Tips for Navigating a Dairy Allergy in Your Baby
Allergies are becoming increasingly common in infants and children. Dairy allergies are among
one the most common allergies in infants. Many parents don’t realize that there is a difference
between dairy allergies, sensitivities, and lactose intolerance. This article will break down the
differences between dairy allergies and lactose intolerance as well as offer advice on how to
manage these challenges in your baby.
How to Tell if Your Baby Has a Dairy Allergy
Some common symptoms of a dairy allergy include:
● Frequent vomiting or spitting up
● Skin rash
● Coughing or wheezing
● Diarrhea and other digestive issues
● Colic symptoms such as inconsolable crying
Even babies who are breastfed can demonstrate symptoms of dairy allergies if their mother has
recently ingested dairy. If your baby is not formula-fed but is showing symptoms of a dairy
allergy, you may want to try cutting out dairy to see if this can help them.
If your baby is formula-fed and you think they may have a dairy allergy, then you may need to
switch baby formulas. Make sure to switch gradually and consult with your pediatrician to help
guide this process.
Dairy Allergy vs Lactose Intolerance
A dairy allergy is different from lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance or dairy sensitivities
usually just cause digestive issues such as bloating and gas and aren’t nearly as severe as true
dairy allergies. Dairy allergies occur when the immune system reacts to the proteins found in
milk. This causes the immune system to attack itself, causing a whole host of negative effects
that vary in severity.
Typically, the immune system only reacts to negative bacteria or viruses that might harm us.
This is how your body fights off illness. In the case of an allergy, the immune system is acting
inappropriately and going into “attack mode” when there really is nothing there to fight off. This
is what causes all of the negative side effects of a food allergy.
If you think your child might be allergic to dairy, consult with their pediatrician to confirm the
allergy. Milk allergies tend to be hereditary but can occur even if neither of the parents have food allergies. Your pediatrician can easily confirm the allergy based on symptoms or they can
do a blood test if needed.
Baby Formulas for Dairy Allergy
Once you’ve confirmed that your baby does in fact have a milk allergy, you’ll need to figure out
which formula will work best for them. Your doctor may recommend switching to a soy-based
formula which can help. Unfortunately, a lot of babies who have milk allergies also suffer from
soy allergies so this isn’t always a solution.
If soy-based baby formula doesn’t work for your baby, then you’ll need to try a hypoallergenic
formula. Typically, hypoallergenic baby formulas are either hydrolyzed or elemental. Hydrolyzed
baby formulas have proteins that have been broken down so that they are easier to digest. If a
baby still has an allergic reaction to a hydrolyzed formula, then the next step would be to try an
elemental formula. Elemental formulas contain the simplest form of proteins and can be more
easily digested by children with severe allergies.
The only real treatment for a milk allergy is to avoid milk products altogether. Luckily, many
babies outgrow their milk allergy by the time they reach toddlerhood. If your child does not
outgrow their allergy, then they will have to continue avoiding dairy products indefinitely.
What About Goat’s Milk Formula?
Goat’s milk baby formula is a great option for some children, but may not be tolerable for your
baby if they suffer from a milk allergy. Baby formulas that are made from goat’s milk rather than
cow’s milk do tend to be easier to digest but they contain very similar proteins to those found in
cow’s milk. If your baby simply has a sensitive digestive tract, then goat’s milk formula may be a
great option for them but always navigate formula changes with the help of a pediatrician. We
recommend trying an organic goat’s milk formula, such as Jovie or Holle.
Navigating an allergy is just another challenging part of parenting that you likely did not see
coming. Luckily there are a variety of great organic formula options for babies who do suffer
from allergies and plenty of resources for parents who need guidance.