bible. Most women used to be able to expect to lose an average of 2-3 babies between the ages of birth and 2yo. Usually to disease we now vax against, but also often to allergies/ starvation/ etc.

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answers from Tampa on

Not allergic to breastmilk, allergic to something or things you are consuming.

Broccoli/Cabbage/brussel sprouts/Eggs (gassy foods)

Cut out ALL dairy for 3 weeks and see if there is a change... yes it takes 2-3 weeks for dairy to completely leave your system. If that has made a slight difference - GREAT, but may need to cut out gluten next.

If no change, then start re-introducing dairy to your diet - but the organic type only. Also probiotics for Mommy and Baby are fabulous!!

Keep trying the usual suspects that cause issues for breastfeeding Moms until you find the one group or groups and try to stick it out for at least 6 months.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Shreveport on

Riley and Catherine are right. It can and does happen. I wouldn't have believed it myself if a good friend hadn't had happen to her. It was so heartbreaking to watch her struggle to find out what was wrong with her baby. Her first doctor told her no way the baby was allergic to breast milk but it was something she was eating. She felt horrible and was changing her diet like crazy to try and help her baby. It was when he wound up in the ER due to bloody stool and some other issues that she came across a doctor that said it was possible and told her to stop. He started thriving shortly after being put on formula. He was a total different baby within 2 months of being on formula.
My friend went into to her old doctor and griped him out for misleading her and risking her baby without checking his facts.

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answers from Boston on

It is extremely rare for the baby to be intolerant to breastmilk. So much more likely it is something in your diet. Dairy is one of the biggest offenders as everyone has mentioned. The thing with dairy is that it sticks around in your body so firstly you need to remove ALL dairy, which means that you pretty much cannot eat anything processed bc there is dairy in everything, breads, soup, crackers, you name it dairy is hiding in there. Then once you remove it you need to keep it out of your diet for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference bc the protein hangs around a while.

The problem with stopping breastfeeding due to allergy is that as others have mentioned if it is a dairy allergy, often soy goes along with it, so you stop nursing and then you can't do dairy or soy-based formula, you can only use the expensive non-allergenic stuff. Also since you sound like you really don't want to stop nursing, sounds like an elimination diet is in order. You can either take out dairy and see if that makes a difference after a few weeks or go total elimination of all the top allergens and then gradually add things back in after you've had everything out for a few weeks. I know someone who was on the turkey and rice diet for several months but then at 8-10 months was able to gradually add back in foods. Her son is almost 4 and can eat everything now, so they do grow out of it.

As far as asking the pedi, they can test but the tests can be inaccurate so really the best way to do it is eliminating foods from your diet. I'm sorry you have this stress!!

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answers from Boston on

you have received lots of lovely responses, just to affirm - don't stop BF if you don't want to! You both can thrive, you just need to figure out what your poor DD is reacting to. Dairy is common, as is soy. I am gluten and dairy intolerant myself, and so it took me a while to realize my little one was reacting when I ate soy. If you need some help figuring out what to eat, I am happy to offer some suggestions! give the elimination diet a try, it can be very challenging for you, but IF YOU WANT TO keep Bf, it can be so worth it!

Cut out the dairy ASAP, and also eliminate gluten and soy. If those are indeed bothering her, you should notice a difference fairly soon. I think they say up to one month for an adult to notice an improvement, for babies, can be much sooner, one to two weeks.

Good Luck - keep up the BF if that is what you want - it is such a sweet, beautiful relationship!


answers from Minneapolis on

Beyond what may be in your milk from your own diet, I would want to ask you HOW you feed her. Are you switching sides during feedings? Do you have a super fast, spray everywhere, letdown? If you answered yes to these two questions, you can fix this pretty easily.

First, do NOT switch sides! Only one breast per feeding only. Let her nurse and nurse and nurse on one side until she's done, falling asleep or pops off herself. Never switch breasts!
If your letdown is fast, like spraying all over, baby gulping and dribbling milk, then let her latch until you letdown, then unlatch her and let the milk spray into a towel. When it stops spraying, relatch her nad then let her nurse that one breast only. What this does is allow your body to letdown naturally (from baby suckling) but when she stops nursing during letdown it tells your body that its too much, slow down. If you pump through it instead it iwll tell your body to keep making that much milk, so letting it spray on its own will help it slow down.

So only one breast per feeding (and use the toher breast for the next feeding, I used a stretchy bracelet on my wrist to remind myself which side was next, just switching it over to hte other wrist), and unlatch her during letdown until the spray stops.

Her poops should be yellow and seedy. If they are green, mucousy, stringy like wet lettuce, she is getting too much foremilk and it will make her mimic reflux, be gassy and uncomfortable and fussy. Once she's getting the proper balance of hindmilk and foremilk, she will be all set. :)



answers from Boston on

I haven't read the other answers yet, but I'm guessing a lot of people did tell you that it is possible. I would also guess that many people would encourage you to try to alter your diet. I'm not sure I'd tell you that necessarily - but I do strongly believe your baby could be allergic to your breast milk. I have 2 daughters. I breastfed my oldest for 3 months. During that time she had a lot of colic (and also acid reflux - a whole other story). Once I went back to work I stopped breastfeeding and used formula. We quickly found we had to switch to soy formula - and from then on - no more colic! Turned out a lot of her symptoms were indeed from my breastmilk - but I had confused them with her acid reflux symptoms (which stayed even after the formula). She was so much happier with the soy formula ! Made me a bit sad to think of all the pain/trouble of breastfeeding and she was so much happier without it ! When she was old enough (one year) to try cow's milk - she got the rash on her face (maybe eczema) - so we held off - and tried later - when she was 2 she could have milk in limited quantities - she was fine with a little, but too much dairy would start the rash on her face. She's now 11 years old and loves dairy and seems to be able to have all she wants without trouble. Also - FYI - my second baby LOVED breastfeeding - and I did it for her for 16 months (even though I really wanted to only do 3 months - but she was loving it and having no reaction to my milk) - so each child is different. So all the work you've put into the breastfeeding may pay off with a second child if you have one - because it is totally easier the second time around (and not anywhere near as painful) - so all of this work may not have been for nothing. And your baby will be so much happier without all the issues that you'll just be glad to have a happy baby. Good luck!



answers from Boston on

This happened with my daughter. She's not allergic to your milk, but probably to cow's milk that is in your milk. I stopped eating dairy and continued to nurse. A couple of weeks after I stopped the dairy all her symptoms disappeared. It was hard, but so worth it. Now that she's over a year old, we've reintroduced dairy and she is tolerating it well. Her pediatrician said that most kids will outgrow a dairy allergy. Good luck!



answers from Boston on

This could be related to eating foods that are flavorfull - spicy, a lot of garlic, hard for you (and baby) to digest. You should see a lactation consultant or your doctor. They will tell you what to eliminate and then slowly have you re-introduce the foods back to see if you can pinpoint the issue.


answers from Hartford on

It can happen, but it's extremely rare for a baby to be allergic to breastmilk. It's much more likely that she's allergic to something you're eating. If you noticed a link when you have milk, then you have to completely eliminate dairy from your diet. No cheese, no milk, nothing with lactose or casein or milkfat. You're going to have to read ingredient labels on everything. It sounds like a pain the tuccas but if you want to maintain a breastfeeding relationship then you have to at least try an elimination diet. With a proper elimination diet, you need a full month to test it out. Remove every single bit of dairy from your diet for four full weeks. It takes two weeks for dairy to exit your system and the baby's system, so that's what the first two weeks are for. Then you need the next two weeks to see what she's like off of dairy and if her health issues clear up. If they do, then you continue to stay off the dairy completely. If they clear up but not completely then you move on the the next common food allergen to eliminate from your diet. If there's no change at all then you know it's not dairy.

I would also suggest laying off artificial sweeteners. They not only make my migraines worse but they cause my eczema to flare up horribly. Especially Splenda. I had to switch back to plain old sugar.

You could also try not using the bath wash you're currently using. She could be allergic to her bath wash, lotion, hair wash, laundry detergent, pet dander, perfume, your shampoo or body lotion.



answers from Boston on

She is Sensitive to what YOU put in your body. Clean up your diet. Avoid ALL dairy(eczema is a sign of dairy intolerance), sugary foods(the diaper rash may be yeast), supplement with baby probiotics, and cut out all wheat and gluten foods. Start there, and then experiment with any other goods in your diet to see if that effects her as well. It may take up to two weeks to see results(or it could be immediate!). It know it's hard to limit foods while nursing, but it is essential, and worth it! Good luck!



answers from Boston on

S., I completely empathize with your situation - I had a DD who could not tolerate my breastmilk "as is" - she was gassy, had mucous and blood in her stools, broke out in a rash from me eating berries, and was generally in a lot of pain whenever she had to eat (and then as a response to feeding). She has also had some bouts with eczema. It all started about the same time as you. It is a great start to eliminate dairy from your diet - but remember to also look for "Casein" and "Whey" to eliminate as well. If it is a true milk protein sensitivity, it is not just the lactose (milk sugar), but the actual milk protein they have a sensitivity to.

One thing to do is to have your ped check her diaper for blood and mucous. There is a rapid test they can do right in the office for blood to confirm. Another thing to know is that about 50% of kiddos who have milk protein sensitivities also have sensitivity to soy. I ended up not eating any milk/dairy, soy, berries, nuts, or eggs. (one of these items is in almost everything - it takes a lot of pre-planning). We eventually switched to a hypoallergenic prescription formula and it made a world of difference - but I agree, they are expensive and taste AWFUL.

The same also happened to my nephew, so it is not uncommon to run in families. I would talk to your doc about this, and know that it is completely possible for her to outgrow it - mine is now 2.5 and can eat ANYTHING (and does).

Good luck, and hang in there.


answers from Boston on

No, she's not allergic to your milk. Don't stop breastfeeding. There may be some things in your diet that she is reacting to. I also have a good friend who is a nurse who had eczema from birth - she suffered so much and it broke her mother's heart. She has just found her results nutritionally and she is clearing up. She found out about how to deal with this from others who helped their newborns. If you would like to learn about a simpler, food-based approach to this (with scientific back-up from the scientist who developed ProSoBee and Enfamil formulas), there are some programs in this area where you can learn more - if you want more info, let me know. Your baby doesn't need to be suffering.

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