Milk is what you feed your infant; milk is what your infant is capable of digesting. If it isn’t mothers milk, it has to be a baby formula made out of cow’s milk. There is just no way to escape milk as food for the baby. But what do you do if your baby is allergic to milk -or more specifically, to the proteins in cows milk? Anyone involved with a food allergy, baby or adult, has it especially tough when it comes to milk. It affects 3% of all babies. Thankfully, they outgrow milk allergies.
What is a milk allergy anyway? It is a certain kind of food allergy baby might have when the immune system in the body mistakes the protein in cow’s milk (or the protein in goats milk or soy milk)for some kind of alien poison. A child with such an allergic attack can become really irritable and restless as its body tries to fight what it thinks is a poison.
So what do you do if this is the food allergy baby has? Certainly, you take your baby to the doctor for advice on what alternatives there might be. This kind of the tendency, they say, could be genetic – handed down through the genes. Thankfully, any child will outgrow this by the time they grow to be five years of age.
You need to be able to tell the difference between milk allergy and lactose intolerance though. The former is more serious. You’ll be able to tell what kind of food allergy baby has, by the time he reach six months of age. Sometimes it is rapid onset – the moment baby is fed something, there is a reaction. Sometimes, it could be slow onset, and may not show up for up to 10 days afterwards.
When your baby has slow onset, the child may gag, become colicky, have skin rashes, and they have been blood specked diarrhea (not as scary as it sounds though). With rapid onset though, it can be quite severe. The child can even stop breathing; but the more common symptoms would be bumps on the skin, hives, wheezing and throwing up.
Your pediatrician will probably ask you if you have a family history of this. And then there will be tests. A milk food allergy baby has may not be easily findable on any one test. It’s difficult, because all these symptoms are things a baby can get with other diseases too. The doctor will order an oral challenge test to know with certainty. With this test, you’re supposed to stop giving your baby any milk for a week, and then you restart milk as the doctor watches for a few hours. There could be blood tests, or an allergy skin test. The doctor will make a little pin prick on the child’s skin, and put a little spot of milk in there to test for a reaction.
It’s possible that at least for now, your child may not be allergic to breast milk. If you happen to have any dairy at all in your own diet, the proteins from that could get into your milk and cause problems for your baby. So you need to cut off all dairy yourself for now. And your doctor will tell you about alternatives there might be. And in such a food allergy baby is supposed to get hypoallergenic formula – that’s formula that has all the proteins broken down so that the body doesn’t see them as the protein that it believes it is supposed to fight. Make sure that you don’t bring home partially hydrolyzed formula – these are the cheaper variety of hypoallergenic formula, and can be dangerous. And if you hang in there, in most cases, these things go away by the time the child is one year old.