Can a baby be allergic to breastmilk?

My baby has had a lot of problems nursing and has even passed bloody stools. My doctor says she is allergic to my breast milk. Is that really possible? 

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Kathy Kuhn

Kathy Kuhn is a registered nurse who has been working with breastfeeding families since 1981. She has been an International Board Certified... Read more

No, not really. But sometimes babies can be sensitive to proteins in the mother's milk from foods she has eaten. There have been some reports of bloody stools in infants who are sensitive to food in their mom's diet. The most common offender is cow's milk protein

If your baby is sensitive to cow's milk protein in your milk, the only way to confirm this is by eliminating all cow's milk products from your diet for at least two weeks, or longer, to allow the bowel time to heal. This means avoiding milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and packaged products that list the ingredient casein or whey protein.

Occasionally babies are sensitive to other foods in mom's diet, but again, the best way to confirm this is by a two-week elimination of that food. If your baby has had formula or you have fed them a new food, this very likely could be the cause of her sensitivity.

It is actually pretty uncommon for babies to be sensitive to food in mom's diet, so be cautious about eliminating too many foods. If you are severely restricting your diet and not seeing any result your baby is probably not sensitive to the foods in your diet.

There may be other concerns, such as breast milk oversupply, which can sometimes cause bowel problems and occasionally even bloody stools.

Babies of mothers with oversupply frequently have bowel problems because the over production of milk causes the baby to get more foremilk (the lower fat first milk) than hind milk. Hind milk is the higher fat milk that comes later in the feeding. Because the fat in the milk helps to slow digestion, a baby who receives more foremilk than hind milk may experience very rapid digestion. This would allow some of the lactose, a milk sugar, into the bowel undigested. Once in the bowel, lactose creates irritation that often leads to gassiness and explosive, even green bowel movements. Irritation also further inhibits the bowel's ability to manage the lactose, creating a situation that often gets progressively worse. This bowel irritation sometimes becomes so severe it can cause bloody stools.

Whatever the cause breast milk is usually the best choice for most babies experiencing a digestive disturbance. Breast milk is usually better tolerated and easier to digest than baby formula.

In order to be appropriately evaluated for intolerances to foods, breast milk oversupply, or any breastfeeding concerns you should see a board certified lactation consultant who can work in collaboration with your physician to provide a complete evaluation and offer solutions.

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