Looking after a new baby is exhausting, overwhelming and worrying. When you are concerned your baby may have a milk allergy, it can be difficult to know what to do. There is so much conflicting information and often symptoms can be confused with other things.
I have been there, twice. I have had two babies with cow’s milk protein allergy and struggled to find the information and support I needed. It’s why I wrote my book Living With Allergies.
Here is some information to help you understand more about whether your baby has one.
What is a cow’s milk protetin allergy (CMPA)?
Cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA) is when your baby’s immune system mistakenly sees milk as an invader and tries to fight it, causing a range of symptoms. There are two different types: immediate reactions and delayed reactions.
Immediate milk allergy symptoms (IGE mediated allergies)
One of the first symptoms many parents notice in immediate milk allergies is that your baby has a rash after feeding. This is called hives and is usually on the face or neck and will be raised and red. The will likely be very unsettled as well. Other symptoms include coughing, wheezing, vomiting or swelling. These symptoms are usually worse in formula fed babies.
Delayed milk allergy symptoms (Non-IGE allergies)
If your baby has a delayed milk allergy then symptoms may not show up for 72 hours and can be harder to spot. They may include upset stomach, reflux, vomiting, runny nappies, poor sleep, blood in stools or eczema.
Can a baby have a milk allergy when breastfeeding?
Yes, it is possible for your baby to react to cow’s milk protein in your breastmilk.
Is a milk allergy serious?
If your baby has an immediate cow’s milk protein allergy, it can develop into anaphylaxis, which is a life threatening reaction. If your baby’s breathing is affected, they go floppy or you are concerned, call an ambulance immediately. This is very rare in breastfed babies but can happen more often if they are introduced to milk through formula or weaning. A delayed allergy cannot develop into anaphylaxis but can be very distressing for you and baby.
How do I know if my baby is reacting to milk?
A lot of the symptoms can be confused with reflux, colic or other common ailments. If you suspect your baby has an allergy, you need to cut all milk from their diet to see if their symptoms improve. If you are breastfeeding, you will need to avoid eating all dairy products. Talk to your doctor or health visitor about doing this. If you are using formula, you will need to trial a dairy free one.
Will my baby have other food allergies?
Possibly. If your baby has a suspected milk allergy, your GP should refer them to an allergy clinic and dietician to discuss this. If you are breastfeeding and your baby’s symptoms don’t resolve after cutting out milk, they may be reacting to other foods as well.
Should I delay weaning if my baby has an allergy?
No, it is important to introduce a range of foods – including nuts and egg – into your baby’s diet at an early age to help stop them developing allergies. Talk to your GP or dietician about the best way to do this.
Will my baby outgrow their milk allergy?
It is very likely as up to 80% children outgrow milk allergies by the time they are 5. Both mine did!
You can find more information and advice in my book Living With Allergies
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