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Breast Feeding

Ending breastfeeding due to food allergies

01/19/2007

Question:

I recently discovered that my baby is having an allergic reaction to something in my breast milk which is causing her to be severly constipated. The gastroenterologist advised us to switch to an easy-to-digest formula and to immediately end breastfeeding since finding the particular food that causes the problem is like finding a needle in a hay stack.

Do you have any suggestions on how to lessen the emotional difficulties my baby is having from the abrupt end to breastfeeding? Also, what is the best way for me to minimize my physical discomfort from engorgement (I was breastfeeding her 5 times a day, exclusively)?

Answer:

My first impression is that this is due to a cow milk protein allergy or intolerance.

I would advise stopping the intake of ALL dairy products, including cheese, and substituting soy products or goat’s milk products in your diet. It may take up to 3 weeks to get rid of all the offending protein out of your breast tissue, but in the meantime, you can help your baby by giving her a sliver (1/4 by 1 inch piece cut from a regular) glycerin suppository per rectum once or twice a day, when she is trying to pass a stool.

This is not a reason to stop breastfeeding, unless YOU prefer to do so, or have already eliminated ALL dairy products from your diet.

If you have already stopped and do not wish to restart breastfeeding, you can ease the discomfort by pumping your breasts, at first 5 times per day, then shortening the pumping time by 5 minutes, then pumping 4 times per day, etc.

Your baby should be weaned gradually rather than abruptly.

If you prefer to stop breastfeeding, offer the breast after pumping. There will be less milk and she will become less and less interested in nursing. This will lessen or eliminate her emotional distress.

But a simple change in diet and a safe and innocuous assist like a glycerin suppository while waiting for the cow’s milk protein to dissipate, would be far better for both your own and your baby’s physical and emotional health.

For more information:

Go to the Breast Feeding health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Jeanne L Ballard, MD, FAAP, FABM Jeanne L Ballard, MD, FAAP, FABM
Professor Emeritus, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati