Does Your Infant Have A Milk Allergy?

One mom shares her trials with her four-week-old daughter and milk allergies

My youngest daughter was 4 weeks old when I changed her diaper one morning and there it was, bloody mucous. A cold fear overtook me as I started imagining all the horrible things that could be wrong with my precious newborn. 

In all my thoughts, however, not once did I consider it could be a milk allergy, which was exactly what it turned out to be.

Why didn’t I consider the option? Was it because she was the most content of my three children? Was it because she didn’t spit up anymore then my two other girls? Was it because she had been on the same formula for four weeks seemingly without any problems? Probably, but it was also because I was not fully aware of the signs and symptoms of a milk allergy in infants.

Milk allergies, as with food allergies in general, have been on the rise in recent years with two to eight percent of infants in North America being affected by a milk allergy or intolerance according to the Canadian Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Foundation. Thankfully, most outgrow it by age four (85 percent) and over 95 percent no longer have issues with cow’s milk after age six. Most babies suffering from a cow’s milk allergy will thrive on a soy alternative; however, about 30 percent will also develop an allergy to soy.

As was the case with my daughter, milk allergies generally appear within the first few months of life. While breastfed babies are less likely to develop a milk (or any) allergy, they too can exhibit similar symptoms when their mother’s consume milk. 

Determining whether or not an infant has an allergy or intolerance to cow’s milk protein can be a frustrating process as allergy testing is not reliable in infants.  Instead, parents and doctors must focus their attention on the signs and symptoms the infant is experiencing. Infants affected by milk allergies or intolerances may experience:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea, possibly with blood
  • Extreme fussiness
  • Rashes or hives
  • Respiratory problems including wheezing or constantly stuffed up
  • Gas and/or bloating

Babies, in general, experience many of the symptoms listed above without having a problem with milk, making recognizing the signs difficult. For example, all babies are “fussy” to some degree, however, a baby suffering from a milk allergy may be classified as “colicky;” just as some babies are simply “spitters”, spitting up frequently, a baby with an allergy may experience forceful, projectile vomiting. If your infant is experiencing any of these symptoms it is best to speak with your doctor as an untreated milk allergy may lead to growth restrictions.

If you suspect your child may have a milk allergy or intolerance it is important to consult with your child’s doctor before making any changes to their diet, as health professionals are best equipped to determine the course of action. 

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