Sleeping and Allergies

When my son was an infant he was extremely colicky and my husband kept on saying to me “He is allergic to something. There is something wrong.” But the pediatrician always dismissed my concerns and kept on saying “allergies to milk are extremely rare” and it is his “undeveloped digestive system.” I was breastfeeding and if I drank milk he would be miserable. So I switched to soy milk and it got a little better. Still, he never slept through the night until 18 months old when I put him on a gluten free/dairy free/soy free diet. It turns out there is a connection between allergies and insomnia in babies. In a study on Insomnia and Cow’s Milk Allergy in Infants, The Official Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics concluded:
“when no evident cause for sleeplessness can be found in an infant, the possibility of milk allergy should be given serious consideration.”

My son has slept through the night ever since we changed his diet. What a difference in my life to go from having a terrible sleeper to a terrific sleeper. This change happened overnight. Now that I know what I know about nutrition, I would have tried giving him rice milk with a little coconut milk at 12 months when I was trying to wean him and he was clearly intolerant of milk. Coconut milk has the healthy saturated fat that is needed for brain development. If you make sure they are getting enough protein in food then you don’t need the cow’s milk.
Cow’s milk is a convenient way to get all the protein and fat you need for development, but it is a convenience not a necessity. And if you are intolerant to cow’s milk, you might be drinking it, but you might not be absorbing the nutrients.

I would advise ANY non sleeper after 12 months old to give up wheat/dairy and soy for a few days to see if they have a part in the terrible sleeping situation. Especially if crying it out doesn’t work. Rice milk with a little coconut milk in it is a great dairy free, creamy treat to try. And coconut milk is full of lauric acid which is only found in coconut and breastmilk. With enough protein at meals*** your child will thrive. One year olds don’t need cow’s milk, they need lauric acid, healthy saturated fats for brain development and some protein, vitamin D and calcium for growth which you can get in rice milk or fortified orange juice.

Also, Dr. Morton Teich, New York Environmental Allergist from Mt. Sinai hospital in NYC told me, you often crave the things you are most allergic to. So a child who is a picky eater who will only eat wheat (pasta, bread and goldfish) might have a wheat or gluten intolerance. Or a child who guzzles lots of milk might be intolerant of dairy.

The industrialization of our food supply has made milk even more allergenic–the fascinating video “The Whole Truth About Milk” explains this process. All types of allergies are becoming more common now–but often they go unrecognized until they cause severe problems and are impossible to dismiss. Intolerances are often completely unrecognized because they are difficult to test for and doctors don’t like what they can’t test. But if you have tried everything and your child still doesn’t sleep, try eliminating the common allergens and see if it helps.

***1 ounce protein per 2 pounds of weight for 12 month olds. So a 20 pound baby will need an average of 10 ounces of protein per day.

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  • melissa - I’m glad to finally see your blog. Lauren told me about you. What you have written is very interesting. The insomnia connection to allergies is so interesting. I wonder if my son has allergies, or perhaps some intolerance. He’s prone to having gas! Is this a sign of intolerance?ReplyCancel

  • gfcfmom - Thanks for your comment. Gas can be a sign of lactose intolerance intolerance–which can be a sign of undiagnosed celiac disease. Gas by itself wouldn’t be alarming, but terrible gas with other allergic symptoms (red face, red ears,dark circles under eyes, distended abdomen, short stature, pain and discomfort, developmental delays, headaches, muscle aches etc)might be suggestive of an intolerance. It is all very complicated, but an awareness of the complexity of the situation and what to look for is important as these things seem to be more common and more overlooked by doctors.ReplyCancel

  • Natalie - GFCF Mom-

    In response to your article, my pediatrician told me that really giving whole cow’s milk to babies is complete laziness on our part. He told me cow’s milk is for baby cows and he told me to breastfeed and make sure the kids got their daily vitamin intake through their food. He also said that there is quite a strong link between cow’s milk and autoimmune disease.

    I am excited about your new blog. Very interesting points you are making!


  • journeytocrunchville - I agree that regular cows milk is awful for just about everyone. We have found tremendous health benefits in raw cows milk. Raw goats milk is even better for you but I can’t stomach the taste. For those who can’t breastfeed and need to use formula, formula made from raw goats milk and combined with other ingredients is supposed to be a superb choice. I believed the hype about raw milk being dangerous for a long time until I looked into it.

    My daughter who can’t have regular milk at all or she breaks out in hives tolerates raw milk perfectly.

    I know that those who shy away from dairy all together wouldn’t find this as an acceptable alternative though.

    A website I found really useful was

    My gluten free friends all have great success with raw cow and goat milk products but can’t have regular dairy at all.ReplyCancel

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