As much as we would like to protect our bubbas from all the nasties the world has to offer, experimentation is part of a natural, healthy development. This means that a child will very well happen upon something that doesn’t agree with them in their early years. CMPA (Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy) or CMA is the most common food allergy that babies in the UK are affected by today. This still only accounts for around 2% of children. With a little awareness and diligence the condition can be managed safely and effectively. Many parents have had to face the realisation that their baby is allergic to the one thing that we were all sure they needed: MILK! The key to avoiding discomfort is early diagnosis.
This irksome allergy mainly affects formula fed babies, but it can also affect those that are breastfed. When protein in the cow’s milk is identified as a threat by the immune system, a number of symptoms may occur. Some will arise immediately after consumption, whereas some may not manifest for up to a week. Immediate symptoms will require treatment using an epipen, so identifying the allergy as soon as possible is important. Serious symptoms may include shock, swelling of the lips and face, a rash or a drop in blood pressure. At the less serious and more common end of the scale, it can cause digestive, skin or breathing issues.
Recognising the allergy itself can be part of the challenge. Many can be confused with symptoms of other common problems, such as diarrhoea, vomiting, constipation, coughing, sleeping issues and skin problems. If you suspect your child has CMPA, your first stop should always be your GP, who will advise you. The condition is managed by eliminating cow’s milk protein from the child’s diet. Your doctor will recommend more appropriate hypoallergenic formulas to try. These may not be completely void of cow’s milk protein but the proteins will be broken down and much less likely to trigger the reaction. This is suitable for most sufferers. Goat’s or sheep’s milks generally elicit the same reaction as cow’s milk, so using these as a substitute is not appropriate. Lactose-free offerings still contain cow’s milk proteins and soy milk also is generally not recommended. In the case of breastfed babies, mothers must exclude dairy and soy from their diets if they want to continue to breastfeed.
The good news is that most children grow out of their allergy in early childhood. Until that happens, your GP, allergy specialist or dietician will work with you, to ensure that your child remains healthy, whilst excluding all forms of cow’s milk protein from their diet. If your child appears to be growing out of their allergy, and after starting a supervised reintroduction of cow’s milk, a healthcare professional can advise on how to wean them off the formula safely.
If you discover that your child has this allergy, please remember you are not alone. Other families are managing their child’s unique needs. Always seek professional advice for your child’s allergy but talking to other parents may help to ease your own anxiety. We’re here to support each other.
For further info and support, see trusted links below:
NHS UK - What should I do if I think my child is allergic or intolerant to cow’s milk?
British Dietetic Association (BDA) fact sheet on suitable milk substitutes for your baby