Breastfeeding a Baby with Milk Allergies. Kristen’s Story.

This post was written by Kristen, DDL contributor.

food_cookies&milkI love milk.  I also happen to love ice cream…and cheese.  A LOT.  I typically would drink 2 gallons of milk a week, just myself.

Why am I telling you this?  Because 3 months ago, I was told by my daughter’s pediatrician that in order to keep breastfeeding my 5 day old baby, Suriah, I would need to cut all dairy, eggs, soy, nuts and seafood out of my diet.

I had no idea what was left to eat!!!

It really wasn’t a laughing matter though.  At only 4 days old, I was changing Suriah’s poopy diaper, only to discover that it wasn’t poopy…it was blood. I calmly called the on call doctor, who told me to save the diaper and bring her in the next day.  (How I managed to not rush her to the ER is beyond me!).  Before I was able to bring her in the next day, she had about 5 more blood-filled-diapers.  At the doctor’s office it was confirmed that it was in fact blood (I had been hoping I was wrong of course) and that because Suriah appeared otherwise healthy, it was most likely due to a severe allergy.  Whatever she was allergic to was actually causing her intestines to bleed.

After consulting with a pediatric gastroenterologist, it was decided that if I wanted to continue to breastfeed, I would need to seriously change my diet.  And if I chose to not breastfeed, then Suriah would need to be placed on a very expensive, prescription-only formula that is just amino acids.  Her pediatrician told me that it was healthiest for Suriah to get breastmilk and advised that changing my diet was the best thing for her if I could really stick to it.  Breastfeeding my first child didn’t work out as I had hoped because she needed to be supplemented with formula and other problems led to me drying up at 5 months, so before Suriah was born, I was determined to exclusively breastfeed her.  I had been planning and preparing and mentally working on the idea of breastfeeding in public…and then I was told that I needed to change my diet so drastically that I honestly didn’t even know what I would be able to eat anymore.  Oh…and did I mention that I already had a weird diet?  Yeah, I haven’t eaten red meat in about 20 years and I don’t eat any meat off the bone.  I’m really not a big meat eater.

allergy foods
Image from Babble

Lets sum that all up…

*pretty much no meat

*no soy

*no dairy

*no eggs

*no nuts

*no seafood

What the heck is left?!?!

When I got home, I realized that even my bread had milk in it! Giving up dairy was going to be the hardest sacrifice, especially when I realized that dairy was hidden in a lot of other things as well.  But I was dedicated.  It definitely tested my dedication to breastfeeding.  In fact, I had a few friends tell me that they would just switch over to the formula…that it wasn’t worth it to sacrifice so much just to breastfeed.  Even my own family was not supportive of me breastfeeding at this point.  But I did have some friends who supported me and also helped me figure out some things I could eat.  And the fact that the special formula cost $50 for a 14oz can was also a huge motivator to continue to breastfeed as well.  Plus, I had some serious issues with her latch and went through a tough time getting adjusted to breastfeeding…there was some serious cracking and bleeding nipples going on!  I called La Leche League and visited a lactation consultant…and continued to try to figure out what I could eat.

At 8 weeks, Suriah’s pediatrician allowed me to try to work something back into my diet.  She didn’t want me to choose dairy, so we started with soy, as that gave me many more options of what I could add into my diet.  Over the course of the next few weeks, I had to take soy out of my diet again, but then was able to work it back in.  Now that Suriah is 3.5 months old, I am happily also able to eat nuts and seafood as well.  It seems that her severe reaction was most likely caused by a protein allergy to dairy and eggs.  Right now I am not sure how long I will have to go without dairy or eggs, but it’s possible that she may have the allergy forever because her reaction was so severe.

kristensboobsHaving to sacrifice so much in my diet, especially some of the things I love most (I consider myself an ice cream and cheese connoisseur), has definitely made breastfeeding much harder…but it’s also made it more rewarding, and as an added bonus, I feel really proud of myself for being able to exclusively breastfeed my daughter for over 3 months and to watch her thrive and grow because of my milk.  Breastfeeding isn’t easy.  It’s hard in so many ways, especially when it doesn’t go as smoothly as you plan, but it’s worth it.  It’s worth not having a big glass of milk with my oreos, or milk in my cereal, some smoked gouda cheese or some of the Guinness ice cream at the new ice cream shop in town (who wouldn’t want to try that!?!?!)…because I know that I am giving my daughter the best nourishment I can, regardless of the sacrifice I have to make everyday.  I love exclusively breastfeeding more than I ever thought I would…but I also can’t wait to try some of that Guinness ice cream some day!

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  • I too had to give up dairy products while I nursed my now 13 month old. Of course it was during the summer and I LOVE LOVE LOVE ice cream, cheese, and milk. I switched to rice products and learned I could survive without ice cream. Even now he is still on rice, but we are leaning more towards a lactose issue than a milk protein as he handles yogurt and cheese just fine. thank you for sharing your story!
    .-= Heather´s last blog ..Homemade Pop-tarts =-.

  • I had to cut out dairy and soy completely when I was breastfeeding my middle child. It was hard but well worth it and he was breastfed until 14 months old :0). After a while I guess you just get used to the diet and know what you can and can’t eat.
    My daughter is 4 1/2 months old and I can’t drink milk but small amounts of ice cream, yogurt and cheese are fine, if I have too much of it her reflux gets really bad and she throws up a lot. I’m just thankful that I’m able to breastfeed even with those challenges thrown at me.

    I should add that I’m allergic to soy, nuts and a lot of fruits due to my severe environmental allergies. So I was very limited as to what I could eat with my middle one.

  • Amy

    Congratulations and kudos to you for your sacrifices to provide your baby with the best there is!!

  • Abigail Berthold

    My son has intollerances to milk and soy too! He never had blood in his stool. But showed all of the to the other signs of intollerance (fussy, gassy, not happy after a feeding). We are a success with EBF for almost 5 months. Now I’m trialing milk back into my diet. So far so good. But I haven’t gone off the deep end yet.

    Thank goodness of Whole Foods and Enjoy Life – they have made this much easier to deal with. 🙂

  • wow…..i am SO proud of you! that is an amazing sacrifice to make for your child, but as moms, these sacrifices don’t seem so negative when we consider the benefits for our children! i, too, had issues with needing to supplement with formula for my son when he was almost 4 months old, because i was working and my body just didn’t respond to the pump. i also had to stop around 6 months because i just couldn’t produce milk anymore and I tried EVERYTHING. for my next child (nope, not pregnant yet) i hope to BF exclusively, especially since we made the decision that I will be a stay at home mom after this school year is over. Your post reminds me to be prepared for the unexpected! thank you for sharing your story! 🙂

  • Christine

    My two children have both had dairy allergies. It’s quite an adjustment to eating without dairy/finding all of the hidden allergens in items. Eliminating dairy certainly helps you eat more fresh items and home cooked meals and fewer processed goods, as they almost always have whey in them to “improve taste”.

    With my son it took us eight, nearly nine months to learn about his allergy. It was a long, painful process. I still have a little PTSD from dealing with a screaming infant for 8 months. We transitioned him to formula at that time. He had stopped nursing at 6 weeks old (due to the pain, he prefered milk pumped and from an icecold bottle because it was less painful for him) and I had been pumping for the interim, but couldn’t continue and couldn’t justify subjecting him to further pain as I learned the new eating habits. However, I learned how to cook dairy free as my son transitioned to solids.

    When my daughter was born and showed signs of the dairy allergy as soon as my milk came in I immediately went off dairy. We put her on soy formula for a week while the dairy flushed out of my system and she’s been nursing ever since. She actually refuses the bottle now (which I have mixed feelings about, but oh, well). It’s great when you can learn all the tricks and are still able to breast feed. Not that there’s anything wrong with switching to formula, it has a place. Those elemental formulas are sure expensive though, we almost ended up there with my son. It was the only thing that made me wish I’d continued pumping. It’s all come out in the wash now though. He eats dairy like a pro these days.

  • While my sons reaction wasn’t as severe I had to go off of the same items for about 4 months and it was SO difficult! I discovered rice milk though which helped a bit.

    You’re doing a wonderful thing for your child- good for you!

  • Sonia

    Wow, that has to be really hard. Way to go for seeing it through! If this happened to me I would also try to change my diet than switch to formula! There are a number of food blogs that have many dairy free recipes (ie. It has to be hard to dramatically change your diet no matter the reason! Good luck in the rest of your bfing journey!

  • kristen

    Thanks everyone for the positive comments and for sharing your stories as well. It’s nice to know there were many others in the same boat. Thanks Sonia for the link to the dairy free recipes!

  • Hope you are continuing to get the support you need! I know how hard this can be…I won’t even go into the difficulties we faced with nursing the first few months. Ugh! I do wish it had been easier, but we persevered and now my 11 month-old and I have a fabulous nursing relationship and hopefully will continue to!
    Bless you and hang in there! You’re a champion!!
    P.S. Hey, that picture of your LO nursing? If you’re having some difficulty with latch/pain/etc still, you might try to be more tummy-to-tummy. I just noticed she’s turning her head toward you instead of that tummy-to-tummy position. Don’t know if that’ll help you guys or not, but thought I’d point it out! 🙂 HUGS to you both!
    .-= Julie Martin´s last blog ..Just for Today =-.

  • I just wanted to also thank you for sharing your story. My girl is almost 7 months old and I am milk, soy, nut and fish free as well. Hard, but definitely worth it! My first has milk, egg, peanut, and tree nut allergies as well, so the learning curve has been long for me, but reading from the rest of you who have been through it has been so helpful! I don’t know anyone else in my daily life who has been through this. Thanks for sharing!

  • My baby is also allergic to milk and falls into a rare category of also being allergic to beef. I’ve been dairy free and beef free since she was five weeks old. She is 14 months old now and we are still going strong. She still can’t have either – dairy exposure turns her poop black (which we now know is blood in her stool).

    So glad to see another mom out there with a similar experience. Thanks for the blog post!

  • Laura

    Thanks for sharing. I give you tremendous credit in your journey. I exclusively nursed my son until he was 15 months old. He rejected the 2 rx formulas I tried to sprinkle in his oatmeal at 9 months. I loved milk, cheese, eggs, pancakes, beer…..the list goes on and on. I didn’t know how I was going to do it either and my friends all told me that they couldn’t do it.
    My son is extremely allergic to all nuts, eggs, dairy, soy, wheat, shellfish, sesame and mustard. I have lost my taste for drinking milk and I haven’t eaten eggs or nuts in over a year. I feel our diet is much healthier because we are having to make wiser food decisions. In the end what you have done for your baby is the best gift you can ever offer.

  • I had an allergy baby too and had to cut all wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, and sesame out of my diet. It was not fun at all but very rewarding as my little one began to get better. She’s now 1 1/2 and we’re still working on her allergen free diet. The change in her was amazing and it’s hard to believe it was a severe food allergy that caused all the problems. Unfortunately, it took us months to be diagnosed. Kudos to for working so hard with the diet. It is so hard and very few people are supportive but it’s doable with lots of dedication.