baby safety concerns header

› Milk allergies

Infant Milk Allergies - Symptoms, Allergy Tests and Treatments

infant milk allergies
Infant milk allergies; syptoms and treatment.

Milk allergy is the most common allergy in young children.

Most infants have no problems ingesting cow’s milk. But about 3% of all babies have an allergy to one or more proteins in cow’s milk.

This happens when the infant’s body sees the milk proteins as foreign, and produces antibodies to fight of the invaders.


Typical symptoms of milk allergies are

Skin reactions

Respiratory Problems

  • Asthma
  • Wheezing due to excess mucus in nose and throat.

Gastrointestinal problems

The symptoms of infant milk allergies can be mild, moderate and severe. A severe allergic reaction like anaphylaxis is very rare and begins within minutes of consuming the allergen (in this case the milk protein).

Signs of anaphylaxis are airway constriction, skin irritation and altered heart rhythms and if not treated it can lead to shock and death.


What is the difference between milk allergy and lactose intolerance?

A milk allergy is an immune reaction to cow’s milk protein. When your baby has Lactose intolerance he has not enough of the enzyme lactase. Lactase is necessary to digest milk sugar (lactose).
The symptoms are very similar to milk allergy but with lactose intolerance reactions are often delayed.


Breast milk allergy information

Many doctors support the view that exclusive breastfeeding during the first 4 to 6 months baby’s life reduces not only the risk of cow’s milk allergy but also of other allergies.

breast milk allergy


On the other hand, the mother’s intake of cow’s milk may cause symptoms of infant milk allergies if passed through the breast milk.

This means that if you are breastfeeding you will have to remove dairy products from your diet. Ask your doctor about a healthy dairy free diet.

How quickly should you see the result of such an elimination diet? Be patient because it can take up to 10 days to clear the protein out of your and your baby’s body.


In extremely rare cases, babies can be allergic to breastmilk. A condition called methylmalonic acidaemia (MMA) that usually appears in early infancy, where the infant is unable to breakdown protein, and as a result, high levels of protein are poisoning the infant’s body.

Symptoms of this condition are vomiting, dehydration, weak muscle tone (hypotonia), and excessive tiredness (lethargy).


How are infant milk allergies diagnosed?

Elimination diets are used for both formula fed and breastfed infants to make positive diagnose of cows milk protein allergy.

By removing cows milk from the baby’s diet symptoms should  soon disappear. On the other hand by re-introducing cows milk problems should start again.


Other methods of testing for milk allergy

Or radioallergosorbent test is a blood test that measures the levels of antibodies(IgE) to see if your baby is allergic to milk protein.


Skin Prick Test.
With this test they introduce a tiny amount of allergen (in this case milk protein) into the skin. This is usually done on the inner arm or on the back. If your baby is allergic to cows milk, a wheal will appear within 15 to 20 minutes.

Studies show that Rast Test and Skin Prick Test are far less reliable than elimination diets.


Milk allergy treatment for babies

At the moment the only treatment for infant milk allergies is to avoid cow’s milk protein.

Breastfeeding mothers are put on a dairy free diet to prevent the cow’s milk protein passing through the breast milk.


Alternatives to milk based formula

Soy-based formula.

Many doctors prescribe a soy-based formula for infant milk allergies.
Soy-based infant formula counts for one-quarter of all formula sold in the USA.

Somehow it is widely believed that soy-based formula is superior to milk based formula.
Though infants allergic to cows milk protein are often also allergic to soy.

One very convincing argument against the use if Soy based infant formula is the high content of phytoestrogens that react like the female hormone oestrogen. Long term health effects such as abnormal physical development and early puberty are feared to be the risks of routine use of soy-based formula.


Hypoallergenic formula.

Special formulas designed for infant milk allergies.
First there are the so called hydrolyzed formulas that are made with proteins that are extensively broken down so they can be easily digested. These are prescribed for mild to moderate cases of milk allergy.


  • Similac Alimentum Hypoallergenic Formula
  • Enfamil Nutramigen Lipil Hypoallergenic Infant Formula
  • Enfamil Pregestimil Lipil Hypoallergenic Infant Formula


Second the amino based formulas that have no protein chains but contain all the amino acids. These formulas are prescribed for more severe infant milk allergies.

  • Neocate Infant Formula
  • Nutramigen AA Powder
  • Elecare Amino Acid-Based Medical Food and Infant Fomula


Hypoallergenic formula can be very expensive but most insurance companies will completely cover the cost of hypoallergenic formula for infant milk allergies, either by reimbursing you what you've spent on it, or if you get it as a prescription through your pediatrician.


Rice milk.

Rice milk is not suitable to be used as a replacement for cow’s milk for children under 4.5 years of age.

First, because it has not the proper amounts of fat and nutritients for an infant that is still developing.

Secondly, according to the Food Standards Agency rice milk studies show that all rice drinks have low levels of arsenic in them.


Re-introducing cow's milk

In most cases babies outgrow cow’s milk protein allergy by the age of three. Usually a baby with milk allergy will have to follow a diet free of dairy products for about 12 to 18 months.

Re-introducing milk into your baby’s diet without consulting your doctor can be dangerous. First your baby will have to do some tests to see if he is no longer allergic to cow’s milk protein.

Children that have had an immediate and severe reaction to milk protein will need to carry an EpiPen.

EpiPen is a device that injects a measured dose of adrenaline in the muscle. This can be lifesaving if your child accidently consumes milk protein.

Coping with a child with milk allergy isn't easy, but there are quit a few, very good, dairy-free cookery books available that can make your life safer and easier.



Related posts


Top Stories


Let's connect


Subscribe for all the latest


To the top of infant milk allergies