How To Tell If Your Breastfed Baby Is Reacting To Your Diet

When my second daughter was a newborn, we endured hours of a screaming, fussy baby.

Is my baby fussy because of something I ate?

Photo credit: Top Photo Corporation/Top Photo Group / 360/Getty Images

And as it turns out, it was all my fault.

Weeks and weeks of what we thought was just colic was actually something a little more simple:

She was reacting to my diet.

When breastfeeding goes bad

It can be so hard for mothers who are trying to exclusively breastfeed their infants to realize that although "breast may be best," it can also cause fussiness in their babies. In our case, my daughter had extreme sensitivity to many foods that I was commonly eating, such as seeded fruit (like the mountains of raspberries I was eating every day), dairy and any and all sips of caffeine.

"It can be really tricky to distinguish if a baby's fussiness is related to a mother's diet because there’s a certain level of fussiness that we expect with a newborn," explains Leah Jacobson, a Board Certified Lactation Consultant with Naturally Nourished Baby. She points out that there are several signs that can distinguish if a baby is reacting to her mother's diet, such as spitting up, inconsolable crying, especially after a feeding, waking up from sound sleep and showing signs of pain, like jerking or even displaying cold-like symptoms or wheezing. Food sensitivities and/or allergies can also show up on a baby's skin, with conditions like eczema, hives or a rash.

Common culprits

If you suspect that your baby may be reacting to a food item in your diet, consider the most common allergen culprits first and try eliminating them completely from your diet, a process that can take up to three weeks. "The most common one by far is dairy, with the cow milk's protein," notes Jacobson. She also lists soy, corn, wheat, eggs and peanuts as common allergen triggers.

Although the most common allergens are likely culprits, be sure to also take a look at any allergies that run in your family, as there can be a genetic link to allergies. Many new mothers also try to jumpstart losing the baby weight by beginning a new diet, which can also trigger food sensitivities in your newborn. "If you start a new diet too, it could backfire," explains Jacobson. "Eat what you normally eat, but if you do start seeing signs, look at those major allergens first."

When to call in a professional

Like my daughter, your baby may respond to simple diet modifications and show a happier, less fussy side, but in other circumstances, it may be time to call in a professional. "Looks for signs like extreme constipation or diarrhea, or if the stools start changing colors," Jacobson says. And although constipation can be hard to pick up, because breastfed babies can go days without stooling, a baby who is constipated will have hard stools. "A fully breastfed baby should not have hard stools," Jacobson explains. She recommends that if your baby has hard, bloody or mucus-filled stools, excessive spitting up/vomiting or GERD, you seek consultation from your baby's pediatrician, who can refer you to a GI specialist or a dietitian to pinpoint the exact problem.

More on breastfeeding

Common breastfeeding issues
Bottle feeding tips for nursing moms
Breastfeeding on-the-go


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