When a new baby begins exhibiting signs of cow’s milk protein allergy or some other baby milk allergy, it’s both daunting and stressful; I know because I’ve been there. And on top of the concern and angst of caring for CMPA babies, the notorious lack of specialist help can make everything feel very overwhelming too. One of the greatest inaccuracies bandied about regarding allergies in infants is to do with breastfeeding. So, CMPA breastfeeding – can it be done?
CMPA – Breastfeeding Through a Baby Milk Allergy
If this situation applies to you, you’ll inevitably have lots of questions: is there a specific elimination diet you should follow? Is eliminating dairy whilst breastfeeding even safe for you both? How do you go about dairy free weaning? Can you get support from anywhere? This post aims to answer those questions.
I’ve written a long post exploring all the symptoms of CMPA and how to identify the allergy in your infant, as well as how best to help them should they receive a diagnosis. But, sadly, thanks to circulating rumours and poorly informed health professionals, there’s a lot of misinformation about the subject doing the rounds.
Can You Breastfeed a Baby With Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy?
Yes, yes you can. Breastfeeding a CMPA infant is not easy, but it can be done.
In fact, whilst it may be a bit of a scary road to travel, continuing to breastfeed is the best thing you can do for your baby. Many mums mistakenly believe it’s not an option, while others may decide that the lifestyle changes required to make it safe for your baby are too difficult at an already challenging time.
But, if you want to continue and you’re prepared to do whatever it takes, then you absolutely can.
Is There a Specific Breastfeeding Elimination Diet for Nursing a Baby Allergic to Breastmilk?
However you plan to feed your CMPA baby, it’s important to remove the allergen that’s causing a reaction and subsequently making them poorly.
If you choose to continue nursing, then you’ll need to make some dietary changes to end the symptoms of your infant’s allergy. With cow’s milk protein allergy, that essentially means you must completely eliminate dairy. And quite likely soy too.
This is no mean feat; on the face of it that means milk, butter, cheese, and cream must all go. But of course what it actually means is also milk chocolate, ice cream, cheesecake and most baked goods – basically all your favourite treats.
At a time when you’ll be craving sugary foods thanks to your lack of sleep.
However, before you’re overtaken with despair, it’s worth noting that more and better dairy-free options are being developed all the time. With veganism having a moment, there are some very good alternatives available, so with a little forward planning, you can still enjoy your favourite foods, such as these vegan truffles!
Breastfeeding Allergy Food Diary
If you choose to go ahead and eliminate allergens from your diet, then it might be helpful for you to keep a food diary. There are multiple benefits, including identifying allergens and keeping vital information together in one place if your baby is cared for outside of the home.
As a mother who has gone through this overwhelming journey myself, I’ve created a diary specifically for mother breastfeeding through allergies. You can find more information or get your copy here:
Breastfeeding & CMPA / Allergy Food Diary
Is a Dairy-Free Diet Healthy For a Breastfeeding Mother and Nursling?
In the same way as being vegan can be healthy, being dairy-free does not have to be problematic for a lactating mother. It’s important to incorporate into your diet calcium and the vitamins and minerals you may lose out on from dairy. These days most alternative milks are fortified with these nutrients, and a balanced and varied diet should negate any issues with malnourishment.
Despite rumours to the contrary, the diet of the breastfeeding mother has little impact on the composition of her milk. Regardless of the mother’s food and drink intake, breastmilk will contain the nutrients baby needs – if necessary by leaching them from her body.
Does Just a Little Bit of Dairy Matter For CMPA Babies?
Unfortunately, even traces of dairy can affect those babies who are particularly sensitive to their allergen/s. Unlike direct reactions, reacting to dairy through breastmilk is uncommon, which already means your baby is sensitive.
When you factor in that allergies can worsen, and severe allergies can lead to anaphylaxis, it’s clear that breastfeeding through an allergy is not something to be undertaken lightly.
What’s the Hardest Part of Becoming Dairy-Free to Breastfeed a CMPA Baby?
Without a doubt the toughest aspect is when you start to appreciate that dairy and soya are hidden in many foods you wouldn’t even consider; for example, some brands of coconut milk, sauces, crisps, wine.
Because you know what’s at stake, your diet can quickly become all-consuming and you can feel totally defined by it. Popping out with the intention of grabbing a bite to eat while on the run becomes nigh on impossible; your weekly food shop has to be meticulously planned. Because ingredients lists can change, it’s important to check every label, every time.
Because ingredients lists can change, it’s important to check every label, every time.
Dining out or eating food cooked for you by others can become stressful, and my personal experience is that it became a time of paranoia and obsession. Support during this phase is essential for your wellbeing.
However, breastfeeding my nursling through her CMPA ultimately became a point of pride and I have zero regrets.
What About Weaning a Baby With CMPA?
This milestone is a whole new reason to be consumed with anxiety, particularly if you leave your child in the care of others. Nobody will be as careful as you are with the foods you try your baby on, and as well as indirect reactions (via your breastmilk), you suddenly have direct reactions to be cautious of too.
At some stage during the second six months of your baby’s life, the time will come to attempt the milk ladder, and the hope is that they may have outgrown the allergy.
Ideally you’ll have the support of a professional specialising in the field of allergies to advise you on when and how to start the first challenge of the milk ladder, however I know from bitter experience that this help is not always adequate or available.
For peer support from parents who have already been through this and have a wealth of knowledge and advice, I strongly recommend joining this Facebook group.
Can You Bottle Feed a Baby With CMPA?
Yes, of course it’s an option. There are specific formulas available for allergy infants, however breastfeeding is superior for your baby if you can commit to the required dietary changes.
If you do make the choice to look into breastfeeding alternatives, there’s plenty of advice available online.
Wow, That Sounds Intense – Is It Really Worth Continuing to Breastfeed a CMPA Baby?
Absolutely. There are so many benefits to breastfeeding, from nutritional and physiological, to emotional and developmental.
In fact, I was surprised when the consultant who diagnosed my own daughter advised me that it was preferable to continue breastfeeding even without altering my diet.
As I said at the start of the post, breastfeeding a baby with diagnosed allergies is not easy, but it can be done. And if you choose to make the necessary sacrifices to do so, it will be one of the best things you do for your child, and a huge achievement you can be intensely proud of.