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How do you breastfeed when your baby is allergic to something you are eating?

Finding out that your baby is allergic to something in your breast milk is incredibly stressful and difficult. Having to eliminate yummy foods from your diet to try to figure out which food is the culprit and thinking something you are ingesting could be causing your little one discomfort is just awful. Its especially frustrating when you know you are doing the very BEST thing for your baby by breastfeeding, yet, you see your LO squirming in pain.


We as mamas want to do everything we can to make our babies thrive and feel comfortable. The good news is that once you’ve figured out that it’s food that’s causing all these issues, it can be an enormous relief, you can make changes to fix it, and it can help you feel empowered as a mama again.

Please keep in mind that this topic is deep and complex, with allergies often being misdiagnosed because symptoms are varied. A fussy baby can be mistaken for having a food allergy because everyone needs an answer to why the baby wont stop crying. The truth is, its super unlikely that something you are eating is the culprit. “In fact, only two or three out of every one hundred babies who are exclusively breastfed demonstrate an allergic reaction—and that’s most often to the cow’s milk in their mother’s diet.”

However, if your child IS diagnosed, here’s what you need to know about allergies and breastfeeding:

1. Allergies occur when your body perceives a potentially harmless substance as an invader. A newborn who has never had anything but his mother’s breast milk can still show signs of allergy because of the foods you are eating.

2. Common signs and symptoms of an allergy include:

  • Eczema (or other skin reactions like a rash or cradle cap or hives)
  • Stools that are loose, watery, green*, more frequent, or contain blood.
  • Cramping, constipation, bloating, gas, heartburn, reflux, vomiting.
  • Nasal congestion
  • Persistent ear infections
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Slow or stalled weight gain (from malabsorption of nutrients)
  • Excessive crying
  • Frequent interruption of sleep
  • Fussy, “colic-y”, and miserable little babe

*Please note: green-mucousy poops can also been seen from over-supply, from too much lactose from foremilk. The signs/symptoms listed above will be consistent, dramatic, and in combination.

3. There has never been a documented case of a baby being allergic to his own mother’s milk. What the baby is actually allergic to is a protein that passes through her milk from the food she ingests.

4. Allergies typically show up at around 6 weeks of the baby’s life

5. Magical antibodies are found in your breastmilk: Secretory IgA is produced in very large amounts in your colostrum. This antibody binds with and prevents transport of dietary allergens until the infant gut is less permeable and they start producing SigA on their own.

6. If you are concerned about a possible allergy being the culprit of your fussy kiddo, start by reaching out to your pediatrician, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and an allergist. These professionals can help guide you. You should also check in with an a nutritionist if you have to remove a major food/food group from your diet for replacement of the nutrients.

7. Top food allergens:

  • Dairy (cows milk protein)
  • Egg
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Fish and shellfish

Although these are the top foods to watch out for, with a child with food sensitivities, the list can seem like it’s endless. And I hate to say it but coffee and chocolate in large amounts can cause irritability and wakefulness in your little one. (eek!)

Processed and genetically modified foods can also cause reactions so avoiding these will make you feel better and help your little one.

Any food may cause an allergic reaction (which is why this is so tricky) but 90% of them in children are caused by the food groups listed above (minus the fish and shellfish, which is more common for adults).

8. Some infants are so vulnerable to an allergy, you may see symptoms when they just come in contact with the food, and/or immediately after you ingest the food. However, a reaction usually occurs within 4-24 hours, and the food you ingest is in your babe’s system within 4-6 hours.

9. Dairy is the most common allergen. Melinda Wenner Moyer writes that “Somewhere between 2-8% are allergic to cows’ milk, but among babies who have only ever been fed breast milk, the risk is only about 0.5%.”

Even if you are not allergic to dairy yourself, your baby may be. If you eliminate dairy from your diet, you should see improvement within days and up to 2 weeks. However, it can take up to 6 weeks for dairy to be completely out of your system. Make sure you look at all labels—watch for casein and whey.

Breastfed babies who are sensitive to dairy in your diet are reacting to the cows’ milk antibodies in the form of proteins, NOT to lactose. (So what this means is your baby is not lactose intolerant. Trying lactose-free dairy products will not help your babe.)

10. What you may think is an allergy may actually only be a reaction, intolerance, or sensitivity to a food. A true allergy will most likely hang around for life, but a reaction or sensitivity can be outgrown as the digestive system matures—typically by 3 years old.

11. Allergic disease has a strong hereditary basis. If you are in a high-risk allergic family, or have a strong family history of allergies, you may want to avoid potent allergens (like peanuts or dairy products) during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

12. Unfortunately, allergy testing in young infants is not considered reliable and can give false negative results so the best way to figure out what is causing your baby problems is through an elimination diet. If you eliminate one allergen at a time, you should wait a minimum of two weeks and up to four weeks.

Elimination diets: 3 ways to do them (with the guidance of your doctor)

  1. You can try eliminating one allergen/food group at a time
  2. Try a low allergen diet
  3. Try a total elimination diet from the beginning

When you do an elimination diet, make sure you:

  • Keep a journal of all the foods you eat and your baby’s reaction/symptoms
  • Space the re-introduction of any food out by 4-5 days

You should see improvement within 2-7 days and up to three or even four weeks as the newborn’s intestines and stomach lining become less inflamed and irritated.

Total elimination diet

  • Step 1: When you begin, you need to cut back all the way to the bare bones: fruits and veggies (and nothing too acidic, so no citrus!). You should see improvement in a few days in your babes poop: No more diarrhea? No more blood? Green poop no longer green? Eczema will take more time to clear up but does it look less inflamed?
  • Step 2: Introduce beans, one kind at a time.
  • Step 3: Introduce grain. Try rice first.
  • Step 4: Once you have eliminated all possible allergens, you can try your food challenge by introducing one of these types of foods at a time. Go slowly, wait sufficient time, and know that some babies are fine with small amounts of the allergen but will not tolerate it anymore when it reaches a certain level.

You may opt-out of doing a food challenge altogether if by eliminating possible allergens, you now have a happy and comfortable baby. The re-introduction can seem really scary and daunting. You may want to try waiting a year (when many food sensitivities are outgrown) before reintroducing the foods back in your diet.

13. Rotation diet

This will allow you to eat troublesome foods in a rotating schedule, so each food is out of your system for 5-7 days before you reintroduce it. This can prevent allergic symptoms to develop. This kind of diet can help identify the culprit without disrupting your own diet too much, although some believe the foods are not eliminated for a long enough time.

Most importantly: Please try not to blame yourself for this, mama. Talk to your doctor, IBCLC, allergist and nutritionist about what would be best for you and your babe. It is normal for our babies to cry and you may just be the ‘lucky’ one who has an intense, needy and sensitive baby who cries a lot. However, if there is a true allergy or sensitivity, you do not need to wean your baby from the breast. If you change your diet, you and your baby can continue to enjoy breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired.

Be patient, be gentle on yourself, and take it one day at a time.

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Anyone who has had a baby with colic knows: It's not easy. But despite how common colic is, the causes have stumped researchers (and parents) for generations. Yet, the fact remains that some 5 to 19% of newborns suffer from colic, or excessive but largely inexplicable crying spurts.

Parents of colicky newborns are often eager for something, anything, that will give their baby comfort. The good news is that while we don't have complete confirmation on what causes colic, we do have generations worth of evidence on how to best manage and treat colic.

1. Use bottles with an anti-colic internal vent system that creates a natural flow

One of the most commonly cited culprits in causing colic is tummy discomfort from air bubbles taken in while bottle-feeding—which is proof that not all bottles are created equally. Designed with an anti-colic internal vent system that keeps air away from baby's milk during feeding, Dr. Brown's® bottles are clinically proven to reduce colic and are the #1 pediatrician recommended baby bottle in the US

Distractions and a supine position while feeding can cause your baby to take in additional air, leading to those bubbles that can bother their tummies. If you notice an uptick in crying after feeding, experiment with giving your baby milk in a more upright position and then keeping them upright for a while afterwards for burping and digestion.

2. Offer a pacifier

If your baby is calm while eating, it may be that they are actually calmed by the ability to suck on something—a common instinct among newborns. Offering a pacifier not only can help soothe colicky babies, but is also proven to reduce the rate of SIDS in newborns, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Some babies have strong opinions about their pacifiers, which is why staying with the Dr. Brown's brand can help you avoid the guessing game: Designed to mimic the shape of the bottle nipples, Dr. Brown's HappyPaci pacifier makes for easy (read: calming) transitions from bottle to pacifier.

3. Practice babywearing

Beyond tummy troubles, another leading theory is that colic is the result of newborns' immature nervous systems and the overstimulation of life outside the womb. By keeping them close to you through babywearing, you are helping ease their transition to the outside world as they come to terms with their new environment.

During pregnancy, they were also used to lots of motion throughout the day. By walking (even around the house) while babywearing, you can help give them that familiar movement they may crave.

4. Get some fresh air

Along with the motion from walking around, studies show that colicky babies may benefit simply from being outside. This is one thing for parents of spring and summer newborns. But for those who are battling colic during cold, dark months, it can help to take your stroller into the mall for some laps.

5. Swaddle to calm their nervous system

Unlike the warm, cozy confinement of the womb, the outside world babies are contending with during the fourth trimester can be overwhelming—especially after a full day of sensory stimulation. As a result, many parents report their baby's colic is worse at night, which is why a tight, comforting swaddle can help soothe them to sleep.

For many parents coping with a colicky baby, it's simply a process of experimenting about what can best provide relief. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be as much of a guessing game now, due to products like those in the Dr. Brown's line that are specifically tailored to helping babies with colic.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

The temperatures are dropping and that can only mean one thing. Whether we like it or not, winter's cold chilly months are upon us. As a born-and-raised Alaskan, and mama of three, I've got a lot of cold weather experience under my belt, and staying inside half the year just isn't an option for us. As my husband likes to say, "There's no bad weather, just bad gear."

Here are some of my favorite picks to keep your family toasty warm this winter.


1. Bear bunting

This sherpa bear bunting wins winter wear MVP for being a comfy snowsuit for your littlest babe, or base-layer under another snowsuit for the chilliest of winter outings. Bonus: your baby bear will never look cuter!

Sherpa Hooded Bunting, Carter's, $15.20

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2. Patagonia Capilene base-layers

Speaking of base-layers, for any prolonged winter activity outside in the cold, it's best to layer up to create air pockets of warmth. These moisture wicking base-layers are a family favorite.

Baby Capilene Bottoms, Back Country, $29.00

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3. Arctix Kids limitless overall bib

These adjustable snow pants keep kids warm and the bib style keeps snow from going down the back of their pants. Bonus: the price is excellent for the quality and they can grow with your child. The Velcro strap also makes bathroom breaks for kids so much easier.

Arctix Kids Limitless Overall Bib, Amazon, $14.99-$49.99

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4. Hooded frost-free long jacket

Keep your little one warm and stylish in this long puffer jacket. Great for everyday outings.

Hooded Frost-Free Long Jacket, Old Navy, $35.00

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5. Patagonia reversible jacket

This jacket is windproof, waterproof and the built-in hood means one less piece of gear to worry about (or one more layer for your little one's head). It's a best buy if you live with cold winter temperatures for many months of the year and still love to get outside to play. It also stays in great condition for hand-me-downs to your next kid.

Reversible Down Sweater Hoodie, Nordstrom, $119.00

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6. Under Armour Decatur water repellent jacket

Made of waterproof fabric and lined with great insulation, kids will no doubt stay warm—and dry—in this. It features plenty of pockets, too, so mama doesn't always have to hold onto their items. We love that the UGrow system allows sleeves to grow a couple inches.

UA Decatur Water Repellent Jacket, Nordstrom, $155.00

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7. Stonz mittens

Ever tried to keep gloves on a 1-year-old? It's a tough task, but these gloves make it a breeze with a wide opening and two adjustable toggles for a snug fit they can't pull off! Warm and waterproof, and come in sizes from infant to big kids.

Stonz Mittz, Amazon, $39.99

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8. Sorel toot pack boot

Keep their little toes warm with these cozy boots from Sorel. With insulated uppers and waterproof bottoms their feet are sure to stay warm. They're well constructed and hold up over time, making them a great hand-me-down option for your family.

Sorel Kids' Yoot Boot, Amazon, $48.73-$175.63

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9. Stonz baby boots

These Stonz stay-on-baby booties do just as their name says and stay on their feet. No more searching for one boot in the grocery store parking lot!

Stonz Three Season Stay-On Baby Booties, Amazon, $29.99-$50.29

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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We make a lot of things this time of year. Gingerbread houses. Christmas cards. New traditions. Babies.

Yes, December is peak baby making season. It's a month filled with togetherness and all the love felt in December is what makes September the most statistically popular month for American birthdays.

According to data journalist Matt Stiles, mid-September is the most popular time to give birth in America. He did a deep dive into the birth stats from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Social Security Administration collected between 1994 and 2014 and found that the most common American birthdays fall on September 9, 19 and 12. In fact, 9 of the 10 most popular days to give birth fall in September.

If we turn the calendar back, we're looking at Christmas time conceptions. Stiles illustrated his findings via a heat map, which presents the data in a visual form. The darker the square, the more common the birthday.

The square for August 30 is pretty dark as it is the 34th most common birthday in America. It's also 40 weeks after November 23, and the unofficial beginning of the United States' seasonal baby boom.


And while the Christmas holidays are common times to conceive, they're not common days to give birth, for obvious reasons. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and the fourth of July are all represented by light squares on Stiles's data map, meaning they're among the least popular days to welcome a little one into the world (Boxing Day is just a smidge darker, still a pretty rare birthday).

OB-GYNs are not likely to schedule C-sections on major holidays, so that might point to the low birth rates on these special days.

As for the September baby boom, it probably has less to do with the magic of the holiday season and more to do with the fact that many Americans take time off work during the holiday season. It's not that mistletoe is some magic aphrodisiac, but just that making babies takes time, and at this time of year we have some to spare.

This Christmas be thankful for the time you have with your loved ones and your partner. That time could give you a gift come September.

[A version of this article was originally posted November 21, 2018]

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When I gave birth the first time, I had two doulas—one for me, and one for my husband. (I wasn't messing around!) They worked hard to support me in what ended up being a long labor. About 20 hours in, I remember hearing my doulas whisper to my exhausted, hard-working husband, “Go lie down. We can take care of her."

This was absolutely true. They were more than capable of helping me through contractions, which up to this point I'd been handling really well. So upon their urging, my husband walked about three feet away and lay down on the daybed in the labor and delivery room. And then the strangest thing happened—

I completely lost my rhythm and my ability to breathe through contractions. It was as though I'd lost my way. The next handful of contractions were unbearable and caused me to cry out in anguish. My husband hurried to my side and held my hand once more.

And then, just as quickly, I found my rhythm, my breathing returned, and I was able to to handle my contractions until I gave birth several hours later.

In a recent study published in Nature, it was discovered that when a partner held the hand of a woman during labor, the couple would begin to synchronize their breathing and heart rate patterns, otherwise known as physiological coupling.

In addition, the women reported that their pain lessened while holding hands with their partners. If they were just sitting next to one another, but not holding hands, their pain levels weren't affected.

This study has obvious implications for the families I teach in my Childbirth Preparation classes, and it's important to share this news far and wide:

Everything you do for your partner while she's in labor makes a difference. Even if all you do is hold her hand.

Labor is not just something that a birthing woman experiences. Her partner experiences labor too, just in a very different way. For far too long, we've either diminished or ignored the partner's experience of labor—to everyone's detriment.

I realize that it makes sense to pay close attention to how a woman moves through her pregnancy, labor and birth. But if we're not paying equal attention to her partner's experience, we're not setting this new family up for success. In fact, we might be doing the exact opposite.

If partners don't realize the importance their words, actions and touch can have on the laboring woman's experience, many may freeze up and feel helpless as they witness the power and intensity of labor and birth. They may end up feeling as though all of their efforts and suggestions for comfort measures are without any effect. But this couldn't be further from the truth!

Every little thing a partner does to make the laboring woman more comfortable matters immensely. Every sip of water offered, every new position suggested, every word of encouragement, every reminder to breathe, every single touch, provides comfort to the laboring woman. And partners need to know this and believe in the power that their undivided attention and connection can bring to the laboring woman.

Here's why I think the findings from this latest study are so important—it's that feeling of shared empathy between the laboring woman and her partner that causes the physiological coupling and pain relieving effects that help a woman when she's experiencing pain.

That's why I've always told the partners in my classes that even if they hired an army of the world's greatest labor doulas, their unwavering, focused and empathetic attention during birth, is the reason why she'll tell everyone that she couldn't have made it through labor without her partner! Even if all they did was hold her hand.

It's a conundrum many parents wrestle with: We don't want to lie to our kids, but when it comes to Santa, sometimes we're not exactly giving them the full truth either.

For Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, lying to daughters Lincoln, 5, and Delta, 3 just isn't an option, so everyone in the Bell-Shepard household knows the truth about Santa.

"This is going to be very controversial," Shepard told Us Weekly earlier this month. "I have a fundamental rule that I will never lie to them, which is challenging at times. Our 5-year-old started asking questions like, 'Well, this doesn't make sense, and that doesn't make sense.' I'm like, 'You know what? This is just a fun thing we pretend while it's Christmas.'"

According to Shepard, this has not diminished the magic of Christmas in their home. "They love watching movies about Santa, they love talking about Santa," Shepard told Us. "They don't think he exists, but they're super happy and everything's fine."

Research indicates that Shepard is right—kids can be totally happy and into Christmas even after figuring out the truth and that most kids do start to untangle the Santa myth on their own, as Lincoln did.

Studies suggest that for many kids, the myth fades around age seven, but for some kids, it's sooner, and that's okay.


Writing for The Conversation, Kristen Dunfield, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Concordia University, suggests that when kids come to parents with the hard questions about Santa, parents may feel a bit sad, but can take some comfort in "recognizing these challenging questions for what they are—cognitive development in action."

Kids aren't usually the ones who are upset when they figure it out, researchers note. Typically, kids are kind of proud of themselves for being such great detectives. It's the parents who feel sadness.

Some parents may not choose to be as blunt as Shepard, and that's okay, too. According to Dunfield, if you don't want to answer questions about Santa with 100% truth, you can answer a question with a question.

"If instead you want to let your child take the lead, you can simply direct the question back to them, allowing your child to come up with explanations for themselves: "I don't know, how do you think the sleigh flies?" Dunfield writes.

While Dax Shepard acknowledges that telling a 3-year-old that Santa is pretend might be controversial, he's hardly the first parent to present Santa this way. There are plenty of healthy, happy adults whose parents told them the truth.

LeAnne Shepard is one of them. Now a mother herself, LeAnne's parents clued her into the Santa myth early, for religious reasons that were common in her community.

"In the small Texas town where I grew up, I wasn't alone in my disbelief. Many parents, including mine, presented Santa Claus as a game that other families played," she previously wrote. "That approach allowed us to get a picture on Santa's lap, watch the Christmas classics, and enjoy all the holiday festivities so long as we remembered the actual reason for the season. It was much like when I visited Disney World and met Minnie Mouse; I was both over the moon excited and somewhat aware that she was not actually real."

No matter why you want to tell your children the truth about Santa, know that it's okay to let the kids know that he's pretend. Kristen Bell's kids prove that knowing the truth about Santa doesn't have to make Christmas any less exciting. Pretending can be magical, too.

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