Breast-fed infants can develop food allergies. In these instances, the most likely potential allergens are milk and soy. These proteins are similar to maternal milk proteins and pass into the breast milk more easily. Symptoms of allergy in a breast-fed infant will likely resolve if the mother completely avoids the potential allergen. See your GP for a guide for breast-feeding mothers who require an allergy elimination diet.
The most common reason to require an allergy elimination diet while breast-feeding is because your infant has food protein-induced allergy. This is a type of food allergy in which your infant’s body mistakenly recognises the protein in a food as foreign and dangerous. The resultant reaction irritates the gastrointestinal tract and your infant may experience vomiting and diarrhoea, including bloody diarrhea. Infants with this allergy often have poor weight gain and may not want to feed because of the discomfort associated with the allergy. Unlike with other food allergies, you may not see other symptoms such as a rash, cough or difficulty breathing.
If your child has difficulty gaining weight, suffers from colic or has issues with excessive vomiting or with diarrhea, she/he can be tested for milk allergy. Allergy testing involves scratching the surface of the skin with a small amount of milk protein. The resultant reaction is then measured to determine whether an allergy likely exists. If your child is allergic, you will be asked to avoid all dairy products while breast-feeding. This includes foods with casein, cheese, milk, butter and ice cream. You will need to read the labels of foods before consuming them because milk can be an ingredient in non-dairy products as well.
Soy allergy is one of the more common food allergies among babies and children. If your baby has symptoms of food protein allergy and tests positive to soy, you will be asked to eliminate this from your diet while nursing. Soybean is a common ingredient and is found in many baked goods, canned tuna, cereals, crackers, sauces and soups.
Other Food Proteins
While milk and soy are the most common food allergies in nursing infants, your child may be allergic to another type of food protein. In some cases, symptoms persist despite eliminating both milk and soy. Your GP may recommend eliminating the most common allergenic foods, including milk, egg, nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy to determine if there is any improvement in your baby’s symptoms. In extreme cases, your GP may recommend that your infant stop breast-feeding and go on a hydrolyzed formula which contains protein that is so extensively broken down, it is not able to cause an allergic reaction.
You will need to eliminate a food for two to three weeks to determine whether your baby is improving with your elimination diet. This is because food protein may be present in your milk for one to two weeks after discontinuing it. Additionally, you should consider the possibility that your baby’s symptoms are not related to food, particularly if the symptoms are primarily colic or fussiness. If you do undergo an extensive allergy elimination diet, supervision by a GP or nutritionist is necessary to ensure that you and your baby obtain sufficient nutrients.