A word of caution to mothers out there who give in to the occasional happy meal for your milk-allergic toddler… McDonald’s french fries DO contain milk!!! Opt for the apple slices instead, but you’ll also have to take away the caramel dip, as that contains milk too. Sorry!
When our son Logan grew into toddlerhood and out of formula, we wanted to provide a milk-like drink for him. We were hoping that he would eventually grow out of his allergy (which he did at age 2), and wanted him to be used to drinking something milk-like, so he would not spend his whole life hating milk. We opted for rice milk. As I have said in other blogs, soy did not work for Logan, as it does not for many kids with a milk protein allergy. Also, for a true milk allergy, lactaid or other lactose free products will also not work. Logan loved the rice milk, and as we bought the kind fortified with calcium and vitamins (made by Rice Dream), it did provide nutrients for his growth and development. If you go this route, you may want to speak with your doctor about any other necessary supplements though! Also, rice milk should not be given to babies who still drink breastmilk or formula. Our happy outcome was that Logan later made the switch to real milk with no problems or complaints!
Going milk free is tough at first. It is hard to know exactly what you can and can’t eat! I plan to spend quite a bit of time addressing that issue over my next several blogs.
First one of my favoriate cheats… cocoa butter is NOT real butter! If you are really craving sweets, try REAL chocolate chips (not the milk chocolate kind- they have to be real chocolate). Many grocery stores’ generic brands are made from real chocolate. There are also a couple of brownie mixes out there that are made from real chocolate… I found one by Pilsbury at my grocery store the other day! The little treats become especially wonderful on a milk free diet, so enjoy! More information, ideas, products, and recipes to follow…
If you suspect that your newborn has a milk allergy, you have a few options to try (after you talk to your pediatrician!). First, if you are breastfeeding, try to go off of milk yourself. Read my previous blogs for more information on this- you really have to be serious about it to get accurate results! Second, you can try soy formula. Many kids, including my own, often have a sensitivity to soy if they have a milk allergy though, so be on the look out! Third, you can try Nutramigen formula by Enfamil. This is especially made for babies with a milk protein allergy. There may be other formulas like this, but this is the only one I am familiar with. Note that the reduced lactose formulas will NOT work if it is a true milk allergy, nor will the lactose-free versions. A true milk allergy is not the same as lactose intolerance! Please feel free to add a comment if you know of any other formulas that are truly milk-free options for newborns.
Luckily, most kids do eventually outgrow a milk allergy (although not everyone does!). Our oldest son, Logan, officially outgrew his allergy around his 2nd birthday. We noticed that when he accidentally had food with milk in it, his facial rash wasn’t appearing anymore. The confusing issue though, was that he continued to have lots of loose stools, especially when he had milk food. We ended up taking him to an allergist to get a final ruling. The allergist did the skin prick test, and found that he had indeed outgrown his milk allergy. When I asked about the loose stools, the doctor said that his body just didn’t have the enzymes it needed to break down milk. Once we gave him milk more often, his body made more of these enzymes and his system evened out. And, this proved true for Logan! We’ll hope that our baby, Luke, also outgrows his allergy!
One other thing I learned with my older son was that there are two types of milk allergies- a rapid onset, and a delayed onset. As I took him off of milk but still made mistakes about giving him food with hidden milk in it, his facial rash would show up, but not for about 8-12 hours after he had the milk food! I could not figure it out, until I came across some research that explained the two types. So, as you eliminate milk from your or your child’s diet, know that the symptoms may not immediately appear or disappear!
This is a tricky subject, and before I begin, I’d just like to reiterate that I am not a doctor. You will want to speak with your pediatrician about your concerns and get his/her opinion!! But, here is my experience and opinion on diagnosing a milk allergy in a baby…
Milk allergies often run in families, so if you or your spouse had one as a child, there is a higher likelihood that your baby will too. Other symptoms can vary from child to child, and include rashes, loose stools, blood in stools, vomiting, and being very fussy or colicky. You can have your doctor run tests to verify a milk allergy, which I would suggest doing if your child has very severe symptoms. But, a lot of diagnosing with a baby comes with trial and error. In other words, try completely eliminating milk from his/her diet (or your own diet if you are nursing), and see if it helps! If it does, try re-introducing milk every couple of months to see if the symptoms reappear. Most children outgrow milk allergies by the time they are 2-5.
In my own experience, my older son, Logan, was a very fussy baby. He spit up a LOT and had multiple loose stools each day. BUT, he was growing, gaining weight, and reaching developmental milestones appropriately, so his doctor was not too worried. I had asked about a milk allergy early on, but since he did not have bloody stools, that worry was discarded. Around the time he was about 10 months old, he developed a facial rash, especially on his right cheek, that would come and go without a logical pattern that we could find. Again, I brought up the idea of a milk allergy, but no one took me too seriously. I spent a LOT of time researching his symptoms on the Internet, and kept coming back to the milk allergy idea. I tried to eliminate milk from his diet, but the rash kept coming back. Unfortunately, at that point, I didn’t realize how very many foods really have milk in them. It wasn’t until I really got serious about learning about milk allergies that I figured it all out.
To truly find out if it is a milk allergy, you have to get really good at understanding what foods really have milk in them (see my last blog). You can’t just eliminate pizza, ice cream, and mac & cheese to see if it will work. You have to read the labels of EVERYTHING you or your child is eating and learn to find hidden milk ingredients in them. Completely eliminate dairy, and see what happens after a few days! With Logan, his rash completely cleared up, and his diapers got better (although not perfect for a long time). Whenever his rash did reappear, I could think back through what he ate, re-read labels, and always find the culprit.
If you think your child has a milk allergy, first speak with your doctor. But, then try eliminating dairy, but be very conscientious about it- really read everything. If you are nursing, you’ll need to eliminate it from your diet to avoid passing it through to your baby (again, see previous blog). Or, you can try Nutramigen formula by Enfamil. If your child is already eating solid foods, take some time to do research and change his/her diet for a couple of weeks and see if symptoms improve.
Remember, a true milk allergy is NOT the same as being lactose intolerant. You can’t get lactose free products and expect them to work if it is a true milk allergy. In a milk allergy, the allergen is the protein in milk, not lactose.
Do the best you can, but don’t get upset if you make a mistake and accidentally eat something with milk in it– it is easy to do! Just chalk it up to a learning experience and try again tomorrow :).
It can be challenging to learn to read the ingredient lists on packaging to determine whether or not a food really does contain milk. There are a lot of terms that mean milk, and just don’t come right out and say it. Thankfully, many companies are listing allergens at the bottoms of the ingredient lists now, but not all of them do it! Here are some terms to avoid, as they also mean “milk” or “derived from milk”: