What are the symptoms of milk allergy in babies

Treatment depends on the extent of your child’s intolerance. Some children with lactose intolerance may be capable to own little amounts of dairy products without having symptoms.

Your kid may be referred to a dietitian for specialist advice.

Read more about treatment for lactose intolerance in children.


Treatment for CMA

If your baby is diagnosed with CMA, you’ll be offered advice by your GP or an allergy specialist on how to manage their allergy.

What are the symptoms of milk allergy in babies

You may also be referred to a dietitian.

Treatment involves removing every cows’ milk from your child’s diet for a period of time.

If your baby is formula-fed, your GP can prescribe special baby formula.

Do not give your kid any other type of milk without first getting medical advice.

If your baby is exclusively breastfed, the mom will be advised to avoid every cows’ milk products.

Your kid should be assessed every 6 to 12 months to see if they own grown out of their allergy.

Read more about cows’ milk allergy.


Symptoms of cows’ milk allergy

Cows’ milk allergy can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:

  1. hay fever-like symptoms – such as a runny or blocked nose
  2. skin reactions – such as a red itchy rash or swelling of the lips, face and around the eyes
  3. digestive problems – such as stomach ache, vomiting, colic, diarrhoea or constipation
  4. eczema that does not improve with treatment

Occasionally CMA can cause severe allergic symptoms that come on suddenly, such as swelling in the mouth or throat, wheezing, cough, shortness of breath, and difficult, noisy breathing.

What are the symptoms of milk allergy in babies

A severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, is a medical emergency – call 999 or go immediately to your local hospital A&E department.


Milk allergies vs. milk intolerance

Milk allergy: With a milk allergy in infants, a baby’s immune system reacts negatively to the proteins in cow’s milk.

What are the symptoms of milk allergy in babies

Breastfed babies are reacting to the dairy his mom has eaten (the milk proteins pass through breast milk), while formula-fed babies are reacting to the cow’s milk proteins in the formula. In either case, a baby’s immune system sees the cow’s milk proteins as foreign substances. In its efforts to fend off the invaders, the body releases histamine and other chemicals, which cause allergic symptoms in the body.

What are the symptoms of milk allergy in babies

Symptoms of milk allergies in babies include:

  1. A scaly skin rash
  2. Blood in stool
  3. Vomiting
  4. Watery eyes and stuffy nose
  5. Frequent spitting up
  6. Trouble breathing or a bluish skin color
  7. Hives
  8. Coughing or wheezing
  9. Diarrhea
  10. Signs of abdominal pain, or colic-like symptoms, such as excessive crying and irritability (especially after feedings)
  11. Swelling (especially of the mouth and throat)

Milk intolerance: Milk intolerance, on the other hand, has nothing to do with cow’s milk proteins or the immune system.

Instead, it involves the digestive system. It occurs when a formula-fed or breastfed baby can’t digest the sugar in milk (called lactose). That’s why milk intolerance is also called lactose intolerance. Congenital lactose intolerance (milk intolerance in babies from birth) is an extremely rare metabolic condition. Lactose intolerance more commonly develops in older kids and adults. The few babies with lactose intolerance will generally fare much better on a formula with little or no lactose.

What are the symptoms of milk allergy in babies

Symptoms of lactose intolerance in babies include:

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  1. Spitting up
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Gas
  4. Irritability, crying or other colic symptoms
  5. Bloated stomach
  6. Failure to thrive and acquire weight


Cows’ milk allergy in babies

Cows’ milk allergy (CMA), also called cows’ milk protein allergy, is one of the most common childhood food allergies. It is estimated to affect around 7% of babies under 1, though most children grow out of it by the age of 5.

CMA typically develops when cows’ milk is first introduced into your baby’s diet either in formula or when your baby starts eating solids.

More rarely, it can affect babies who are exclusively breastfed because of cows’ milk from the mother’s diet passing to the baby through breast milk.

There are 2 main types of CMA:

  1. immediate CMA – where symptoms typically start within minutes of having cows’ milk
  2. delayed CMA – where symptoms typically start several hours, or even days, after having cows’ milk


Could it be lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is another type of reaction to milk, when the body cannot digest lactose, a natural sugar found in milk.

What are the symptoms of milk allergy in babies

However, this is not an allergy.

Lactose intolerance can be temporary – for example, it can come on for a few days or weeks after a tummy bug.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance include:

  1. stomach rumbling and pains
  2. diarrhoea 
  3. vomiting
  4. wind


Further information:

Sheet final reviewed: 12 July 2019
Next review due: 12 July 2022

Many a new mom dealing with a fussy newborn (and truthfully, what newborn isn’t fussy?), has suspected that her suffering sweetheart must own a cows’ milk allergy or intolerance, especially when well-intentioned friends and relatives are also blaming milk.

If you’re breastfeeding, you may assume it’s the dairy in your diet that’s causing your little one to wail; if you’re formula feeding, you assume it’s the cow’s milk in the baby formula that’s causing the trouble.

Although it is one of the more common allergies in infants, milk allergies still only affect an estimated 2 to 3 percent of babies. Confusing the issue further is that numerous people are unaware of the difference between a milk allergy and milk intolerance.

To clear up the confusion, here’s the breakdown on milk allergies and intolerance in breastfed and formula-fed babies.


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