Mom Warns Parents After Toddler Nearly Dies from Drinking Too Much Cow’s Milk

Anastacia Gencarelli
Anastacia Gencarelli/Facebook

When Anastacia Gencarelli took her daughter Mia to the doctor last month, she thought it was for nothing more than a common cold and ear infection. But the Ontario, Canada, mom knew something was wrong when her daughter, who is almost 2, seemed to be getting worse, even after medication. Listening to her mother's intuition, Anastacia rushed Mia to the ER, where she learned her true diagnosis was milk anemia -- a dangerous condition most parents aren't even aware of.

  • In a Facebook post November 7, Anastacia explained that it all began when Mia started showing signs of an ear infection.

    She'd been pulling at her ears -- something she'd done during past infections -- and Mia's doctor had incorrectly diagnosed her. 

    For seven days, Anastacia continued giving her daughter meds, three times a day. Finally, she started acting like herself again -- but only for a few short days before she once again woke up ill and not wanting to eat.

    Another trip to the doctor sent them home with a new prescription for an antibiotic, but a week later, Mia was still not better. What's worse, her symptoms went from uncomfortable to truly concerning.

    Anastacia tells CafeMom that her daughter was lethargic, and she began eating nonedible items such as diaper wipes and chalk, which she notes is a sign of pica, an eating disorder in which people eat items that are not food. 

    "She was very miserable, and [showing] loss of color," the mom said, adding that she caught her daughter "sucking on baby wipes" several times, which concerned her.

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  • Finally, Anastacia told her husband it was time to take Mia to the hospital, after her "mom instinct" kicked into high gear.

    Less than five minutes into their November 6 hospital visit, a nurse saw her "limp baby" and jumped into action.

    "She comes flying out saying 'I don't care how long you have all been waiting that baby comes with me,'" the mom recalled in her Facebook post. "We didn't do triage, we didn't register, nurse kicked people out of a room for my daughter and as we rush in six nurses and two doctors follow. Before I know it they are all working on my little girl attaching heart monitors, blood pressure cuffs, everything you can think."

    Taking blood from Mia was nearly impossible, her mom described, and after seven tries doctors finally got a sample. It was at this point that doctors grew desperate and decided to insert an IV into her femoral artery. 

    "If this wasn't successful they were going to drill into her leg to her shin bone and implement the IV straight to her marrow," the mom shared, recalling those harrowing moments.

    Mia's blood work soon revealed that she had lost three-fourths of the blood in her entire body but had no external bleeding. 

    "So at this point we are on edge on why she's not [bleeding externally]," the mom shared.

  • Finally, doctors arrived at an answer: Mia had milk anemia, which had stripped her blood of its iron.

    It turns out, Mia was regularly drinking four to six bottles of cow's milk, 30 to 40 ounces, per day before being hospitalized, her mother said. She had no idea just how dangerous that actually was: Experts recommend that toddlers drink no more than 16 to 24 ounces of cow's milk per day so as not to run the risk of causing an iron deficiency.

    "You have heard of not giving a baby too much water, well don't give them too much milk either," Anastacia later wrote online. "Cow's milk in excess will actually strip your body of iron -- iron is what makes blood," she explained. "No iron, no blood." 

    She's right.

    "Cow's milk has been a staple in the diet of children in North America for a long, long time and is loaded with essential nutrients and energy," Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician and researcher at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, told the New York Times. “However, as with most healthy things, too much of a good thing is probably not a good thing."

    It certainly isn't. In Mia's case, the milk consumption caused her hemoglobin levels to dip dangerously low.

  • Now that doctors had an answer, they ordered an immediate blood transfusion to get Mia's blood cell count back up to normal.

    "The blood transfusion solved the hemoglobin issue. The iron is helping the hemoglobin and the anemia," Anastacia tells CafeMom. "But due to the location of her IV, she developed a blood clot in her leg the IV was in, so she is also now on anti-coagulants to prevent that from harming her."

    Now that she's getting the proper treatment, Mia's parents are hopeful she'll pull through. But for now, she'll remain in the hospital -- even through her second birthday, which is coming up Sunday.

  • Her mother is sharing her terrifying story to warn other parents about what she wishes she'd known sooner.

    Once she does return home, Mia will have to considerably limit her milk intake to no more than two bottles (of 8-ounce portions) per day, her mother shares.

    Although Anastacia acknowledges that milk consumption is healthy, she wants others to know that it's all about moderation. 

    "So please, if this is nothing more then extra knowledge in your mom tool box, amazing," she pleaded in her Facebook post. "If it saves you all from the fear, the scare, [and] the terror of watching your child the way our child was, spread the news that Milk Anemia is a thing."

    The journey is far from over for Mia, but the mom knows that for now their family got very, very lucky.

    "Always trust your mom gut," she implored. "Cause a few more hours, one more day, and this would be a very very different post."
health & safety