3 Reasons Why Your Baby Is Not Tolerating Your Breast Milk

As a primary source of nutrition, breast milk is the healthiest form of food for your baby. But what if your baby isn’t able to keep down your milk? Is your little one spitting out, vomiting, or crying whenever you feed them? Although it might be exhausting and easy to jump to the conclusion of your baby being allergic to your milk, there might be multiple reasons behind it.

Suppose your little one cannot tolerate your milk. It might be because of 3 main issues: food sensitivities, lactose intolerance, or food allergies. If you consume cow’s milk daily, it’s important to note, between 2 and 8 percent of infants are allergic or sensitive to cow’s milk. When you pass those proteins through your breast milk, it affects your baby too.

These issues are due to which your baby is not able to digest your breast milk properly. Each of these has its different solutions and symptoms to look out for that you as parents can take care of yourself. Let’s learn what steps you can take as parents to help your child with an easy feed.

Importance of breast milk

Breast milk is a primary nutrition source for newborns containing fat, proteins, carbohydrates, and variable minerals and vitamins. Not only is it a nutritional source for your baby, but it also helps create a bond between you and your little one.

Your breast milk also contains antibodies and live white blood cells that help your baby fight against infection. Apart from the benefits mentioned above, studies show that breastfeeding your child relieves stress and anxiety in mothers.

Breast milk has numerous benefits for health, immunity, growth, and development. It is also proved that the smell and taste of your breast milk change depending on the foods you eat. Eating various kinds of foods during this time can benefit your child later on when you start them with solid food. Still, there are cases when it creates an opposite effect by making it difficult for your baby to digest your breast milk. Let’s see how that happens!

3 Reasons why your baby is not tolerating your breast milk

1) Food sensitivities

Food sensitivities occur in your baby when they cannot digest your breast milk due to what you eat in your day-to-day diet. Even though you are eating healthy, but certain foods might cause your baby to react this way even then.

A newborn baby is crying after drinking moms breast milk, because he has a food intolerance.

Foods like broccoli, onion, garlic, and cabbage may cause your baby to be tooting all day long and fussy at the same time. It is also noticed amongst many moms that consuming spicy food during breastfeeding is also creates the same problem. Such food items develop digestive issues in your baby that may last for 24 hours, and your little one might feel normal afterward.

Symptoms include:

  • Gassy
  • Fussy
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain

To escape this food sensitivity crisis, you must simply observe and note down all the items causing this problem in the first place and avoid eating such things for a while. You don’t need to worry much as this is a phase in newborns which only lasts for about 3-4 months. After a period, your baby is no longer sensitive to such food items.

Avoiding such food items is the best option for now when you notice your baby is reacting negatively to it.

2) Food allergies

When your baby is consuming your breast milk, you should keep in mind that whatever you are eating or drinking is your baby feeding directly. As I explained before, the nutrients in your breast milk come directly from what’s circulating in your blood. Whatever nutrients you absorb from the food you consume are passed along to your baby.

A young toddler has a red rash on his face after breastfeeding, because of food allergies from what mom ate.

The most common food items that cause food allergy include soy, corn, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, chocolate, and the most common cow’s milk. While cow’s milk is a separate category altogether, which we will discuss next, the other items are easy to avoid food items.

Symptoms include:

It is not a life-threatening scenario where you need to worry a lot and be taken care of at home by simply observing what you eat.

The diagnosis is a simple one, by eliminating items that cause allergy in the first place. Removing potential allergens from your diet one by one until you find what’s causing the allergy.

3) Lactose intolerance

As the name suggests, lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder caused by the inability to digest lactose, the main carbohydrate in dairy products. In about 100 infants with suspected food allergy, dairy products caused 65% of cases.

Lactose intolerant

Symptoms include:

  • Pain or swelling in the tummy
  • Unable to settle during feeding time
  • Failure to gain weight
  • Diarrhea
  • Bulky, frothy, watery feces
  • Red bottom with rashes
  • Passing wind
  • Irritability

Babies with lactose intolerance cannot digest lactose properly, and it remains indigestible in the intestine. Very young babies often are not yet producing enough of the enzyme (lactase), which helps digest lactose.

Your baby may have lactose intolerance without ever having had infectious diarrhea, but the enzyme will increase with age, so there is no need to stop breastfeeding unless the lactose intolerance is severe, causing dehydration or poor growth.

Suppose it seems severe and you notice the above symptoms. In that case, you could try the lactose-free formula for a week or so until their symptoms have gone. Then try breast milk again by slowly introducing it with the formula alternatively.

For example, 4 bottles of lactose-free formula with 1 bottle of breast milk in a day and slowly increase to see if your baby can keep it down without showing any symptoms. If any symptoms come up, then go back to the start.

Consult your pediatrician if the symptoms persist, and if your case is severe, then you might have to keep your little one away from all dairy products and find alternative nutritional sources to keep them healthy.

Hypoallergenic formula

The American Academy of Paediatricians recommends hypoallergenic formula to those babies who are allergic to cow’s milk and have a problem digesting it. The hypoallergenic formula proteins have been pre-digested so that large milk proteins are broken down into smaller ones. This makes it easy to digest and less allergic.

Babies with food sensitivities are not recommended this formula, as such sensitivity can be removed by controlling one’s diet. This formula is to be consumed by babies who have a severe allergy.

The formula is available as:

  • Partially hydrolyzed, where proteins are only partially broken down (not truly hypoallergenic).
  • Extensively hydrolyzed, which contains the smallest milk proteins.
  • Free amino acid-based, in which proteins are split into their building blocks, amino acids. If your baby is not able to tolerate hypoallergenic formula, amino acid one is the next step.

As you start using the hypoallergenic formula, you will notice a few changes like a change in your baby’s stool, different smells and tastes of the formula, and the clear colour of the formula. Even though a little expensive, this is a good alternative for breast milk. You can find it at leading formula retailers and might even get samples from your doctor to try it out.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why can’t some babies tolerate breast milk?

A baby breastfed might have an allergy or sensitivity reaction to something the mother has consumed before. Includes common allergic food items such as cow’s milk, soy foods, wheat, chocolates, egg, nuts, fish.

How do I know if my baby is not tolerating breast milk?

Symptoms include spitting up, diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, eczema, hives, crying, grunting, coughing, wheezing, runny nose and such. Which are then divided into significant issues that come under intolerance of breast milk, namely food sensitivity, food allergies, and lactose intolerance. Although intermingled but have a very fine division.

What can I do if my baby is frustrated while breastfeeding?

You, as a parent, can do multiple things to soothe your child and make sure they are well fed. Switching sides, changing positions, skin-to-skin touch, playing some white noise in the background, creating a peaceful environment, burping and so on.

What should I feed my baby if no breast milk?

If you have tried everything you could and consulted your pediatrician about it, then the last remaining option is to go with a formula. But always consult before jumping onto using it right away, there is nothing better than breast milk.

To summarise

As widely known, there is nothing better or more nutritional than breast milk for a baby, but the problem arises if your baby is not able to tolerate your breast milk and not able to digest it in the way they should.

Intolerance towards your breast milk could be due to 3 main factors: food sensitivity, food allergies, or lactose intolerance of the baby. In the first two cases, there is a perfect chance that you can reduce such issues by removing food items from your diet that cause such problems to your little one. Lactose intolerance, if serious (rare), can only be taken care of by removing all the dairy products from your child’s consumption and introducing alternatives.

With self-determination, you can remove items from your diet that you notice cause a problem in your baby’s digestion of your breast milk. You can introduce these items again once the crucial 6 month feeding period has passed. You just need to observe and eliminate for now!

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