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Symptoms of Dairy Allergy in Breastfed Babies and What to Do

Symptoms of Dairy Allergy in Breastfed Babies and What to Do

Breastmilk is packed with essential nutrients and serves as the primary source of sustenance for breastfed babies, but they can still be allergic to dairy.

This concern is especially problematic for infants because of their underdeveloped immune systems.

In this quick guide, I will show you how to tell if your baby has a dairy allergy and what to do next.

Symptoms of Dairy Allergy in Breastfed Babies

Symptoms of Dairy Allergy in Breastfed Babies

A dairy allergy occurs when your baby’s immune system views dairy proteins as a foreign threat. 

The body’s auto-immune system defends the body by releasing histamine and other chemicals.

Here are the symptoms of a dairy allergy in breastfed babies: 

  • Vomiting
  • Hives
  • Scaly rashes
  • Itchy rashes
  • Colic or abdominal pain
  • Watery eyes
  • Irritability
  • Fussiness
  • Diarrhea 
  • Bloody stool
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Throat and mouth swelling

These reactions are potentially fatal, especially to newborns. If your baby is experiencing these reactions, contact a pediatrician immediately.

Report these symptoms to a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. More information will help your baby’s pediatrician identify the source of your baby’s discomfort. You can also use a food diary to track any potential food allergies can help narrow the symptoms further.

According to a study in 2017, only 1% of babies have a true allergy, while 14% of babies are misdiagnosed by their parents. This makes it important to get your pediatrician’s opinion.

I want to stress that breastmilk is still safe to consume. A 2020 study estimated that breast milk doesn’t have enough cow’s milk allergens to trigger a reaction in 99% of allergic infants.

How Are Dairy Allergies Diagnosed?

How Are Dairy Allergies Diagnosed?

Your child’s doctor may conduct different tests when looking for a dairy allergy, like a blood test. It is common for your pediatrician to recommend avoiding dairy consumption for a certain period of time.

Your dairy-free diet may last for two weeks, depending on your doctor’s discretion. During this period, monitor your child for further symptoms.

If your doctor confirms that your child is allergic to dairy, you could try feeding your baby a nutritious soy formula instead.

However, a study conducted by the College of Family Physicians in Canada found that baby formula can trigger an allergy within 10% of lactose-intolerant children. Consider feeding your baby a hypoallergenic formula for added safety.

How Are Dairy Allergies Treated?

How Are Dairy Allergies Treated?

Your pediatrician may recommend exploring alternative formulas for infants who are formula-fed. It’s important to note that many babies with milk allergies are also allergic to soy and other formulas.

I suggest considering a hypoallergenic formula that contains hydrolyzed protein and broken-down milk protein to address potential allergies.

Your pediatrician may advise reducing your baby’s consumption of dairy products, which can help alleviate their allergies, although it may lead to initial fussiness.

Consult with your pediatrician to discuss alternative sources of calcium, such as oat milk, to meet your child’s nutritional needs in case of a dairy allergy. In many cases, babies outgrow dairy allergies by their first birthday, and the majority outgrow it by the age of three.

Is a Dairy-Free Diet Effective?

After initiating a dairy-free diet, you can opt for a formula alternative that is free from dairy.

You can still get calcium from non-dairy sources to meet your and your baby’s nutritional needs.

Allergic reactions toward cow’s milk are very common, but they’re not the only thing you need to watch for! Food allergies to soy and nuts can also cause allergic reactions in breastfed babies.

Will My Baby Outgrow Their Dairy Allergy?

Will My Baby Outgrow Their Dairy Allergy?

While initially challenging, it is possible to maintain a dairy-free diet while breastfeeding your child.

Under the guidance of your doctor, the complete removal of dairy from your diet will be monitored, allowing for the gradual reintroduction of dairy products after a few weeks or months.

During this time, you can provide your baby with nutritious alternatives such as lactose-free baby formulas or oat milk, which serve as popular substitutes for both cow’s milk-based formulas and breast milk.

In the event that the new formula doesn’t suit your baby, you may need to try different formulas until you find the one that suits your child best.

As your child grows, you will have more options for providing them with adequate nutrition, including learning how to make homemade baby food. Understanding your baby’s needs will help you make informed choices, and will even help you decide the best baby food brands for your child.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we have discussed how to identify and treat dairy allergies, here is some more essential information about dairy allergies in babies.

What’s the Difference Between Dairy Allergy and Lactose Intolerance?

A dairy allergy is characterized by an immune system response to milk proteins, whereas lactose intolerance refers to the body’s inability to break down lactose.

Dairy allergies are triggered by the immune system, while lactose intolerance primarily stems from digestive system issues.

NOTE: You can also reach out to maternal support groups for questions on breastfeeding, like “Can babies be allergic to breast milk?” or other concerns.

What Are the Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance in Babies?

Babies suffering from lactose intolerance have the following symptoms:

  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloated stomach
  • Spitting up
  • Irritability, crying, or other colic symptoms
  • Failure to thrive and gain weight
  • Loose or bloody stool

Fortunately, lactose intolerance is fairly rare in babies. However, if your little one is unable to tolerate lactose, you can feed them with a lactose-free formula instead.

If your baby becomes fussy during bottle feeding, don’t hesitate to ask your pediatrician for help.


Though it is uncommon, some babies can still develop a dairy allergy. However, there is no need to worry, as many babies eventually outgrow this allergy.

In the meantime, you can provide your baby with nutritious dairy-free formulas as an alternative.

Work with your pediatrician to ensure your baby grows up healthy and happy.

Nayna Llenos
Nayna Llenos

Hi, I’m Nayna!
I’ve always wanted to be a mother, and I’m lucky and blessed to have two wonderful children to care for and love.
Despite this blessing, there are times wherein I do wonder if I truly am the mother my children need. Am I giving them the right food, care, and discipline to them?
But that is the beauty of parenting — you grow along with your children as they flourish to be their wonderful selves!
I wish to share my experiences with motherhood and how these tips can help you in your parenting journey.
I hope my advices and experiences will prove useful to you and that you have a smooth and wonderful journey as a mother!