Is Breast Milk Considered Dairy? (Real Answer)

I have always heard people talk about cutting dairy from their diet because their breastfed baby is allergic or sensitive to it.

Well, isn’t breast milk itself dairy? Dairy or milk products are types of food that is found in the milk of mammals.

It’s produced by mammals including buffaloes, cows, sheep, goat camels, and human beings.

So is breast milk considered dairy? Yes, breast milk is considered dairy because humans are mammals, and most mothers express milk to their baby directly. However, what we need to understand is that breast milk is different from milk from other mammals.

Breast Milk is only for human babies and it comes with compels nutritional value than other milk products.

In addition, the protein in cow’s milk for example, is very much different from that of breast milk and this is the reason why most babies are allergic to cow’s milk.

The baby’s antibodies treat protein cow milk as foreign body and fights back.

What to Do if Your Baby Is Sensitive to the Protein in Cow’s Milk

baby allergic to protein

Most of breastfeeding mothers are very concerned that, if they drink milk or eat cheese, yoghurt or ice cream will bring allergic responses in their babies.

It’s a fact to note. Anything that you eat is passed to breast milk. Some babies may not react to diet that their moms use, but others definitely will.

If your baby is sensitive to something in your breast milk, the suspect is usually the milk from the cow.

Symptoms of a Cow’s Milk Allergy or Sensitivity

  • If your baby is sensitive or allergic to cow’s milk, he/she will develop stomach-related problems. The protein presence in cow’s milk usually leads to development of gas in the baby’s intestines and stomach. The gas will cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Food sensitivity could also lead to colic like symptoms, hives, and bloody stool. Your baby will be very uncomfortable and fussy.
  • If you notice that your baby feels pain or shows any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to call for medical attention. When giving out description to your doctor will try to be more specific because other conditions can cause these symptoms. It’s good to brief the doctor on any related family medical history on cow’s milk allergy  as this will; make his work easier in attending to your baby. The doctor will be in a position to guide with a great dietary plan for your baby.

Is a Cow’s Milk Allergy Same as Lactose Intolerance?

A baby who has an allergy to cow’s milk is simply sensitive to protein in cows’ milk. Lactose is much different because it is not protein but sugar component.

Babies are rarely allergic to lactose but when they do, though not fully recommended, there are lactose free dairy formula that you can give to your baby.

Difference Between Milk (allergy and intolerance)

Milk allergy: Associated with baby’s immune system is very sensitive to protein presence in cow milk.

They react to the milk protein that is passed through breastfeeding or from the protein presence in the cow’s milk formula.

The baby’s antibodies treats the cow’s milk protein as foreign bodies where the body will raise the levels of histamine and adrenaline as defense and as a result leads to allergic reactions.

Symptoms of cow milk allergy includes:

  • Spitting up which occurs very frequently 
  • A lot of vomiting
  • Breathing difficulties 
  • Swelling of mouth and throat
  • Watery stool/ diarrhea 
  • Watery eyes and Skin rash
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Running nose 
  • Blood stains in stool
  • Irritability and crying which abdominal pains or colic gas causes 

Milk intolerance/Lactose intolerance: On the other hand, when you talk of milk intolerance, it’s not associated with milk proteins or immunity. It has to do with digestion.

Milk intolerance or in other words, lactose intolerance is when your baby is unable to digest sugar (lactose) in breast milk.

Lactose intolerance from time of birth is very rare. It develops later in their teenage or adulthood.

Those few who have these conditions while still young normally do well after introduction of lactose free formula. Symptoms of milk intolerance includes:

  • No loss or gain in weight
  • Unstable and irritability
  • A lot of spitting up
  • Bloating 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Gas 

Breastfeeding When Your Child Is Sensitive to Cow’s Milk. 

  • Stopping breastfeeding is not necessary just because you sense allergic reaction on your baby probably because of cow’s protein. If the symptoms are not very serious, you can try to do elimination of cow milk along with other dairy products like cheese and butter.
  • In case your baby’s symptoms are very bad, the doctor can recommend that you avoid diet that contains cow’s milk. By following what the doctor says, you will notice some improvements after sometimes probably like two to three weeks. 
  • You need to be patients to see the results if you notice improves after three weeks consider staying on the dairy-free food.

When there is no much difference after three weeks  of taking dairy free food, then you might need to rule out dairy products as a cause of your baby’s symptoms.

Something else might be the cause, most likely another allergen or underlying condition that requires further medical examination.

Reintroducing Dairy Products

  • Cow’s milk or any other dairy product protein can manifest in breast milk within 3-6 hours after consuming them. Also if get rid of these proteins in your diet, it will go away from the breast milk probably after seven to fourteen days where the baby will start to show some change and improvement. There is no standard advise as to stop consuming products rich in milk protein while breastfeeding to counter the allergies. The restrictions is normally directed to moms whose babies have shown allergic symptoms.
  • Staying away from dairy products is not necessary if you decide to breastfeed.
  • If the baby is reacting to cow’s milk, after doing away with all other dairy products, it is advisable to wait at least a few weeks  then do reintroduction of cow milk and other dairy. In case the baby reacts, stop it once again. Keep on trying after every three weeks, because your baby will be able to develop tolerance at some point.
  • Allergies caused by certain food are rare but can be very serious. If the baby has had cow’s milk reaction, you need to be very careful .You need to have a discussion with the child’s doctor on when and how to reintroduce cow milk in the diet. Reintroduction should be under very close monitoring of the doctor.

Dairy-Free Diet Options

  • Substitutes of cow’s milk are readily available in supermarkets and food stores. You just need to read the labels and identify products that are dairy free. They are clearly indicated in the label. Milk can be found in many products including salad, some soap, baked cakes or breads so you have to be very careful when doing your shopping.
  • After sometimes, you might find yourself loving dairy free products. You will have that feeling of satisfaction after doing the elimination of dairy products. Apart from cow’s milk reaction; your breastfeeding baby can also develop sensitivity to soy and nut products. 
  • When eliminating the milk, which is rich in calcium, consider finding alternative that will still provide your baby with calcium, which is needed for development of strong bones and teeth for your baby.

Milk Allergies and Infant Formula

  • If at all, your baby is breastfeeding and at the same time feeding on formula, formula made from cow’s milk will make your baby to develop similar milk sensitivity symptoms. If you have, a caregiver ensure to brief her on the correct formula. Soy formula can be an option but be careful as it might cause some reactions if your baby is allergic to cow’s milk protein. You may choose hypoallergenic formula (see resources), which is much better than soy.
  • The more you give your baby breast milk, the more your baby gets healthier. It can be very tiresome to do breastfeeding especially if the baby cries a lot you are alone with no support. If you do elimination of diet, be sure to face many challenges as well. Talk to your doctor or partner to obtain complete information on the best diet for you and your baby. After your baby has recovered from these allergies, you can go back to breastfeeding once again.


Breastfeeding your baby means you are protecting him/her form any kind of inaction.

Breast milk enables your baby to have high IQ scores  and most important cutting chances of your baby having chronic illness in the future such as diabetes and obesity. 

Breastfeeding will establish a solid bond between you and your baby. Most babies love breastfeeding even after their second year after birth.

You do not have to wean your baby early may be due to allergies. Breastfeed as much as you could.

All in all, enjoy the breastfeeding with your baby until that time both of you are ready to wean.