From Mama’s Mouth to Baby’s

breastfeeding mama eats food gets into baby milk

Baby can react to foods in mama’s diet, and this is often overlooked.  Time and time again, clinical results have shown the removal of a certain food from mama’s diet clear up baby’s symptoms.  A breast fed infant can react to a food in mama’s diet in the form of colic, grass green stool, mucousy stool, bloody stool, cradle cap, eczema, gas, baby acne, and many others.

Mama Eats A Donut

Let’s say that mama eats a donut.  The donut goes to her belly where it is separated out and digested in the form of protein, carbohydrate, and fat.  Digested means that the food went into the cells lining her intestines.  These cells are called enterocytes.  Once the donut particles are in the enterocytes, they get packaged up and shipped to the liver via the blood.  One small exception here is that some fat bypasses the liver and goes to the lymph.  The lymph eventually gets dumped into the blood.  The donut particles that get to the liver are processed by the liver and then sent out into mama’s circulation via the blood.

Donut Gets to Maternal Blood & Into the Milk

The blood, which now contains the breakdown products of mama’s donut, is the source of fuel for the mammary glands.  Mammary glands make milk from nutrients supplied by the blood.  There are restrictions to what can pass from the blood into the mammary glands for milk production (for those who understand, they’re called tight junctions).  However, of particular interest is protein and fat transport from the maternal blood into the milk.  Food protein transport from maternal blood into the milk is controversial in the literature, but fat transport from the blood into the mama’s milk seems a little clearer.  The type of fats eaten by the mother determines the type of fats in the milk.  This is how trans fats show up in the breast milk.

How The Donut Can Cause a Reaction

Proteins from the blood pass into the mammary glands, where they are packaged up and secreted into the milk.  These proteins can include food proteins that mama ate, as well as proteins made by the body.  An example of proteins the body makes are antibodies.  Antibodies are a crucial part of our immune system, and they are intentionally placed in the breast milk for the development of the baby’s immune system.  Although they are essential to our survival, they can cause a problem if the mama has undiagnosed food allergies.

Mama can produce antibodies to the donut she ate.  If mama is allergic to the dairy or wheat in the donut, she can produce antibodies to their proteins.  These antibodies to food proteins can be found in the blood.  The antibodies then move from the blood and into the mammary glands where they get into the milk.  Think about baby’s response if she slurped up wheat protein from her mama’s milk as well as the antibody to it!

Sometimes, mama may not be immunologically allergic to the food proteins in the donut, but she may have an inflammatory response to something in the donut.  Inflammation is caused by proteins that serve as molecular signals to induce inflammation.  If mama is having an inflammatory response to the donut, those protein signals for the inflammation could most likely be passed from the blood into the milk and cause some type of inflammatory reaction in the baby.  This inflammatory concept is my own hypothesis, based on the histological process of how proteins enter the breast milk.

To answer the question on the image, theoretically yes, but it’s not black and white.

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6 Responses

  1. Pragati

    Great post! I love the topic of breastfeeding :)


    Dr. Archer

    Oh, sweet Pragati, thank you for your comment! I love breastfeeding too.



    Archer have you taken Lactation Management w/ Dr. Kingsbury? I want to take it this summer, but I’m curious if anyone I know has already taken it..


    Dr. Archer

    Yes I have taken it. Feel free to email or FB me your questions. :)


  2. Karly

    I enjoyed reading this as a current breastfeeding mom. I am so glad that the process has been successful this time around. Thanks for the post!


    Dr. Archer

    Karly – Thanks for your comment! I’m glad to hear breastfeeding has been successful for you this time around. :)


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