Can A Baby Be ALLERGIC To Breastmilk?

Have you ever wondered, can a baby be allergic to breastmilk? I understand that mothers choose how to feed their children based on their beliefs, and I’ve chosen to breastfeed. I feel that it is the only option for us. It gives Smalls the best possible start (what formula can guarantee that your kid will never hardly ever get sick?!) But before I get  on my soapbox, here’s what prompted my tirade: There was apparently a baby that was allergic to breastmilk on TV.

Can A Baby Be ALLERGIC To Breastmilk?

While watching the show “Bringing Home Baby”, I heard the most ludicrous statement. A mom of twins (who were preemies, and my heart goes out to her) stated that her twins did not ‘take’ to breastmilk. Even though she claimed to have been feeding them pumped milk from day 1. It was because…wait for it…they were ALLERGIC to breastmilk. Ummm…what?! That is the most misinformed statement I’ve heard in a long time (here comes the soapbox).

Can a baby be ALLERGIC to breastmilk?

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Know Your Breastmilk Facts

That one comment sent me on a hunt (aren’t you excited!) for some ACTUAL facts regarding breastmilk. Now, I realize that mothers can make a choice regarding whether or not they breastfeed, and in rare instances, some mothers are medically incapable of breastfeeding (which just breaks my heart. I actually donate milk to a mama who is undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer). Okay, back to what I was so upset about.

I CHOOSE to breastfeed Smalls and it is my opinion that Smalls is better off being breastfed for many reasons. First of all, it’s very inexpensive (unless you are exclusively pumping, in which case, it can actually be MORE expensive than formula).

The average cost of formula over one year? Are you really ready for this? For powdered formula, the average cost is between $1,500 to $3,000 for ONE YEAR of formula (1). Doesn’t that seem excessive? No wonder people steal formula!

I was in Kroger the other day, and the formula was locked up-just like cigarettes. It certainly gave me pause. (Editor’s note: Formula is locked up because of the high theft rate. That’s because low income moms are not supported enough to breastfeed and struggle to afford formula.)

As I’ve said, there are some mothers who genuinely cannot breastfeed. I get that, and my heart goes out to them. I’ve spoken to so many mothers who chose not to. I don’t get it – there’s a reason that babies should not consume cows milk until after one year and I do not think that it’s a coincidence that babies who are formula-fed have more health problems and battles with illness.

Can A Baby Be ALLERGIC To Breastmilk?

Formula Is Not Breastmilk

Breastmilk contains antibodies, which cannot be reproduced in a lab. The one (yup, just once) time that Smalls got sick, he was only sick for two days, and he nursed continuously. I was sick longer than he was.

All of that being said, I realize that Nestle, Abbott, Enfamil, and others are pushing their product on doctors, new mothers, and the like. Abbott (the makers of Similac) actually came out with an iPhone app that ‘tracks’ your baby’s feedings, diapers, etc. You can read more about it HERE.

This makes me mad. Why? Well, I don’t know about you, but as a new mother, I was terrified that I was doing something wrong-it was all very new, I was tired, and having some formula-based application tell me that my newborn should be eating X ounces every 2-3 hours would NOT have made me very comfortable, given the fact that Smalls was eating every 25-45 minutes.

Having an app that undermined my choice to breastfeed by instilling more doubt would have been devastating to me.

Breastfeeding Hurts

Breastfeeding is hard in the beginning it hurts, and you’re exhausted. But if you’re determined, you can do it. I’ve been breastfeeding Smalls for 8 months now, and have no intention of stopping before his first birthday. He’s happy, healthy, and GROWING.

We did have some scares. Smalls is allergic to dairy (I ate some cheese when I got home from the hospital-so sue me), and as soon as I went back to my vegan diet, he was fine.

(2). Had I not done my research, his stringy diapers, and frequent spitting up may have freaked me out. But I called my doula (LOVE HER!), who assured me that everything would be fine.

Babies just cannot digest the proteins and enzymes in cow’s milk – so why on earth would you give a baby formula made from the stuff?

This is my opinion, backed up by some research, and strong beliefs. If you chose to formula feed your baby that’s fine. No judgment, but please be informed.

If you’re pregnant and are going to ‘try’-consider this: those women whom I’ve spoken with that have stated they are going to ‘try’ usually only make it to (at a maximum) 4 months. Those who are ‘going to breastfeed’ (meaning they throw out the formula samples, refuse supplementation suggestions, and do NOT give their baby a bottle or pacifier for the first 4 weeks) are still breastfeeding their babies.



Can A Baby Be ALLERGIC To Breastmilk?Have you ever heard of a baby being allergic to breastmilk?

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  1. Brandi on March 23, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Great Post! I breast fed my son and I can attest to the fact that he has had only 2 illnesses in 2 1/2 years, knock on wood! Thanks for putting out great information!

  2. Nicole on March 23, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Awesome post! I’ve never heard that people think that babies can be allergic to breastmilk, that’s a crazy thought! When I have kids I am definitely going to breastfeed. I’ve heard it will be hard at first, but it’s what is best for the baby. Very good post!

  3. Mrs.G on March 24, 2011 at 12:17 am

    I chose to formula feed for several reasons.Now I wish I would have breast fed.I was young and not as informed as I am now.Though neither of my sons have been sick often.In fact my youngest is 3 and just this week got sick for the first time where he had to take medicine for it.

    I think this is a great post and very informative.Thank you for sharing the info.

  4. Not a Perfect Mom on March 24, 2011 at 7:39 am

    The moms who think their babies are allergic to breastmilk may not realize that what eat can be causing negative effects via the milk, ie-if I ate peanut butter my 1st babe would get horribly constipated for days (and now he’s allergic to it, funnily enough), and my 3rd couldn’t handle if I ate any tomato products…
    I had a friend whose babe couldn’t handle her eating any dairy or eggs…crazy
    but we realize the problem, adjust our diet, and boom-baby is fine-not allergic to our milk

  5. Christina on March 24, 2011 at 9:48 am

    Interesting Post! I am thankful that as mothers we all GET to CHOOSE how we want to feed our babies.
    I only attempted to BF my second son. It lasted about 2 weeks. I chose not to try with my 3rd simply because BFing is just NOT for me! I have no regrets! My children are very healthy despite being formula fed!!! My only problem with “most” BFing Moms is their judgements of non-Bfing-Moms. And even though you say you don’t judge us, it does feel like it! I’m happy for you that BFing works for you and your child, that you are happy with your decision to BF. Can’t BFing Moms just be happy for me and other non-Bfing moms that our choices are working for us and our children!<<< All of this was totally NOT aimed at you but BFing moms as a whole:)

  6. Brea on March 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Thank y’all for your sweet comments!

    Christina-I respect that you are honest in your opinions (I obviously am!), and I think that everyone views ‘the other side’ of the issue differently-for me, breastfeeding was HARD. I fought through cracked, bleeding nipples, and lots of tears before we figured it out. I just felt the need to be opinionated about the topic because I am such an advocate. More power to you for deciding not to breastfeed!

  7. tsummers9525 on June 14, 2011 at 8:31 am

    I just had my third child. My oldest is twelve- I nursed her and everything was fine. My second is almost eleven. I tried to breastfeed her, but she began passing blood in her stool, and the pediatrician suggested I stop. Perhaps it was what I was eating and not my milk, but when your baby has blood in her poop, you stop giving her what is making her sick. My third child is almost four months old. He spits up almost constantly. Sometimes it’s watery and others it’s chunky and curdled (almost like cottage cheese). I began supplementing with formula because he was spitting up almost everything he consumed. Some formulas he spit up just as much, some a little more. I found one that he doesn’t spit up AT ALL. In your post, you mentioned that you are on a vegan diet. I am not. So perhaps he’s allergic to cow’s milk and not my breast milk, but with a family of five and two pre-teen daughters (both of whom REALLY love dairy) how do I convert to a vegan diet and how can I be sure it will help? I feel like I’m torturing/poisoning him every time I feed him because he keeps getting sick. And the formula that he is able to keep down is a milk-based formula, so it doesn’t make sense that he’s allergic to cow’s milk. I’m at a loss. I love nursing and love that it’s FREE. But I hate that it makes him so sick.

  8. Brea on June 14, 2011 at 9:01 am

    There’s no need to force your entire family onto a vegan diet if they’re not willing or ready. But you can eliminate foods that could be making him ill-milk, cheese, sour cream, etc. My husband is not vegan. We just buy two different types of milk (and now he perfers my almond milk…go figure). It’s rough for a bit, but it’s what is best for your little man. I would also contact a lactation consultant-they’re far more trained about breastfeeding than any pedi I’ve ever met.

  9. Lelanie on September 6, 2011 at 7:12 am

    A baby can react to breast milk similarly to an allergic reaction caused by food. If your baby is allergic to any foods, you (the mother that is breast feeding) cannot eat it either. My baby has a reaction to several foods which causes eczema as well as constipation, also when I eat those foods. So, yes, your baby can in fact be “allergic” to your breast milk.

  10. Brea on September 6, 2011 at 9:53 am


    While you are correct in stating that a baby can be allergic to the types of foods a mother is eating, if the mother stops eating them, the baby should stop having reactions. Yes, babies can be allergic, but it’s an extremely rare case. The solution at that point would be for the mother to stop eating the offending foods so that her baby will stop having a poor reaction and can continue to have the benefit of breastmilk.

  11. Angela on September 24, 2015 at 12:42 am

    I used to be a mom just like you! Very misinformed and prideful about the fact that I had a healthy baby and it was all due to my choice to breastfeed. Arrogance. Here why I say this. My second child was also breastfed and I was so gung ho that I donated my breast milk ect. However that mindset became detrimental to my sons health and life. I’ll explain. At 9 months his growth started to decline. His entire life he spit up and had an awful rash. I never thought it was my “golden breasmilk”. At 16 months he weighed 10 pounds less that his 9 month weight and me and my pro-breastfeeding pediatrician got worried. His head hadn’t grown in several months. He was so sickly and malnourished. You heard that right. Malnourished from breast milk….that he ended up in icu for 4weeks. They put in a permanent feeding tube. Which I was so against. And started him on an amino acid formula which I was also against. IT SAVED HIS LIFE. Literally. His white blood cells and iron and immunoglobins were extremely extremely low due to lack of nutrition. And do you know the source of all of this?? An allergy to breasmilk. He was highly allergic to the protein in breast milk. An allergy is when your immune system fight a protein. It could be any protein. So while I am very pro breastfeeding…I would suggest you not write blogs that make such bold statements unless you are an allergist or at least physician. The immune system is complex and you very very very well could have an allergy to any protein. You should not make moms feels guilty, and or misinform moms with such false statements. Children’s health should be consulted by physicians and not bloggers.

    • Brea on September 24, 2015 at 7:34 am

      While I appreciate your experience, understand that this article is years old and I did my research. There are absolutely times when what is in your breastmilk can cause major issues. I am sorry you had to go through this.

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