Breastfeeding: Eliminate dairy for eczema?

My daughter has a three-week-old newborn. She's breastfeeding her but there's a rash on her face and she's throwing up her milk. The doctor told my daughter that her baby is allergic to the milk she is drinking. He told her to take TUMS, for the calcium, and drink lots of orange juice. Should she avoid milk?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis in the exclusively breastfed baby has been linked to the mom's consumption of dairy products. Eczema causes skin to become red and itchy, often beginning as a rosy rash on the cheeks. It is most commonly seen in children with a family history of allergy and/or asthma.

Babies at high-risk for this have been found to greatly benefit from exclusive breastfeeding (allergies are less common in exclusively breastfed babies).

If you have a family history of allergy, asthma and/or atopic dermatitis, it is wise to avoid dairy products, and other foods you are allergic or sensitive to while breastfeeding

Since your daughter's doctor is concerned that dairy products are causing a problem for her nursing baby, she might want to try removing ALL dairy products from her diet for a period of two weeks to see how this impacts her baby's symptoms (rash and spitting up.) Remind her to check all food labels.

Has your daughter's baby taken in anything else but breastmilk? If so, this may very well be playing a part in her baby's symptoms. While avoiding the use of dairy in her diet, it is actually more important to avoid supplementation with formula that may be causing a direct allergic response or sensitivity in the baby. If supplementation is required she should speak with her baby's doctor about using a less allergenic formula. Otherwise it may be very hard to tell if her dietary changes are making a difference.

When changing her diet, it's important to be sure all your daughter's nutritional needs are still met. She will need to substitute other protein and calcium rich foods to help fill in the gap if she is no longer consuming dairy products.

Nursing mothers over the age of 18 should consume 1,000 mg. of calcium daily - the same as other adults. Calcium can be obtained from nondairy sources of food. Calcium fortified orange juice is a good choice. TUMS, however, are not the best source. This antacid contains calcium carbonate, which is not always well absorbed. If a supplement is needed, calcium citrate is the form most easily absorbed. It is best not to take calcium supplements along with meals.

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