Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy is the most common food allergy in babies.
Cow's milk protein allergy occurs when the body’s immune system reacts to one or more proteins found in cow’s milk and other dairy products. In Australia and New Zealand, around 1 in every 50 babies has an allergy to cow’s milk protein.1
Cow’s milk protein allergy is not the same as lactose intolerance, which is an inability to digest lactose.
Fortunately, most children grow out of cow’s milk protein allergy by the time they are 5 years old, when their digestive and immune systems are more mature.
Food allergies, including cow’s milk protein allergy, are caused by the body’s immune system mistakenly identifying certain proteins found in a food as dangerous. The immune system launches an attack against the food proteins, resulting in an allergic reaction to the food when it’s eaten. If there is a history of allergy in your family, then there is a higher risk that your baby may develop a cow’s milk allergy or sensitivities to other common food allergens. Cow’s milk protein allergy is also more common in babies that have an allergic rash. Fortunately, most children grow out of cow’s milk protein allergy by the time they are 5 years old, when their digestive and immune systems are more mature.
Symptoms of cow’s milk protein allergy can occur within minutes or up to several days after your baby has had cow’s milk protein.
Hives or rash
Swelling of the face, lips or eyelids
Vomiting or diarrhoea
Noisy breathing or wheezing
Runny nose or watery eyes
If you are worried your baby is having a severe allergic reaction, you should take them to the nearest hospital immediately.
Delayed reactions can be harder to spot, but you may notice that your baby:
“Milk rash” is common in babies in the first few months of life, but is not necessarily a dairy allergy symptom. Milk rash looks like small white pimple-like bumps on your baby's cheeks, nose and forehead. It often occurs when your baby has a change in diet, such as when you first introduce cow’s milk, but will usually disappear on its own within a few weeks. If milk rash persists in your baby it could be a sign of a milk allergy, so always talk to your healthcare professional if you’re concerned about your baby.
For babies with confirmed cow’s milk protein allergy, allergenic cow’s milk protein must be removed from their diet to avoid the chance of an allergic reaction.
If your baby has milk allergy symptoms, make an appointment to see your healthcare professional as soon as you can. Not all reactions to cow’s milk are due to allergy, and so it’s important to seek expert advice for a food allergy test and a confirmed diagnosis.
Learn more about how you can help manage Cow's Milk Protein Allergy Reference: 1. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. 2016. Cow’s milk (dairy) allergy.
Breastfeeding is best for babies and has many benefits, such as protecting your baby from infection while their immune system develops. It is important that you eat a healthy, balanced diet in preparation for and during breastfeeding. Infant formula is designed to replace breast milk when an infant is not breastfed. Combining breast and bottle feeding in your baby’s first weeks of life may reduce your supply of breast milk, and reversing a decision not to breastfeed is difficult. The social and financial implications of using infant formula should be considered when choosing a method of feeding. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when preparing and using infant formula, including proper sterilisation of bottles and using boiled water. Improper use of an infant formula may make your baby ill. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional for advice about feeding your baby.
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