Cow’s milk is most often used as the basis of infant formulas and products for the first complementary feeding. However, this feeding option is not acceptable for all infants. It has already been proven that cow’s milk protein is a powerful allergen in infancy and early childhood. According to European studies, about 4% of children in the first year of life are allergic to cow’s milk.
Why is your baby allergic to cow’s milk protein?
There are two types of factors that play a determining role in the formation of a cow protein allergy in a baby: hereditary predisposition and immaturity of the digestive system.
There’s no doubt that allergies are genetically transmitted. The risk of a child developing allergies is approximately 40% if one parent has a food intolerance. If both the mother and father are allergic, the likelihood increases to 80%.
As for the immaturity of the GIT, this condition is natural for all newborns. At this age, the digestive system is underdeveloped, hence the digestive problems that are so common in babies. There are just not enough enzymes to break down food, the stomach is not ready to digest the amount of milk or formula that the body needs.
If your baby is allergic to milk, they will show adverse reactions to any foods based on cow’s milk. Sometimes (but very rarely), they will even reject your breast milk if you have consumed dairy products recently.
The symptoms to watch out for include: stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, urticaria, eczema, and difficulty breathing. Individual symptoms may in some cases be related to the presence of an infection, but if two different parts of your child’s body are reacting simultaneously, such as the stomach (vomiting) and the skin (urticaria), you should consult your doctor for advice.
Typically, children with cow’s milk intolerances also show allergic reactions to goat and sheep’s milk because they contain similar proteins. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” test for cow’s milk allergy. Several tests are required, as well as alternating elimination and reintroduction of different products in the diet. If you suspect that your child has allergies, it’s very important that you seek the help of a medical professional: they will make a correct diagnosis and prescribe a treatment.
Give your doctor as much information as you can about your child’s symptoms to help speed up the diagnosis. If you keep a diary of these symptoms, including when they occur and how long they persist, you can help your doctor identify or rule out cow’s milk intolerance. Photos of skin reactions, such as a rash, may also be helpful. Also, don’t forget to tell your doctor about cases of allergies in your family.
What to do?
In case of allergy to milk protein, infants are prescribed special therapeutic formula. Healthy children whose families have children with food intolerances are advised to give goat’s milk or hypoallergenic products such as HiPP HA Stage 1 and HiPP HA Stage 2. Due to the special protein-fat composition, they are better digested and don’t cause adverse reactions.
If your baby is on formula feeding and has been diagnosed with a cow’s milk allergy, your doctor might recommend an extensively hydrolyzed baby milk. The proteins in this type of baby foods are broken down to such a small size that the baby’s immune system doesn’t recognize them as an allergen. This doesn’t affect the nutritional value of the formula.
If your baby is prone to allergies or has a sensitive GIT, choosing specialized infant food is a good idea. However, before choosing a therapeutic formula, you should always talk to a pediatrician.