In some cases, these problems could be caused by what mum is eating. It doesn’t have to be lots of ‘junk’ and artificial additives – food sensitivity can also happen from eating healthy foods like dairy, wheat, and certain fruits and vegetables.
Let me start by telling you about my experience as a new mother. My firstborn had bad colic from day 3 until he was five months, but seemed to be better at night. He also came close to being called underweight, despite my large breastmilk supply. It just didn’t make sense. I was told the colic would stop at 3 months and I felt cheated when this didn’t happen. Health professionals I saw didn’t seem to understand and had no advice on stopping the colic.
My first clue was when I realised that if I ate chocolate, or any other food containing cocoa, he would react badly, starting from at least 24 hours after I ate the food.
It wasn’t until later that I discovered that my baby’s misery (and mine!) was being caused by food intolerance. This was from foods I was eating that were coming through my breastmilk. My first clue was when I realised that if I ate chocolate, or any other food containing cocoa, he would react badly, starting from at least 24 hours after I ate the food. Even if I avoided cocoa, he still wasn’t ‘normal’.
As well as constant crying, he also had many poos which were often explosive. My breastmilk seemed to be going straight through him — in one end and out the other! He wanted to breastfeed all the time — it was often the only thing that would stop him crying. This constant feeding caused me to make too much breastmilk. He never cried with hunger, he only cried because of the pain. Still he didn’t gain weight.
Lactose intolerance means your baby lacks the proper amount of the enzyme needed to digest lactose, which is the sugar in milk.
Some babies have these same symptoms of lactose intolerance but are putting on weight well and growing normally. This often means that they are simply getting too much breastmilk.
[Sometimes] your baby is not lactose intolerant, but just has too much lactose because he is getting too much breastmilk. This is called lactose overload.
Some mothers’ first reaction is to think they don’t have enough milk because the baby keeps acting hungry, wanting to suck. The best way to know if this is the problem is to check the nappies.
What comes out the bottom must have gone in the top. If the baby is having lots of bowel motions each day and doing more than 10 wees a day, this is oversupply.
This means your baby is not lactose intolerant, but just has too much lactose because he is getting too much breastmilk. This is called lactose overload.
But if your baby is like my firstborn, and has all the symptoms of lactose intolerance including not putting on weight well, or doesn’t have excess output in the number of nappies, this may be lactose intolerance.
Causes can include gastro, food allergy and food-chemical intolerance. If your baby has signs of being lactose intolerant you should see your health practitioner to find out what is causing the damage and stop it, DO NOT JUST avoid lactose in the feeds. Removing lactose does often start to ease the symptoms, but it doesn’t fix the real problem. If you take care of the cause of the damage, then the lactose intolerance will fix itself. Breastfed babies who show symptoms of lactose intolerance should always keep breastfeeding.
The breast makes its own lactose so even if lactose is not in your diet you still natrually produce it in your breastmilk! Avoiding dairy however can help reduce symptoms in your lactose-intolerant baby.
The most common food babies react to through your breastmilk is cows’ milk.
The breast makes its own lactose so even if lactose is not in your diet you still naturally produce it in your breastmilk! Avoiding dairy however can help reduce symptoms in your lactose-intolerant baby.
Some people don’t believe that what a mother eats can affect her baby via breastmilk. They say that all foods are completely broken down in the digestive tract. However, this process is not 100 per cent efficient. In fact, scientists have found egg, peanut and cows’ milk proteins in breastmilk.
A true allergy is a reaction in the immune system to protein. Over 90 per cent of food-allergic babies are upset by proteins like the ones found in eggs, cows’ milk, peanuts and tree nuts. Even a small amount of these foods in the mother’s diet can set off a reaction in some babies.
There are other babies who do not have true allergies, but have what is more like a food-chemical sensitivity – this means they ‘react’ or are ‘sensitive’ to certain foods but are not as sick as those who have an allergy to certain foods. Some babies have both an allergy and a food-sensitivity.
Many foods can cause food-chemical intolerance, not just in babies but in food-sensitive adults. Babies who are born into a food-sensitive family often show signs from when they’re very young.
They may grow out of some symptoms seen in babyhood, such as reflux, colic, green bowel motions, eczema and wakefulness, but may go on to develop different symptoms later as a child and adult.
Some of these symptoms are often seen in other members of the family.
What’s in your food?
Beware of artificial additives found in many processed foods that may cause sensitivity. Healthy, everyday foods also have their own ‘natural’ chemicals which can make people who are sensitive to them feel ill. These natural chemicals are called salicylates, amines and glutamates.
Salicylates are found in many fruits and vegetables and in other foods derived from plants, like jams, teas and herbs and spices. Amines and glutamates found especially in fermented, ‘matured’ or aged high-protein foods, like meat and dairy products. They are also found in many ripe fruits and vegetables.
Examples of high-amine foods are:
Glutamates improve the flavour of food. As well as the MSG added to some foods, glutamates happen naturally in many tasty foods such as soy sauce, mushrooms and tomato products. Some foods are high in all three of these natural chemicals, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, grapes, processed meats, yeast spreads, stock cubes, wines and sauces.
Any of the above foods can come to a food-sensitive breastfed baby through the mother’s breastmilk. In addition, some babies also react to ‘windy’ foods in the mother’s diet, such as vegetables of the cabbage family and legumes.
When someone is allergic to a food they have to strictly avoid even traces of it. This is different in food-chemical intolerance, where a small amount is usually OK but if you eat too much, you get a reaction.
In babies reacting to foods via breastmilk it can be hard to tell apart symptoms of allergies from symptoms of food intolerances. Allergic symptoms may appear similar to reactions caused by food chemical intolerance when the food comes through the breastmilk.
There are lots of reasons babies cry and do not sleep well. One reason that may affect some breastfed babies is the mother’s diet. Once other causes are ruled out, a dietician with a special interest in food intolerance in babies can help a breastfeeding mother investigate her diet.
Joy Anderson has been helping mothers and babies for over 25 years, as an ABA breastfeeding counsellor and a lactation consultant. She is also an Accredited Practising Dietician and has a passion for helping people with food intolerance, especially mothers and breastfed babies.
Courtesy Essence Magazine