We all know those people who have the calmest, most content baby’s on the block. They "sleep through the night by six weeks" and just lay around and smile... Well when I had my first child, those people were... hard to talk to. By week two, my husband and I found ourselves with a tiny human who only wanted to nurse or cry. He was inconsolable. I knew no different. He was only content while nursing. So that is what we did. We nursed ALL. THE. TIME.
Along with the nonstop daily screaming, my son had a facial rash that looked like red acne, and mucous filled stools. I went to a breastfeeding support group and they suggested I try cutting dairy from my diet. I didn't want to do that and hoped he would just become a happier baby.
When my son was six weeks old we attended my grandma's birthday party. Jonah screamed the entire time. My mom, grandma and aunts all kept saying something was "wrong" with him. When anyone tells you something is wrong with your child you immediately get defensive. I didn’t want anything to be “wrong” with my child. I tried my best to soothe him, but I was feeling defeated.
I went back to the breastfeeding support group. I was desperate decided to try a dairy free diet like they recommended previously. I cut every source of dairy from my diet. Within one week my son’s stools no longer had mucous and looked like normal breastfed baby poo. His facial rash also disappeared. I was excited that such a simple thing was helping him.
Being a newly breastfeeding mama I was STARVING… all the time. During my pregnancy I craved dairy. I ate cereal and yogurt every day and I sure liked my ice cream. Being starving and not being able to eat my favorite foods was torture. I was willing to do it though because I wanted to take my baby’s pain away. I was upset to find that Jonah was still screaming all day. I went to my chiropractor and she suggested I cut soy, the second most common dietary culprit. I had just started to get the hang of a dairy free diet, and replaced a lot of it with soy based products. I now had to replace BOTH of them. I was now not only hungry, I was HANGRY. My poor husband would come home from work and I would scream "I NEED FOOD!"
Soon I found online support groups on Facebook. These women seemed like professionals and had tons of great recipes and tips to help me. I quickly found food substitutions that I liked and a few restaurants that were accommodating to my diet. Within two more weeks my son was like a new person! He was no longer crying all day. He was no longer in pain. It was so amazing to see. I knew that this new diet was worth the hassle.
People ask why I would do something so drastic and why I wouldn’t just put him on formula. Well first of all, I have always wanted to breastfeed. I wanted the bond and benefits for myself and my baby. Secondly, formula is dairy based, or soy based. If you want something allergen free, it is very expensive. These formulas are made up of broken down proteins and are able to be digested without an immune reaction. Research shows these formulas will work in 90% of babies with cow milk protein intolerance.
After 6-12 months being dairy free, a baby can be challenged with cow's milk, and if they don't have a reaction, it can be reintroduced. It is important to check with your baby's doctor about when and how to reintroduce allergens back into their diets.
Food intolerance often runs in families. Symptoms include: fussiness, infrequent watery stools which may contain mucous or blood, reflux, spitting up, nasal congestion, skin rash, weight loss, or repeated vomiting. As a treatment, the breastfeeding mom should remove the irritant from her diet. The commitment is hard but worth it. Continuing to breastfeed is still the best nutrition for your baby and the immunities breastfeeding provides will assist in the healing process for your baby.
Babies with milk/soy protein intolerance also do better if solid foods are not introduced until around 6 months of age. Ask your healthcare provider in what order to introduce solid foods. A dietitian can direct you to certain food items and brands that are milk and soy free, and help find hidden sources of dairy and soy in foods and drinks. The dietitian will also make sure you are getting the nutrients that you need while breastfeeding and suggest non-dairy food sources of calcium.
Dairy and soy sensitivities are common. It is hard to have an unhappy baby but getting to the bottom of the issue is important. It is important for mom to have a healthy gut. Ways to improve your gut is to start your pregnancy out with a healthy diet full of whole foods. Taking a good probiotic and a digestive enzyme can also be helpful. Probiotics help normalize the digestive flora in the gut and they work with digestive enzymes to break down the foods eaten so they don't cause damage to the digestive tract. If our gut isn't healthy or we don't have normal flora or enzymes, then the larger proteins get into our milk and irritate the baby's digestive tract, leading to sensitivities.
If you find yourself facing this problem seek out help. Find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in your area and trouble shoot with them. It is helpful to try an elimination diet to get to the root of the problem. Know you’re not alone, and things will get better. Keep advocating for your babe and soon you’ll get the hang of things.
P.S. I have a ton of great food alternative tips if you are needing a little help. I'd love to chat.
Milk Soy Protein Intolerance [Online] November, 15, 2015.
What is MSPI? Complete Children's Health. [Online] August 21, 2014.
Cow's Milk Protein Intolerance. GI Kids. [Online] August 14, 2014.
Mellanie Shepard, IBCLC
Paige Goldade - A Birth Boot Camp Instructor living and loving in South Dakota. She is a wife and mother of two rambunctious toddlers. She works as a childbirth educator and Board Certified Registered Nurse.