Allergies Can Pop Up Anytime
Is your baby fussy or gassy? Does she break out in hives, or get really bad diaper rashes? There are a number of reasons these things happen, but you may not know that food allergies can be a cause also.
Allergies in a young infant
A baby who has yet to start solid foods can indeed show signs of a food allergy. She can be allergic to the dairy or soy in infant formula, or more rarely to something in your breastmilk if you are exclusively breastfeeding.
The real question, then, is how do you determine if your baby's problems are environmental, such as a diaper rash caused by the diaper itself, or due to her (or your) diet?
What to look for
If your baby is breastfed or not, you may notice his behavior change after a feeding. According to kellymom.com, cow's milk protein (called casein) is the most common food that babies react to. You may notice that he's more fussy after a feeding, or he may exhibit long periods of crying, fitful sleeping or gas.
Other signs of a food allergy are similar to other allergies and can be just as alarming, such as eczema, hives, wheezing, runny nose, diaper rash, bowel habit changes, blood in the diaper or general irritability.
What to do
If you notice signs of an allergy, consult your child's doctor for a plan of action. She will need to eliminate other illnesses before proceeding on the assumption that your baby has a food allergy. Allergy testing is notoriously inaccurate in infants and toddlers so if there are no other health issues she may advise you to change your child's diet -- or yours.
For a breastfed mom, cow's milk is easy for you to eliminate if you know where to look on a label. Modern labeling laws make it very easy to spot cow's milk in foods that may not be an obvious hiding spot for dairy -- such as breads and baked goods. Also, many manufacturers of "dairy free" products, such as soy cheese, will add casein to their items, so you definitely want to avoid those.
Formula-fed babies will likely need to try another formula. Many moms turn to soy formulas, but be forewarned that many babies who have problems with cow's milk also have problems with soy. You may need to turn to your pediatrician for guidance in selecting a formula created especially for little ones with allergies.
In the future
Children often outgrow dairy allergies by the time they are 5 years old, but other allergies may not be so easy to shake. Get used to reading package labels now -- they can mean a world of difference to your child.