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What should I feed a baby with a milk allergy?

Dr. Paul M. Ehrlich, MD
Allergist & Immunologist

True milk allergy involves the presence of an immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody to one or more proteins in milk. Milk, of course, is the chief staple of infant diets, and thinking your way around milk is a real pain.

Milk allergy can emerge in babies for a few reasons. While breast-feeding has had resurgence in the past thirty years, it doesn't necessarily protect the baby from allergies. A colicky baby may have sensitivity to something in the mother's diet—usually cow's milk or eggs. And while you wouldn't feed a baby a bottle of cow's milk in the first months of life, the major infant formulas are derived from cow's milk and can precipitate allergic symptoms.

Asthma Allergies Children: A Parent's Guide

More About this Book

Asthma Allergies Children: A Parent's Guide

Asthma and allergies are at epidemic proportions. It doesn't have to be that way. Two experienced pediatric allergists tell everything a conscientious parent needs to know about these conditions,...

Since many kids are allergic to the protein in cow's milk, you need to watch out for symptoms that may indicate such an allergy in babies. The symptoms may include bloody or mucousy stools, irritability and the baby drawing her knees up to her abdomen from cramping. If that's the case, and you are feeding with formula, you can switch to a nonallergenic brand, and the symptoms will usually resolve within a few days. And if you're breast-feeding, you may need to experiment with your own diet. Eliminating milk protein from your diet often will do the trick. Children often outgrow milk allergies by age two, so ask your doctor about reintroducing milk in small amounts periodically to see if your child can tolerate it down the line.

Dr. Lawrence T. Chiaramonte, MD
Allergist & Immunologist

When your baby is unable to handle complex proteins such as those in milk, we have to look for alternatives that they can digest. This is a search for simplicity. The next step is to find simpler proteins, such as the vegetable proteins in soy. They have enough protein to use as cattle feed but are simple enough for a cow's vegetarian digestive system.

However, for the one-third of milk-allergic infants who become allergic to soy, the alternatives must be simpler still. The most allergy-neutral form of protein one can eat is not the building blocks of life themselves but the building blocks of the building blocks—amino acids. And that is the premise of such new products as EleCare, which contains such amino acids as lysine, leucine and glutamine, along with corn syrup solids, oils, and vitamin and mineral supplements. The amino acids are ingested as separate components of protein and then assembled inside the digestive tract.

Asthma Allergies Children: A Parent's Guide

More About this Book

Asthma Allergies Children: A Parent's Guide

Asthma and allergies are at epidemic proportions. It doesn't have to be that way. Two experienced pediatric allergists tell everything a conscientious parent needs to know about these conditions,...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.