Cow’s Milk-Induced Infant Apnea

Cow’s Milk-Induced Infant Apnea
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The opiate-like effects of the casomorphin in cow’s milk may have a depressive effect on the respiratory center of infants, and lead to “milk apnea,” in which babies temporarily stop breathing, and are placed at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (crib death).

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Evolution devised an ingenious way to bond infant to mother. Select for milk proteins that break down into peptides that have opiate-like drug effects. But what if the breastfeeding mother is herself effectively suckling, by still drinking milk as an adult? Evolution never counted on that— which may explain this recent report in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.

“Cow’s milk-induced infant apnea with increased serum content of bovine beta casomorphin 5”. That’s one of the opioid compounds formed in our stomachs when we drink milk. Infant apnea means when a baby stops breathing.

They report a case of a breast-fed infant with recurrent apnea episodes, which have always been preceded by his mother’s consumption of fresh cow’s milk. A biochemical examination has revealed a high level of casomorphin in the child’s blood. They speculate that it is an opioid activity that may have a depressive effect on the respiratory center in the central nervous system, and induce a phenomenon they coin milk apnea. The reason we‘re so concerned is that about 7% to 10% of infants with recurrent apnea episodes cannot be saved, and they die of sudden infant death syndrome.

The researchers hooked the kid up to a monitor, and wanted to give him some cow’s milk to provoke a reaction on tape. But the boy’s mother did not grant consent for his oral provocation with cow’s milk, because of her fears for the child’s life. She finally relented, though, and when the boy was four months old, attempted to provoke him with milk—after which the apparent life-threatening event reoccurred. Presently, the 21-month old boy is kept on a milk-free diet and has no more symptoms.

“The aim of the present report,” they conclude, is “to draw researchers’ attention to the possibility of occurrence of a systemic reaction with an apnoea seizure on the infant’s exposure to the proteins in cow’s milk. We are convinced that such a clinical situation occurs rarely; however, it is accompanied by a real threat to the infant’s life that can be avoided when applying a simple and not costly dietetic intervention[: a dairy-free diet].”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Evolution devised an ingenious way to bond infant to mother. Select for milk proteins that break down into peptides that have opiate-like drug effects. But what if the breastfeeding mother is herself effectively suckling, by still drinking milk as an adult? Evolution never counted on that— which may explain this recent report in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.

“Cow’s milk-induced infant apnea with increased serum content of bovine beta casomorphin 5”. That’s one of the opioid compounds formed in our stomachs when we drink milk. Infant apnea means when a baby stops breathing.

They report a case of a breast-fed infant with recurrent apnea episodes, which have always been preceded by his mother’s consumption of fresh cow’s milk. A biochemical examination has revealed a high level of casomorphin in the child’s blood. They speculate that it is an opioid activity that may have a depressive effect on the respiratory center in the central nervous system, and induce a phenomenon they coin milk apnea. The reason we‘re so concerned is that about 7% to 10% of infants with recurrent apnea episodes cannot be saved, and they die of sudden infant death syndrome.

The researchers hooked the kid up to a monitor, and wanted to give him some cow’s milk to provoke a reaction on tape. But the boy’s mother did not grant consent for his oral provocation with cow’s milk, because of her fears for the child’s life. She finally relented, though, and when the boy was four months old, attempted to provoke him with milk—after which the apparent life-threatening event reoccurred. Presently, the 21-month old boy is kept on a milk-free diet and has no more symptoms.

“The aim of the present report,” they conclude, is “to draw researchers’ attention to the possibility of occurrence of a systemic reaction with an apnoea seizure on the infant’s exposure to the proteins in cow’s milk. We are convinced that such a clinical situation occurs rarely; however, it is accompanied by a real threat to the infant’s life that can be avoided when applying a simple and not costly dietetic intervention[: a dairy-free diet].”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to D Dinneen, Ion Chibzii, and Roshnii via Wikimedia Commons, and Charles Williams, MD, www.scenicreflections.com, and becomethevoice.com.

Doctor's Note

Today is the first of a three-video series on the latest evidence implicating bovine casomorphin in apnea, crib death (see Cow’s Milk Casomorphin and Crib Death), and autism (see Cow’s Milk Casomorphin and Autism). 

You can also check out my other videos on dairy, as well as my other videos on children’s health.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

15 responses to “Cow’s Milk-Induced Infant Apnea

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    1. There is a reason I get up every morning and watch your videos first. . . They save lives!!!!  My patients lives!
      As always, keep up the great work!




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    2. Hi Michael
      So you are suggesting to avoid cow milk baby formula?
      what should we pay attention in a vegetarian formula?
      Thank you in advance




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      1. The best food for infants is breast milk followed by a transition to whole foods appropriately prepared given the infants age. Most young mother’s I encounter tell me their doctors recommend avoiding cow’s milk until age 2. I would extend that indefinitely as I see no data to support it’s use when adequate calories are available from healthier alternatives. It is important to work with your physicians in deciding what alternatives are most appropriate as far as non-dairy formula’s. PCRM’s Nutrition for Kids is an excellent resource for older children. Unfortunately I haven’t seen a good resource for infants who are not able to be breast fed.




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            1. I agree that using donor milk is an option for women who for whatever reason are unable to breast feed. Although we like to think we can “engineer” a replacement product as good as the original product we are certainly not there yet. However if donor milk is unavailable you should work with a knowledgeable health care professional.




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  1. I feel like this is so situational… maybe I’m a biased advocate for raw, organic milk, but I’d like to have more details before I jump to the conclusion that milk is bad for babies (which seems to be the message this video gives.) Where does the milk come from? Is this the ONLY kid they’ve experimented with? Was he just allergic to milk or lactose intolerant? 7-10% is ALOT of kids, but what type of milk are they drinking? Milk from cows who stand in their own shit all day and eat nothing but genetically modified feed that is completely different from their natural diet?

    Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now… lol.




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    1. I agree with you totally Alexandria Wyatt. Today there are many choices of cow milk out there; just like the multitude of choices of breads and vitamins and chocolates. Some I will not touch or think of putting into my mouth. So I have learnt to be “very selective”. Too many of the Cows and their milk are not cared for as to the best of our health. Whatever the cow is feed is going to carry over into the milk. Go organic… but better yet Go organic Grassfed and the healthy fatty acids will be in the milk and nutrients in choice cow milk if cared for properly. I am very fortunate to find a farm where the cows are breed and cared to produce healthy milk; because that farmer knows and cares and will do the extra work and inconvenience to make it happen for his customers. Plus milk in glass or stainless steel containers are my preference; and the milk as cold and fresh as I can find it, My find may be rare but I know I found a treasure!




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    1. Hello! My name is Megan and I am a nutrition student and volunteer for NutritionFacts. As far as needing any type of milk, the only milk that a one-year-old would need (if they are not already weaned) is breastmilk. However, if you are wanting milk alternatives I know a few plant-based moms who have tried rice milk, almond milk, cashew milk, and even macadamia milk. I would avoid coconut milk as it has been associate with higher cholesterol levels (See Dr. Greger’s videos on coconut milk). Here is a great resource for parents trying to raise plant-based kids: https://www.forksoverknives.com/diet-children-and-the-future/. I think it’s got some great information and answers a lot of common questions. Hope this helps!




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