Cow’s Milk Allergy: When It’s Not Just Fussy Feeding

Regular milk at the grocery store.

Does your baby get sick after feeding? Are they having a hard time tolerating your breast milk or formula? If so, they may have a cow’s milk allergy.

In the video below, Amanda Haney goes over what you need to know about babies that develop cow’s milk allergy.

Continue reading for more information. 

What is a cow’s milk allergy?

A cow’s milk allergy is an allergy that develops early on in your baby’s life. Symptoms may occur as soon as your baby starts drinking formula or breast milk. However, don’t confuse this allergy with lactose intolerance. They’re not the same thing.

A cow’s milk allergy is different than lactose intolerance because it occurs when your body’s defense system, or immune system, doesn’t recognize the protein in cow’s milk. In response, your body starts to attack the protein when you eat it.

Lactose free milk

It’s crucial for this immune system reaction to be correctly diagnosed quickly because it can be harmful to your baby.

In this article, I will teach you about signs of a cow’s milk allergy, when to see a doctor, and recommended treatment options.

Onset, signs, and symptoms

First off, you may notice symptoms of a cow’s milk allergy as soon as your baby drinks formula or breast milk. On the other hand, symptoms can be delayed several hours or days.

Common signs of a cow’s milk allergy include an upset stomach (with spit-ups), vomiting, and normal or bloody diarrhea. Also, your baby may experience skin problems (like rashes, red spots, or swollen and itchy eyes) or breathing problems (like coughing, wheezing, increased phlegm, hoarse cry, or throat tightness).

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If your child has any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your pediatrician right away, mainly because their symptoms can worsen when exposed to this protein.

To confirm their diagnosis, your doctor may order stool and blood tests. They may also refer you to an allergist for more testing and to test for other allergies.

Formula vs. Breastfeeding

If your baby drinks formula, your doctor will recommend an easily digestible formula, also known as hypoallergenic formula, for the first year of life. Milk proteins in hypoallergenic formulas are broken down into individual amino acids. As a result, your baby’s immune system will not react to them. I recommend trying Enfamil or Neocate.

Cow’s milk allergy symptoms are less common in breastfed infants. But, unfortunately, some babies still react. If you are breastfeeding, the cow’s milk protein you eat can reach your baby through your breast milk. As a result, you’ll need to eliminate all cow’s milk protein from your diet. This includes milk, cheese, yogurt, and any food products made with cow’s milk.

Fortunately, you can find cow’s milk products by reviewing the ingredients list on your food labels. Other types of milk (like rice, almond, goat, or coconut milk) may be appropriate for older children but are still unsafe for children less than one-year-old. 

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Overall, some children grow out of their milk allergy, while others have to avoid cow’s milk for their entire life. If your child is diagnosed with this allergy, it’s essential to work closely with your doctor and a registered dietitian to determine a safe feeding plan that works for you and your family.

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Hi, my name is Amanda Haney. I am a registered dietitian, board-certified nutrition support clinician, Cal State Long Beach alumnae, and former pediatric clinical dietitian. Currently, I am working as a project manager at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. As a clinical dietitian or in my current role, my passion is working in a diverse setting with a variety of teams in order to improve patient outcomes and achieve better health for the families in my community. I became a dietitian because I love food and I love medicine. There is so much misinformation about nutrition in the media, so I enjoy creating educational content that makes nutrition simple and to make your health goals achievable. In my free time, I love soaking up the beauty at the beach, riding my bike, staying active, cooking, and, most of all, spending time with my family and friends!