Babies who haven’t consumed formula or solid foods can still develop allergies. The meals you eat during breastfeeding can cause reactions in your newborn. If you’re a breastfeeding parent, being aware of how your diet affects your baby and what to do if they have a food allergy makes you better prepared for the unprecedented occurrences during the first few months of parenthood.
What are food allergies?
Food allergies are when your baby’s immune system reacts to a particular food. You’ll be able to tell if your baby has a food allergy due to several physical indicators. These reactions range from extreme to mild but will always cause discomfort for your newborn.
Thankfully, most allergies in newborns are nothing to worry about. As your baby grows, their allergies may dissipate, allowing them to eat the food they’re reacting to when older. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 3% of infants are allergic to at least one food!
How do I know if my newborn has a food allergy?
Allergic reactions in babies aren’t too difficult to spot. Temperate responses to foods include sneezing, coughing, itchy and watery eyes (although your newborn won’t be able to signal this, you should be able to tell from the condition of their eyes), runny nose, eczema, and hives.
If your newborn is experiencing eczema as a response to certain foods, you’ll notice red rashes on their face; look at their forehead, scalp, chin, and cheeks. Oatmeal baths are a common remedy for eczema in babies. You might also want to try petroleum jelly, cold compresses, and wet wraps on your newborn’s skin.
Hives are pale red and pink bumps littered around the skin. These vary in size and are usually quite itchy (your newborn will likely signal this irritation through excess crying). However, hives should disappear a few hours after the initial reaction. If you’re noticing your newborn’s hives are still present several hours after, seek help from a professional allergist or pediatrician.
Over a quarter of babies suffer from colic, a habit of excessive crying with no determined cause. However, recent studies suggest a link between colic and babies with allergies.
Signs of colic include stiff arms and legs, tense and bloated stomach, passing wind often, arching their back, and pulling their legs upwards. Medical professionals now believe colic could link to dairy intolerance. If your baby is experiencing colic, you can try cutting milk, cheese, and yoghurt from your diet and seeing if this improves their condition.
Common food allergies
Popular foods are usually the cause of allergic reactions in babies. Products such as milk, eggs, wheat, and soy are among the most common baby allergies transferred through breastfeeding.
What to do if my newborn has a food allergy?
There are two causes of action for solving allergic reactions in babies: changing your diet and receiving medical help.
Cut out certain foods
The best way to distinguish which food your newborn is reacting to is by removing certain foods from your diet one at a time. Dairy is a common baby allergy, so start by removing dairy products. Make sure you don’t miss out on essential nutrients for your baby’s growth by taking calcium supplements as your multivitamin.
If you notice your baby is still sneezing or developing hives shortly after feeding time, take out another food you eat regularly. Through the process of elimination, you’ll soon be able to tell which food is causing an allergic reaction in your newborn. If your baby is still experiencing frequent reactions, or if their body is responding with anaphylaxis, you need to seek medical help.
What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a much more serious form of reaction. You must speak with a medical professional as soon as possible if you notice your baby is wheezing, their throat is swelling, and they’re having trouble breathing.
Can my baby be allergic to my breastmilk?
Although possible, it’s unlikely your newborn will be allergic to your breastmilk. It is almost always something in your diet that’s entering your milk that causes allergic reactions in babies. Dairy products are the most common baby allergy, which is why we recommend removing this from your diet as your first step in helping a baby with allergies.
Having a newborn baby with a food allergy can be daunting. However, try to remember that most baby allergies are short-lived and will disappear as your baby grows. Simple changes to your meals can help you determine the cause of your baby’s allergic reaction and stop them. And if your baby is still struggling with allergic reactions, you can discuss your concerns with a medical professional. An allergist will be able to prescribe treatment or medication to improve the comfort and wellbeing of your little one.
If you have feeding concerns, the NBNY community can help. As part of our membership, we educate new and expecting parents on everything they need to know about feeding their baby safely, so they can receive the essential nutrients they need to grow up healthy and happy. Click here to learn more.