Gregory Gordon, MD, Pediatrician

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Not Sleeping After Starting Whole Milk

Our younger daughter turned one on Dec. 3rd. We slowly changed her over from formula to whole milk over a couple of weeks and to sippy cups.  She was on whole milk starting just before her first birthday.  We have noticed that her stool has been very light, whitish in color and at times almost sandy. She is also waking up at night now about every 3 hours.  When she wakes at night she screams and arches her back, she does not want to eat and usually calms down after about 20 minutes.  

Are these signs of a dairy allergy or something else?  Do I need to let her cry it out and get back to sleeping through the night?

I doubt your daughters sleep issues are caused by a cow’s milk allergy or intolerance.

Do you rock or feed her to sleep?
Had she been co-sleeping?

Typically, lactose intolerance will cause diarrhea, upset stomach and fussiness. True cow’s milk allergy can cause coughing/wheezing, hives, diarrhea, abdominal pain and even eczema. In both conditions, symptoms typically occur both day and night.

Was she previously on a cow’s milk based formula? If she tolerated a “regular” cow’s milk formula, she should transition smoothly to cow’s milk.

Her arching at night makes me think of reflux (GERD). Does she have a history of reflux or spitting up? Is she more comfortable being held upright verses laying flat?

Yellow, green or light brown stools are normal bowel movement colors at this age. If your daughter is having white stools she should see her doctor.

While your daughters sleep patterns sound more behavioral than medical in origin, it is impossible to rule out either lactose intolerance, milk allergy or GERD. It is reasonable to try her off milk for a couple weeks to see if her symptoms resolve.


Written December 2011 by
Dr. Gordon, Windermere Pediatrician



  is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D. and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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