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Newborn Food Allergies Print E-mail
Friday, 24 October 2008

A friend of mine recently brought her new son – born seven weeks early, and fresh from the NICU – home amidst much joy and celebration. The celebration was short-lived when she had to return to the hospital a few days later because of blood in his stool. After a few tests, they determined the cause: a dairy allergy.

Newborn food allergies are surprisingly common, though many people don’t know about them. Babies subsist wholly on breastmilk or formula, of course, but we all know how much can be passed through breastmilk to a baby, and foods that may cause allergies are no exception. Something like ninety percent of newborn “colic” is caused by a food allergy, usually a reaction to dairy or soy.

In most cases, the allergy isn’t life-threatening, but can show up in some rather unattractive ways: usually, blood in the poop or a thick, mucous-y, snot-like poop. Many first-time parents don’t realize this is different than newborn poop should look since Lord knows that yellow seedy poop ain’t like nuthin’ you’ve ever seen before anyway. So when the baby begins screaming and crying right around two or three weeks ALL THE TIME, people shrug and say, “Colic.”

Maddie had a dairy allergy as a baby, and we had a tough time pinning it down at first; for one, she also had infant reflux, and so was crying kinda all. The. Time. For another, no one told me that going off of milk and cheese for a couple days isn’t enough to test and see if your baby’s allergic to dairy; it takes TWO WEEKS for the dairy proteins to fully leave your body, so you have to give up dairy for two weeks before you’ll see a huge difference. The other big allergy food, soy, is the same way.

My friend found out she had to give up dairy and shrugged, as if to say, “Big deal. So no ice cream.” But people don’t realize that dairy protein is in EVERYTHING, from Cool Whip (Non-Dairy, my ass) to artificial creamer (ditto). See, if you’ve got to ditch dairy, you’ve got to drop all those secretive little dairy proteins they put in everything, so it’s not enough to simply buy Lactose-Free. You need to scour the labels and wipe out anything with “Casein” or “Whey” in them. And trust me, that’s a huge list.

And on the subject of soy, it doesn’t get much better, because if dairy’s hard to wipe out, soy is just as difficult. My girlfriend Abby had to ditch soy while nursing her younger son, and went into shock when she discovered that every bar of chocolate has soy lecithin in it as a stabilizer. I’m tellin’ ya, you’ve got to really love your baby to give up chocolate for him.

So if you’ve got a newborn with bloody poop, stringy, mucous-filled poop, or one who is simply screaming nonstop, talk to your pediatrician about food allergies. They’ve got dairy-free and soy-free formula out there if you are on formula, or your pediatrician can help you with an elimination diet to figure out what’s causing the reaction. Some pediatricians will hurry the process by having you use dairy-free formula right away, since that takes less time than waiting the two weeks. But in any case, you should be able to get it figured out and have your little guy or girl feeling much more comfortable soon.

If only there was a solution for the yellow seedy stool.

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