What milk is best for baby with milk allergy

A wide range of cows milk alternatives are available on prescription for younger children and over-the-counter for older children.

It is significant that you discuss the available options with your child’s doctor, health visitor or dietitian to ensure they get the best choice for them.


Allergic reactions can be immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated reactions or non-IgE-mediated reactions. Cow’s milk proteins can cause reactions of either type or both together, which can make them hard to diagnose.

IgE-mediated reactions

IgE-mediated reactions trigger histamine release and happen within two hours of milk being consumed.

They include skin reactions such as itching, erythema, urticaria and acute angio-oedema, most commonly of the face.

What milk is best for baby with milk allergy

There can be abdominal symptoms such as colicky pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Respiratory symptoms can be upper or lower respiratory tract: nasal itching, sneezing, rhinorrhoea, congestion, cough, chest tightness or wheeze.

It is extremely rare for cow’s milk to trigger an anaphylactic reaction. Antihistamines can be used to treat the symptoms. Allergic reactions may be more severe in people with asthma, particularly if the asthma is poorly controlled[9].

This type of allergy can be diagnosed with a skin prick test or a blood test (specific IgE, previously known as RAST).

What milk is best for baby with milk allergy

If this type of allergy is suspected, refer the kid to a paediatrician who will arrange for the test to be done in hospital.

Non-IgE-mediated reactions

Non-IgE-mediated reactions happen hours or days after consuming milk. Skin reactions such as atopic eczema are common, as well as itching and erythema. Abdominal symptoms include colicky pain (including infantile colic), reflux, blood or mucus in stools, constipation or diarrhoea. There may be lower respiratory tract symptoms such as cough, wheeze, breathlessness or chest kid may be pale and tired, and growth may be faltering.

The best way to establish if cow’s milk is causing these symptoms is to exclude it from the diet.

There should be an improvement in symptoms within two weeks.

Differential diagnosis

With such a wide range of symptoms that can be caused by CMPA, the differential diagnosis is extensive, and includes other food allergies, non-food allergies such as pollen, animal dander, other gastrointestinal disorders, pancreatic insufficiency such as in cystic fibrosis, and infections — eg urinary tract infection.


Breast milk is best for babies.

It provides every the nourishment that a young baby needs, as well as numerous other non-nutritive factors such as antibodies.

The nutrients in breast milk are easily digested and absorbed and the composition of your milk continually changes to meet your baby’s needs. If your baby has been diagnosed as having a cows milk allergy and has ongoing allergic symptoms (for example diarrhoea and/ or eczema) while being breastfed, you may be advised to exclude cows milk from your own diet. This should only be done after discussion with a dietitian, as it is significant that mums who breastfeed own a healthy balanced diet.

Lactose intolerance[20]

Many people confuse lactose intolerance with CMPA.

Lactose intolerance is an inability to digest lactose, due to an inadequate production of the digestive enzyme lactase.

It is generally a condition of older childhood and adulthood. Worldwide it is extremely common, although it is less prevalent in northern European races.

What milk is best for baby with milk allergy

It is unusual for babies and young children to be intolerant of lactose, although they do fairly commonly develop a transient lactose intolerance following an episode of gastroenteritis.

People with a lactose intolerance can often consume products such as yoghurt and cheese in which the lactose has been altered and they may be capable to own little amounts of milk without symptoms. They can generally tolerate lactose-free milk.

Clinical Editor’s comments (October )
Dr Hayley Willacy recommends the recently released international Milk Allergy in primary care guideline[1].

The guideline includes updated recommendations on presentation and recognition of cow’s milk allergy (CMA); diagnosis; management of mild-to-moderate confirmed non-IgE-mediated CMA within primary care; suspected severe non-IgE-mediated CMA and referral. A number of additional resources own been developed alongside the guideline to support parents and carers, including an initial factsheet for parents; a home reintroduction protocol to confirm diagnosis; a milk ladder and milk ladder recipes.

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  • Vandenplas Y, Koletzko S, Isolauri E, et al; Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of cow's milk protein allergy in infants. Arch Dis Kid. Oct92(10)

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Cows milk is an significant source of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals for the growing kid. If your kid is allergic to cows milk, it is extremely significant to replace it with a milk alternative that will provide the same nutrition.

This fact sheet is a guide to the range of options that are available, but should not be used to replace individual professional advice.

Cows milk is an significant source of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals for the growing kid. If your kid is allergic to cows milk, it is extremely significant to replace it with a milk alternative that will provide the same nutrition.

This fact sheet is a guide to the range of options that are available, but should not be used to replace individual professional advice.

Epidemiology[2, 3]

CMPA affects about 7% of formula-fed babies but only about % of exclusively breast-fed babies, who also tend to own milder reactions.

Exclusive breast-feeding may also protect babies from developing an allergy to cow’s milk protein after they are weaned[4].

There are a number of diverse proteins in cows milk: there are five protein components in each of the casein and whey fractions of milk. A kid can be allergic to one or more components within either group.

CMPA is more likely in children who own other atopic conditions such as asthma, eczema or hay fever, or if shut family members own those conditions. The presence of atopic eczema is a predictor for sensitisation to common food allergens.

The earlier the eczema starts and the more severe it is, the higher the risk of food allergy[5].

If there are other food allergies, it is more likely that CMPA will persist into later childhood.

Some work has been done looking at the development of food allergies and whether this can be prevented by feeding infants at risk with hydrolysed formula. However, the results own so far not been clear[6, 7].

Management [10]

Challenge test

The prognosis of CMPA is excellent with a remission rate of approximately % at 1 year, % at 2 years and % at 3 years[15].Children can own a challenge test every months to see if they are capable to tolerate milk.

It may take several days for the reaction to show, particularly for non-IgE allergy.

The challenge test can be carried out in stages, according to the ‘Milk Ladder’[16]. This is a hierarchy of milk-containing foods, beginning with those least likely to cause a reaction and gradually moving towards being capable to drink a glass of milk. In baked form, such as muffins, cakes or malted milk biscuits, cow’s milk is less allergenic and may be tolerated sooner than unbaked milk. There is some evidence that including cooked milk in the diet may hasten the resolution of allergy to non-cooked milk[17, 18].

If the kid has had IgE type reactions, particularly if they own been severe, then a challenge test should be carried out under shut supervision.

Allergen avoidance

The management of CMPA generally consists of avoidance of the allergen.

If CMPA is the cause of the symptoms then they should resolve within two weeks of stopping cow’s milk.

If the kid is formula-fed, they can be given extensively hydrolysed milk formula such as Nutramigen®, Aptamil Pepti® or Pepti Junior®. These are based on cow’s milk but the proteins are broken below into smaller peptides that are less likely to trigger an allergic reaction.

Babies who own CMPA may own their growth and development impaired by the disorder; however, hydrolysed formula is shown to provide balanced nutrition and to restore normal growth and development[12, 13].

If the symptoms persist on hydrolysed formula but a suspicion of CMPA remains, then attempt an amino acid formula.

These include Nutramigen AA® and Neocate LCP®. Hydrolysed milks are cheaper and are also generally better tolerated, although the flavour and tolerability varies[14].

If the kid is breast-fed and the mom wishes to continue breast-feeding, she must eliminate milk and milk products from her diet. This will include checking ingredients for anything derived from milk, such as casein, whey and lactose. The mom should make certain she is still getting adequate calcium in her diet. It is recommended that she be offered calcium and vitamin D tablets; however, calcium can also come from tinned fish, pulses, almonds, kale, oranges and soya products such as soya milk and tofu[8].

Babies who are being weaned, and older children with persisting CMPA, will need to follow a cow’s milk-free diet as above.

What milk is best for baby with milk allergy

Parents must be advised about how to check the ingredients of processed foods for milk-derived constituents. Children should be referred to a paediatric dietician for advice about maintaining a balanced diet while excluding allergens.

Alternative milks

Soya formulas own been prescribed in the past for CMPA but soya is also a common allergen, so this is no longer routinely advised.

What milk is best for baby with milk allergy

About % of children allergic to cow’s milk will also react to soya. Soya milk also contains isoflavones which own a feeble oestrogenic activity.

Other milks, such as pea, oat or coconut, may be used after the age of 2 years, depending on the child’s nutritional status and any other allergies they may own. A brand fortified with calcium should be used if available. Rice milk is not recommended for children aged under years.

If the symptoms of CMPA persist into older childhood or beyond then patients need to continue to avoid milk and milk products. The proteins in goat’s milk and other mammal milks which may be available are almost identical to those found in cow’s milk, so those are not suitable substitutes.

It is significant to maintain an adequate calcium intake.

What milk is best for baby with milk allergy

Children who are avoiding cow’s milk for allergy reasons should be referred to a paediatric dietician for specialist advice.

New treatments

Immunotherapy, in which children are given a gradually increasing dose of milk over a period of several months, is one option which has been tried for children with persisting severe allergy. The results own been extremely promising, although a Cochrane review concluded that further studies of higher quality were necessary before it can be recommended without reservation[19].