Without a doubt having my children is proving to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Obviously it is amazing, rewarding and brings unimaginable joy… yes that goes without saying, but as most people would agree it is also dam hard! I was lucky that mine were pretty good babies (hope I’m not tempting fate with Number 3 on the way!) – but I’m sure we’ve all heard stories from friends and family about how rough those first few months can be. Uncontrolled, relentless crying in a new born is utterly distressing, worrying and soul destroying for parents. For generations people have talked about colic and the like – but there is now increasing recognition for Cows Milk Allergy. If this is diagnosed the effects on the whole family can be fairly incredible.
Cows milk allergy (CMA) is often muddled up with Lactose intolerance – however they are quite separate conditions. Just to confuse things further there are 2 subgroups of CMA.
The first type causes symptoms such as rashes, hives, vomiting and comes on fairly instantly after consuming Cows milk. The second causes more general symptoms such as weight loss, diarrhoea and eczema, which appear over time and aren’t as closely linked to actually consuming the cow’s milk protein. Both can make your baby miserable and frustratingly it is not uncommon for children to have a bit of both types.
The first subgroup of CMA can sometimes be diagnosed via allergy testing, which is usually carried out by a paediatrician. The second subgroup is trickier as there are no formal tests that confirm it. The only way to go about diagnosing it is to totally eliminate cows milk protein from the infants’ diets, and wait to see what happens. In babies who are bottle fed specialist formulas are available which are Cows milk protein free. For infants who are breast fed, management involves mum going onto a totally dairy free diet… no mean feat!! The symptoms should start to recede within 72 hours of dietary elimination.
Although very distressing at the time, the good news is that the vast majority of children outgrow this allergy by 3 years of age. The current advice is to slowly start introducing dairy products to the baby’s diet between 6 and 12 months. I always think that advice from a specialist dietician is useful before embarking on this stage.
If you recognize these symptoms in a little one you know or are struggling with CMP allergy in your child there is a wealth of sensible advice out there. AllergyUK is a great starting point, as it the website CowsMilkAllergy which is packed with useful information.