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Can I drink milk if I am breastfeeding? We tear down another false myth

The myths surrounding breastfeeding are innumerable and many focus on breastfeeding: take this or another food to increase milk production, avoid these other foods that produce gases, drink more or less fluids ... Recently, several mothers have commented that they stopped drinking milk to avoid a possible intolerance to cow's milk proteins in their babies.

What is true in here? Is an intolerance the same as an allergy? How to know if our baby suffers it? If we stop drinking milk, can we continue to produce breast milk? We solve all the doubts in this post.

1 What is a cow's milk protein allergy?

It is one of the most frequent food allergies in children as it is one of the first foods to which they are exposed. An allergy to cow's milk proteins is an abnormal reaction of our body when we drink milk or its derivatives. It is a reaction mediated by an immune mechanism, in which our body reacts against some proteins in milk and this reaction occurs again if we take it again.

2 And what is cow's milk protein intolerance?

In the case of allergy to cow's milk protein, we distinguish 2 types, depending on the mechanism by which the allergy occurs:

  • mediated by immunoglobulin E (IgE): usually causes skin lesions and the reaction is very fast, almost immediately after drinking the milk (minutes to 2 hours)

  • not mediated by immunoglobulin E: what was previously known as intolerance to cow's milk proteins. Symptoms usually appear later (hours, days or weeks) after drinking milk and mainly affect the digestive system.

3 How do I know if my baby is allergic to cow's milk proteins?

The symptoms of an allergy can be very varied and affect different organs: the skin (hives, dermatitis), the respiratory system (difficulty breathing, fatigue, cough) and the digestive system (vomiting, diarrhea, colic).

The "typical" allergy to cow's milk proteins (IgE-mediated allergy) is easier to diagnose. As we have commented, lesions on the skin (spots, hives ...) usually appear almost immediately after taking. In addition, respiratory or digestive symptoms may also appear. We have different complementary tests that help us diagnose it (we can determine the IgE against cow's milk proteins in a blood test and / or perform skin tests).

The previously called intolerance to cow's milk proteins (allergy not mediated by IgE), on the other hand, has a more difficult diagnosis. The symptoms are usually digestive: red bloody stools, vomiting, and diarrhea with little weight gain, including constipation, gastroesophageal reflux, or severe cramps. In this case, the diagnosis will be based on the symptoms and the exclusion-provocation test (see if symptoms improve when cow's milk is excluded from the diet and see if it reappears after reintroducing it).

If you have doubts about whether your baby may be allergic to cow's milk proteins, consult your pediatrician.

4 Are there cow's milk proteins in breast milk?

Yes. If the mother takes cow's milk or derivatives, a small part of these proteins can pass into the breast milk, mainly beta-lactoglobulin.


This recent study compiles and analyzes the different evidences on the primary prevention of the main food allergies. There is no evidence that restricting cow's milk and derivatives during pregnancy and lactation prevents the development of food allergies in the baby. It could even have the opposite effect; there are studies that suggest that a food restriction during breastfeeding could promote food sensitization and allergy in children.

In addition, both breastfeeding and pregnancy are periods with nutritional risk for the mother. If the mother must stop taking dairy for any reason, she should consult with her doctor to avoid possible nutritional deficits. There is also no evidence that the intake of vitamins and other nutritional supplements by the mother prevents the development of allergy to cow's milk protein.

1 Can we prevent an allergy to cow's milk proteins?

No effective food allergy prevention measure is currently known, according to different scientific societies in the 2018 consensus document on non-IgE-mediated cow's milk protein allergy. Some experts agree that the Exclusive breastfeeding for at least 4 months (it is recommended to keep it up to 6 months) can prevent the development of allergy to cow's milk proteins.

There are some low-quality studies that suggest that the use of hydrolyzed formulas could prevent allergy to cow's milk proteins in children at risk. However, the most recent systematic reviews and meta-analyzes, including the 2018 Cochrane review, do not find sufficient evidence to recommend the use of such formulas.

They conclude that no significant evidence was found to support short- or long-term feeding of hydrolyzed formula compared to cow's milk formula for the prevention of allergic diseases in infants who cannot be exclusively breastfed.

Other interventions, such as soy milk, the mother taking pre and / or probiotics have not proven effective in preventing cow's milk allergy.


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