Understanding Cow's Milk Protein Allergy In Babies

Posted on: 26 April 2017

Some babies are born with cow's milk protein allergy (CMPA), and they experience discomfort due to milk protein causing inflammation in the lining of their gut. CMPA doesn't just affect formula-fed babies, as the breastmilk of mothers who consume dairy products can cause a reaction in some infants. Babies with CMPA are often irritable, particularly after feeds, and cry for long periods of time despite not being tired, hungry or needing changed. Parents of babies with CMPA can feel exhausted as a result of the emotional impact of caring for a baby who cries so much and is rarely content. Knowing the signs of CMPA can help parents get the medical care and support their baby needs, so here's an overview of the symptoms and treatment approach:


Your baby is unlikely to have every symptom associated with CMPA, as the condition can affect each child differently. However, having one or more of the following symptoms in addition to regularly being unsettled is enough for CMPA to be considered by your doctor:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Distended stomach
  • Blood or mucous in their stools
  • Reflux
  • Wheezing and couching
  • Skin rashes
  • Poor weight gain

In rare cases, a baby can develop swollen eyes and lips and experience an anaphylactic reaction, and if this occurs, they should receive urgent medical attention.

Treatment Approach

If you suspect your child has CMPA, you should consult with your doctors. It's possible to carry out allergy testing, but it's just as effective to try the elimination approach.

If you breastfeed, you will have to cut out all dairy products from your diet and monitor your baby's symptoms. It can be useful to keep a record of your baby's fussy periods to determine if they coincide with feeds and whether their symptoms improve when dairy is eliminated.

If your baby is formula-fed, your doctor can prescribe a hypoallergenic formula to try out for a couple of weeks. This formula still contains cow's milk, but the milk proteins have been hydrolysed. Most babies with CMPA can tolerate this type of formula, as the milk proteins are easier to digest. If your baby does not improve when being fed a hypoallergenic formula, your doctor may prescribe a formula that does not contain cow's milk, such as those made with amino acids.

Most babies with CMPA grow out of the allergy, and your baby will be referred to a dietitian who can help you try to introduce dairy to your child's diet when they are being weaned, if you wish. If your baby does not grow out of CMPA, the dietitian can provide advice on ensuring their calcium needs are met as they are weaned off formula or breastmilk.

If you're concerned about your baby's health, you don't have to wait until their 6-week health check to speak to your doctor. Schedule an appointment at any time to discuss your concerns and feel free to take any symptom and feeding logs you have to the appointment, as they can help your doctor determine the cause of your baby's distress quicker. 


Staying Healthy in Old Age

Hello, my name is Maggie and I live in Queensland, Australia. When I was younger, I was always as fit as a fiddle. I would run marathons and go swimming in the sea. However, as I got older, I started to notice that I couldn't quite do what I used to. I started to get aches and pains in my back whenever I tried to exercise. My friend suggested I see the doctor and he sent me to the local health care clinic. The specialist there was able to identify the problem and he provided some fantastic treatment. He also gave me some great advice about staying healthy in old age, so I decided to start this blog.


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