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Breastfeeding Tips for Infant Food Allergies & Sensitivities

Only two or three out of every 100 breastfed babies develop allergies to their mothers' milk. Others may be sensitive to or dislike the flavor of breast milk produced after their mothers eat certain foods. Either way, carefully monitoring your own diet and your baby's reaction to nursing will help you make adjustments that keep your baby safe and allow you to continue breastfeeding.

Tracking Your Diet and Baby's

If your baby seems cranky or uncomfortable after one feeding, that doesn't necessarily indicate an allergy or sensitivity. "Many concerning behaviors are common, like gassiness, and fussiness, since our babies are born with such an immature gut," says Paula Santi, a lactation consultant based in Walnut Grove, California. "A mother who thinks her baby is allergic [needs] to track her own diet carefully and track the baby's reaction."

RELATED: How to Protect Your Baby From Allergies

Keep a log listing everything you eat and any unusual signs your baby displays after each feeding. Look for patterns. Gassiness, diarrhea, constipation and rashes are all signs of food allergies and sensitivities, as is the unconsolable crying* that accompanies colic. The symptoms of a food sensitivity are milder than those of an allergy and last no longer than 24 hours.

Note that it takes three to six hours after eating for the proteins in your food to appear in your breast milk, so your baby's fussiness probably isn't caused by the snack you ate right before a nursing session.

Severe food allergies can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea and breathing difficulty. If your baby ever displays these signs after a feeding, call your pediatrician immediately.

Find Likely Troublemakers

Breastfed babies are less likely than formula-fed babies to develop a dairy allergy, but some still do. "If the baby is presenting with GI distress, mucousy stools, and/ or eczema, a common irritant is cow dairy," Santi notes. Some kids go on to outgrow a dairy allergy by the end of preschool, while others never will.

A breastfeeding infant can also develop an allergy to eggs, nuts, wheat and soy in the diet of the mother. If you have a family history of allergies to any food, your baby has an increased chance of developing an allergy to that food, so make sure to talk to your pediatrician about any family allergies.

Quantity Makes a Difference

When you eat foods that commonly cause heartburn and gas, your breast milk can have a similar effect on your baby. Then again, it might not: some babies are sensitive to spicy, gas-inducing foods and others aren't.

It's also possible for a baby to be sensitive to a food only when eaten in large quantities. So your baby could be unbothered by a nursing session after you've eaten a taco containing salsa but be sensitive to the milk you produce after finishing off a full jar of salsa with chips. Wheat products, citrus foods and caffeine are particularly bothersome to some babies when you've eaten them in large quantities.

RELATED: Signs That a Baby is Not Tolerating Breast Milk

Next Steps

When her clients deal with food allergies or sensitivities, Santi advises they avoid the food that sparks the baby's negative reaction for two weeks. Continue keeping your log during those weeks. If your baby's symptoms clear up, you can keep that food out of your diet for as long as you're breastfeeding.

If an elimination diet doesn't improve your baby's symptoms, contact your pediatrician.

Image via Getty Images

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