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Breastfeeding and Food Allergies

Breastfeeding and Food Allergies

Oct 22, 2022

Is what you are eating causing your breastfed baby an allergic reaction? The unknown of how what you eat impacts your baby is sometimes overwhelming. This is one of our most asked about topics from mamas in our community. We brought in an expert to answer all your most asked questions! We hope this will bring you more clarity and put your mind at ease. You’re doing great, mama!!

How do I know if my baby is having a reaction to what I am eating? What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can vary widely because the immune system can impact nearly every part of the body.

Externally, we may see skin reactions such as:

  • Hives
  • Eczema, or other rashes.

Internally, your little one may experience:

  • Congestion
  • Reflux
  • Vomiting
  • Blood or excessive mucus in their stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation and discomfort

These internal and external symptoms can then cause secondary issues such as feeding aversions, sleep disturbances, slow weight gain, inconsolable crying, and more.

The biggest takeaways here:

  1. Most children will present with only a few of the listed symptoms, very rarely to they all occur in one patient.
  2. There is no one metric that “rules out” food reactivity. This means that your baby may have a food allergy even if they are gaining weight well or otherwise happy for example.
  3. This is not an exhaustive list! There are other, less common symptoms which your family may experience.
  4. Read more about baby food allergy symptoms.

Does everything we eat get transferred to our breastmilk?

All dietary proteins that we consume can transfer to human milk.  There are no foods which do not in some form find their way to our mammary tissue through the circulatory system.  Additionally, any food can be a trigger for any person.  In other words, there are no “completely safe” foods.  There are only items which are more or less likely to be a culprit.

Should breastfeeding moms avoid dairy?

Absolutely NOT.  Dairy is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals critical to lactating parents (and it tastes yummy too!).  Reasons for avoiding dairy should be for personal/religious preferences, allergic reactions the parent experiences upon consumption, or infant food reactivity symptoms. Work with a professional who can help ensure your dietary needs are still being met.

More on what to include in your breastfeeding diet HERE. 

If I suspect my breastfed baby is having a reaction to something I am eating, what should I do?

If your little begins experiencing symptoms, start tracking your intake and the reactions right away!  Free to Feed has a free dietary and food allergy tracking app for exactly that.  Next, schedule a personal consultation with one of our food allergy experts to discuss your journey, deep dive into the science behind what is happening in your and baby’s body, and build an action plan with you for next steps.  We provide a parent community, recipes, education, and messaging access to your expert.  You are not alone!

How do I get started with an elimination diet?

This depends!  Each journey is different, and many factors go into choosing the right strategy for you.  When we work with families, the following items are taken into consideration:

All of this goes into discussions about which elimination diet strategy (if any!) might be right for you.

How long does it take for the allergens to leave my breastmilk?

Research indicates that a single serving of food peaks in human milk within a few hours post-ingestion and steadily decreases thereafter.  These proteins typically clear in 8 hours on average if milk is being removed from the breast at a normal cadence (every 2-3 hours).  The standard recommendation is to wait 24 hours for full clearance to account for individual digestion, different servings, and transfer factors.  Nerd out about transfer research in this blog, “What Is the Truth About How Long Proteins Last in Your Breastmilk?”

Should I stop breastfeeding if my baby has a food allergy?

Whether you choose to continue to breastfeed your child or not is a deeply personal decision. If your baby is experiencing food allergy symptoms, you DO NOT have to stop breastfeeding. In fact, it is often more beneficial to start adjusting the diet and continuing your feeding journey to quickly determine which foods are eliciting a response. Thousands of food allergy families reach their breastfeeding goals every day.

If you’ve been told that your baby is allergic to your breastmilk specifically, or that they are lactose intolerant, this article is for you!

Is it ok to drink coffee if I am breastfeeding? Will it affect my baby.

Yesssss!  Science is on your side when it comes to liquid gold and liquid energy.  Studies show that minuscule amounts caffeine transfer to the breast.  One interesting study gave lactating individuals 750 mg of caffeine daily (that is over 7 cups of coffee!) for 5 days and continued to analyze breast milk concentrations for an additional 4 days after. The average concentration of day 5 milk samples was 4.3ug/ml. To compare, a cup of coffee contains over 400ug/ml!  If you are experiencing adverse infant symptoms after coffee consumption, check out our deep dive into the topic and how your morning joe might be impacting other foods transferred to your baby.

What are the most common food allergies in infants?

By far the most probable culprit for infant food reactivity is cow’s milk protein (and similar dairy products).  Nearly 90% of little ones with issues will respond to this group!  The next common trigger is soy followed by egg and wheat.  Beyond this group of “top 4 infant allergens”, the most common food allergens for an infant will be dependent on what type of reactivity you are experiencing.  For example, some foods are more likely to elicit a vomiting or reflux response while others are more commonly seen in eczema flares. 

If my baby has a food allergy, what are the chances that she will outgrow it?

Most infant food allergy symptoms fall under the category of non-IgE mediated reactions.  These can include congestion, reflux, vomiting, blood or excessive mucus in their stool, diarrhea, constipation, discomfort, and others.  Non-IgE mediated allergies are almost always outgrown, typically by the age of five and often as young as nine months old!

Do probiotics help with baby food allergies? Can they prevent them?

As humans, we have billions of different bacteria strains in and on our bodies. Unfortunately, knowing exactly which ones we may be deficient in has been difficult in the past and has muddied the waters in probiotic research. Why do certain probiotics seem to make a big impact for some individuals and little-to-no change for others? This is because that strain or strains of bacteria may not have been what the individual needed.


Dr. Trill’s Bio

Dr. Trill grew up in North Dakota. As a teenager she tried to make sure she surrounded herself with motivated people. When she turned 17, in her last semester of High School, she enlisted in the National Guard. When she turned 19 she was deployed to Iraq where she saw poverty like she had never seen before.

When she got home, she wanted to continue her education. She met her husband Peter while attending grad school for cellular and molecular biology.

Dr. Trill understands more than anyone what it’s like for your baby to have severe food allergies and have no idea that what your eating is causing reactions by the food the mom is eating. She found out when her first baby was 4 weeks old that June had severe infant food allergies, and recommended a hypoallergenic formula since food allergens passed through Dr. Trills breastmilk. Since Dr. Trill desperately wanted to breastfeed, doctors told her to remove several allergens from her diet. So she did just that to be able to continue breastfeeding. 3 years later, her second baby, Rosie, was born and they discovered she too had the same infant allergies that June did. Dr. Trill hoped more resources and information would be available. She was beyond disappointed to find little to none…still. She couldn’t fathom the lack of resources and credible guidance for mothers breastfeeding babies with food allergies. As the go-getter she is, she did something about it.

Dr. Trill decided to use her biology degree and make it her life’s mission to support families like you. Free to Feed was founded to provide support, education, and resources during your infant’s food allergy journey. She is devoted to giving back. Free to Feed is her way to bring resources and support she wished she had to other food allergy families.


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