The most common symptoms of cow’s milk protein allergy include atopic dermatitis (an allergic skin rash, sometimes called eczema) or digestive problems such as vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms usually start two to six weeks after birth, though they can appear even sooner.
It’s great that you’re breastfeeding. So don’t be discouraged if your baby has a cow’s milk protein allergy. The good news is you can continue to give them the best nutrition with breastmilk by cutting cow’s milk protein from your own diet.
Breastfeeding has many benefits for babies with allergies:
- Only small amounts of cow’s milk protein are found in human milk.
- Breastmilk contains probiotics and antibodies, which support a healthy immune system.
- Breastfed babies tend to have more “good” bacteria in their digestive systems compared to formula-fed babies.
How you can help your baby
If the doctor thinks your baby has cow’s milk protein allergy, they might advise you to cut out all foods containing cow’s milk from your diet. You could see their symptoms clear within six to eight days, though it may take a couple of weeks for your breastmilk to be completely clear of the proteins. Since dairy foods are a major source of Calcium and Vitamin D in your diet, you might need to take supplements to make sure you get the nutrition you need.
If your baby has severe symptoms that include anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening) or growth failure, then your baby’s pediatrician may suggest an amino acid formula, which is a hypoallergenic formula for special conditions. You can always pump your breastmilk to keep your milk supply up until your baby’s physician says it’s okay to begin breastfeeding again.
Reading food labels
Read ingredient statements on food labels carefully to make sure you're avoiding all sources of it. Cow’s milk is a major food allergen that must be clearly labeled on any food packaged in the U.S. if it’s an ingredient.
Cow's milk can hide in unexpected places. Get help finding it.
If your baby definitely has a cow’s milk protein allergy and you’ve done your best to cut out all milk and dairy from your diet, but they still have symptoms, visit a dietitian. It may be helpful to keep a food diary for a few days, so the dietitian can help uncover hidden sources of cow’s milk.