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When you’re expecting, sometimes you find yourself swimming in a dank mess of worry. Your fears range from the most devastating – early loss – to the most common birth defects. And outside of that, unless something runs in your family, it probably doesn’t haunt you.

My son was delivered with ten fingers and ten toes. Blue because of some complications at the end, but otherwise apparently healthy. Our stay at the hospital was a breeze and Ilyas seemed well…

Until our first night at home.

We could not get him to lie down and sleep. My husband and I tried everything we’d read in the mountains of parenting books. And he just. Wouldn’t. Sleep.

The next morning, my parents, staying with us at the time, said, “Rough night, huh?”

Ilyas’ sleep was the same for the first few months. I think we chalked it up to Aymane and I learning how to care for a baby.

Yes, of course at the check-ups we would tell the doctor about his sleep habits. We heard “breastfed babies don’t sleep as long,” “every baby is different,” “some babies are colicky,” and “he’s not gaining enough weight—you need to care for yourself so you can care for him.”

Then there was the feedback from well-meaning friends. Fair questions, but they demonstrated a lack of understanding for what we were going through. “Have you tried swaddling him?” “You don’t seem yourself, do you have postpartum depression?”

IMG_3380So you can truly understand, when we put Ilyas down to sleep (for a nap or at night), he would rest 15 – 30 minutes, then wake up screaming like he’d just been bitten by a rattlesnake. He wouldn’t calm down until he was fed again. And he would always nurse for an hour at a time. Our schedule looked something like this:

15 minutes – Sleep

1 hour – Feed

30 minutes – Burp/hold upright

…and repeat.




It was pretty typical to get 1.5 – 2 hours of broken sleep a night. As frustrating as it is to get that little sleep yourself, what’s worse is the devastation you feel that your child isn’t getting the sleep he needs to grow.

With little help from the doctors, I found myself Googling things. Horrible things. He couldn’t have that… or thatcould he?

IMG_3179Someone at my office asked how we were doing (probably because I looked like a character from the Walking Dead) and I described that pattern. They told me it wasn’t normal and I should really go to a new doctor.

It felt empowering to hear a veteran parent say “that isn’t normal.” After all, we had nothing to compare this to.

There was a problem… we just had to identify it in order to find a solution.

Fast forward several months, I can tell you my son has MSPI and reflux, and had a tongue tie.

I had never heard of MSPI, and our pediatrician didn’t know much about it. It was actually a friend from my high school years who solved the mystery. Based on her experience with her little girl, she recommended we discuss it with our doctor.

I know firsthand that MSPI is not always easy to spot. And not everyone has a friend or acquaintance who can help them.

While I don’t want to flood the minds of pregnant women with yet another thing to worry about… I want them to be informed so they’re not battling these unresolved issues for months on end. Or trying to self-diagnose via Google.

So what the heck is this MSPI stuff I keep rambling on about?

Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI) is “a temporary inability to digest the proteins found in cow’s milk and soy products.1” Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance (CMPI) and Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) are two similar conditions.

2 – 7% of babies under one have MSPI, and 50 – 60% of those babies have a soy intolerance in addition to dairy. Most outgrow MSPI by age one, but some do not outgrow it until years later, and a small number of unlucky little humans will never outgrow it. In rare cases (like Ilyas’), some babies also have allergies to the Top 8 allergensand other foods.

MSPI can cause colic, weight loss, reflux, nasal congestion, spitting up, vomiting, and a whole host of other fun issues. Additionally, the baby may nurse/feed constantly in an attempt to soothe himself.

Most of these symptoms are dramatic compared to what you’d see in a typical baby. But for those first time parents (like me!) it can be very hard to spot.

While MSPI can be identified by traces of blood in a baby’s diaper, blood isn’t always present with this condition. So it’s often diagnosed through symptoms (and improvements in those symptoms following a specialty formula or diet changes for the mama).

MSPI can be particularly challenging for breastfeeding moms because:

  • It generally takes 2 weeks to clear dairy from a mom’s system, then another 2 weeks to clear from baby’s. And for some individuals it can take up to 12 weeks for dairy to clear out entirely.
  • There are hidden forms of dairy in lots of products. Even the most cautious mom can easily miss something on an ingredients list. Caramel color? Dairy. “Natural and artificial flavorings?” Potentially dairy.

The formulas for MSPI babies are very pricey. Nutramigen and Alimentum (almost twice as expensive as standard formula) are the cheapest options. But they don’t work for all babies. Some will need formulas in which the proteins are broken down even further, such as Neocate or Elecare (almost four times as expensive as standard formula).

Based on my blog content I obviously opted to breastfeed, but I would be remiss if I didn’t stress the “fed is best” mantra. I supplement with a bottle of formula every day. I am grateful I was able to make the diet changes and keep my supply going, but it’s okay if you can’t or don’t want to do that!

I’ll share more helpful tips in the future, but in the meantime I’ll point you in the direction of two great resources if your child has, or you suspect they have, MSPI.

The MSPI and Reflux Parentsand Dairy Free Diet – Breastfeeding Facebook groups are lifesavers. The members will sympathize with you, offer suggestions when you need help, and most importantly, be available 24/7.

Now, I’m going to close by getting completely real with you.

I remember worrying that my son’s entire experience of life was negative. That he would grow up broken and unhappy. That it would be my fault. That I failed him as a parent because I couldn’t make the discomfort go away. That I wasn’t a big enough advocate for him. That if I was a SAHM he’d have no problems because I could take him to the doctor on-demand as much as I needed to.

The lies the devil told me.

IMG_4191The truth is – in the midst of all this, I nodded off driving to work. Twice. And I was protected. My son lost weight for nearly the first three weeks. And now he’s at the 75th percentile for weight and very healthy. I was terrified I wasn’t meant to be a mother. And now it’s my favorite job of all time.

You are loved.

You’ve been given more strength than you know.

This will pass.


Please note I am not a medical professional. I strongly encourage you to talk to your pediatrician if you think your child may have MSPI. What I’ve outlined is based on research and personal experience.
Header image photo by Ashlee Lauren Photo.



6 thoughts on “WTH is MSPI?

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