Breastfeeding a Baby With a Food Allergy

How we transition baby and mama to a restricted diet without stress.

Baby milestones are exciting to witness. From making eye contact, to cooing, to learning to sit, each stage holds something new and wonderful to enjoy.

Right around my son’s six-month birthday we were celebrating these new abilities when we noticed something else: his baby-soft skin felt like sandpaper. His tiny fingers were scratching himself raw and he was too young to tell us what was wrong.

We headed towards the pediatrician and, after several trips and brainstorming sessions, found ourselves at the allergist. Our third-born had a dairy allergy, specifically an allergy to the proteins in milk and soy. Although he was expected to outgrow this, we had some diet modifications that needed to happen right away.

Changes for Baby

My little one was nine months old at the time of his diagnosis. So, while he was busy trying out baby foods and soft finger foods, we hadn’t yet introduced dairy such as cheese or yogurt in his diet.

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For this, I’m extremely thankful. Not only did we unknowingly avoid any major reactions, we didn’t have to backtrack and cut out something that had already become a staple in his diet. He didn’t notice a change in his daily meals and it made the transition much easier.

Following my son’s diagnosis we needed a better awareness of the foods we cooked and what they contained. While we made some meal modifications, we chose a variety of dinners that would meet everyone’s needs, meaning dairy was often present somewhere on our table.

As my son grew, we decided on a keyword that he could associate with the foods he was allergic to. For us, it was the simple word “ouchie”. In situations where he wanted something that he was allergic to, we could just say, “I’m sorry, that’s ouchie for you” and move on.

He didn’t complain, we could be consistent, and it was language that he could easily say and understand as a toddler.

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Changes for Mom

The biggest changes following my son’s diagnosis involved my diet.

While breast milk naturally contains lactose regardless of mom’s diet, avoiding dairy products eliminates milk proteins from being transmitted through breastmilk. Since this was the area of his allergy, dairy needed to go.

I decided to give myself a few flex days following the diagnosis to systematically eliminate dairy one meal at a time. It was less overwhelming than quitting cold-turkey and it helped to ease the transition.

I was able to find reasonable substitutions for the basics of milk and butter. I easily modified recipes for simple baked good and had a list of meals that my family enjoyed and were allergy-friendly.

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Life was back to normal, except for the cheese.

I needed cheese! Although on a daily basis I’m not someone to sit down with a block of cheese, this is what my dairy cravings transitioned into. I wanted cheese, in any way, shape, or form. The substitutions for them just wouldn’t cut it.

Transforming my diet for my kids is one of the harder things I’ve done. While I enjoy providing for and loving my kids throughout the day, I now needed to do that by watching everything that I ate. It left me feeling like I was constantly giving without having a moment to indulge.

Thankfully I found some simple pleasure in coconut milk ice cream and dark chocolate. Some days a nursing mama needs a bowl, or carton, of ice cream. That’s real life, and that’s okay.

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So if you find yourself in the position where your diet is changing, find something simple that’s just for you.

Have you had to deal with allergies while breastfeeding? How did you adjust?

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.

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