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The Signs That a Baby Is Not Tolerating Breast Milk

True intolerance to breast milk is rare. Symptoms such as fussiness, diarrhea or rash typically indicate another problem, such as allergies. Talk with your doctor about your baby's symptoms to find the cause. In most cases, you can continue to breast-feed.

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Benefits of Breast-Feeding

Breast milk typically does not cause allergic reactions in infants, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics, and may actually protect your baby from developing allergies to other foods. The academy recommends breast-feeding your baby exclusively for at least his first 6 months. Continue breast-feeding during the balance of the first year, while also offering solid foods, and continue breast-feeding after the first 12 months, as desired. (ref. 4) Check with your doctor before discontinuing breastfeeding if you suspect your baby is intolerant to breast milk. Soy formulas can cause allergic reactions, as well, according to the American Family Physician. Instead, your doctor may recommend a lactose-free or hypoallergenic formula. (ref. 3)

Food Allergies

Occasionally babies may be allergic to a food the mother is eating — usually milk — and the allergens pass through the breast milk. This situation is rare — about two or three babies in 100, says the academy. Skin rash, abdominal discomfort, severe colic, vomiting or diarrhea may indicate that your baby is allergic to something in your diet. Talk with your doctor if you suspect your infant has a food allergy, especially if your family has a history of allergies.

Lactose Intolerance

Some babies are lactose intolerant, meaning that they have trouble digesting and absorbing the lactose in milk. Signs of lactose intolerance include gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea or bloating, according to the AAP. Certain populations, including Hispanics, blacks and Asians, are genetically predisposed to primary lactose intolerance, while people descended from areas such as northern Europe where dairy products have long made up a large part of the diet, are less likely to have problems absorbing lactose, notes the academy. Lactose intolerance can also occur after an illness, but typically resolves itself as the child recovers. Your pediatrician can quickly identify lactose intolerance with a simple breath test.

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Food Sensitivities

Spicy foods or foods that cause gas, such as onions, garlic, broccoli and cabbage may make your baby fussy or gassy, says the AAP. These symptoms indicate that your baby is sensitive to foods you're eating, but not necessarily intolerant of breast milk. Pay attention to your diet and make note of foods that seem to bother your baby. Eliminate those foods one at a time to see if there's a difference. Keep in mind, though, that many babies are colicky, simply because their digestive and sensory systems are immature. Colicky behavior, though challenging, usually subsides within three or four months as babies mature. To reduce colic symptoms, offer a pacifier and wait at least two hours between feedings, suggests the AAP.

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