What is Milk Soy Protein Intolerance? Part 1

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If my baby has Milk Soy Protein Intolerance or better known as MSPI, what do I need to do to help my baby? Why did my pediatrician tell me to go dairy-free if my baby is gassy? Why isn’t my dairy-free diet making my baby less fussy and uncomfortable? 

These questions come up often in breastfeeding support groups, and as a mom with food allergy kiddos myself, it’s a subject I’m pretty passionate about. 

I’d been eating dairy-free for a year when my oldest was born, but he was a summer baby and I really craved an ice cream sundae, so I indulged. I mostly felt fine, but my one-week old baby was inconsolable that night. I chalked it up to a coincidence, but the next time I had a sundae, he was inconsolable AND started pooping orange mucus. That got my attention and I went back to strictly dairy-free eating for the duration of our breastfeeding journey. That was 7 years ago, and so much more research has come out in that time regarding babies, food allergies, and breastfeeding. 

MSPI stands for Milk Soy Protein Intolerance, thus named because cow’s milk proteins and soy proteins have some molecular similarities and many babies who are allergic to one are also sensitive to or allergic to the other. 

Here’s the thing, though: food allergies are increasing amongst our children AND dairy-free diets are overly prescribed by pediatricians without considering the mental, emotional, and financial cost of committing to an elimination diet when you may not need to. 

I cannot tell you the number of clients who have called me stressed out because their baby is gassy and fussy and the pediatrician told them to “try giving up milk for 2 weeks.” I never want to disagree with a pediatrician, but I often send moms back with more questions in this situation. I also ask her about her own family history of food allergies, asthma, and eczema. If mom tolerates dairy just fine, doesn’t have a family history of food allergies, and the persistent complaint is gassiness or fussiness, I often recommend cleaning up mom’s dairy intake and then finding a good probiotic and bodyworker for the baby. 

Again, these suggestions are for babies with NO symptoms aside from gassiness, fussiness, and a general sense of digestive discomfort: 

1. By “cleaning up your dairy intake” I mean reading labels. It’s easier to find cleaner substitutions for your dairy-full favorites than to find dairy-free substitutions if you don’t need to make the full switch. When you start reading labels, you may be surprised to find extra synthetic vitamins in milk, food coloring in cheese, and gums and artificial sweeteners in yogurt. Buying organic dairy with short ingredient lists may eliminate some tummy-irritating ingredients. 

2. If you as the mother have a history of antibiotic use, especially in pregnancy or labor, your baby could probably use some probiotics. Same goes for a baby born by cesarean

section. Ask your pediatrician if they have a preferred brand; I like to recommend Gerber Soothe drops or Mary Ruth’s Infant Probiotics to start with. 

3. “Bodyworker” refers to a pediatric PT, chiropractor, infant massage therapist, craniosacral therapist, etc who specializes in working with infants. Often these therapies address the soft tissues surrounding the vagus nerve, and an over- or under-stimulated vagus nerve can cause digestive discomfort in babies! I’ve had many clients with gassy babies give me the side-eye on this recommendation, but I’ve never had one regret it when they see a practitioner I recommend. 

One client recently texted me: “I seriously think everyone who is told they have to stop drinking milk for their baby’s sake needs to have their kid’s vagus nerve checked. (This physical therapist) was our life saver! He made her “mid-brain and mid-gut communicate” and when he told me that is what he was trying to do, I thought I might need to grab her and run. But then she farted and pooped with a smile on her face after days of screaming.” 

This being said, if your baby presents with body rashes, hives, eczema, consistently mucousy or bloody poop, or you have a strong family history of food allergies, you absolutely need to go strictly dairy- and soy-free free as soon as possible. The next post will cover this topic in more detail!

Authored by our favorite IBCLC Therese

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