How Can A Breastfed Infant Be Allergic To Cow's Milk?



Sister Susan, is back today to share with us another interesting encounter back in her days working in a Neonatal ICU ward (NICU). It is indeed rare for one to associate breast milk with cow’s milk; when it is known that newborns are 100% breastfed by their mummies. So how does cow’s milk come into the picture?


Sister Susan recalled “Years ago, when I was working in the NICU, I came across a breastfed baby with a dairy allergy. I remembered him being fussy and crying most of the time and having diarrhea episodes so severe that he was passing blood in his stool on some days.

Initially, I assumed that because he was having diarrhea, the skin around his anus must have been abraded, causing the bleeding. However, on closer inspection, there wasn’t any broken skin around his anus or on his buttocks area.

We then interviewed the mother to find out the cause of the baby’s diarrhea but could not find any probable cause. Her EBM was sent for a culture and sensitivity test, and the baby had an abdominal X-ray done to rule out any infection."

The pediatrician had discovered that the mother loved cheese and chocolate, which she had recently consumed in large quantities. This caused the doctor to suspect that the baby might have been allergic to a protein found in cow’s milk. He asked the mum to stop eating chocolates, cheese, or any dairy products when she was breastfeeding, and it worked! The baby’s diarrhea and the blood in the stool stopped.

A mother may believe that a small piece of chocolate will not harm her child. However, when it comes to the baby’s diet – even indirectly being exposed to the cow’s milk through the mother, the baby's cow's milk sensitivity will say "No!" and blood will appear in the baby's stool as a result.

The stomach is the most common area affected by the symptom of cow's milk sensitivity in a breastfed baby. The baby will be irritable and fussy, and he or she may pass blood in the stool. Cow's milk proteins can cause gas in a baby's stomach and intestines, resulting in pain, diarrhea, and occasional vomiting.

If you notice any signs that your baby has developed a sensitivity to dairy products like stomach-related fussiness or irritability, then, you are advised to avoid all dairy products until you stop breastfeeding.