After hearing that your baby has cow’s milk allergy, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the different options discussed with your doctor. It is important to understand why your doctor has recommended a specific approach for managing your little one’s cow’s milk allergy. Remember to always follow your child’s doctor’s advice and speak to them if you are worried about anything.
Breastfeeding — elimination of dairy in your diet
When you breastfeed, some of the nutrients from the foods you eat are passed along to your baby in breast milk. That means when you eat food that contains dairy, your baby may be exposed to cow’s milk protein that can cause an allergic reaction. But this is not a reason to stop breastfeeding. Breast milk provides the best nutrition for your baby. Instead, your doctor might have suggest eliminating all dairy products from your diet.
Milk and milk products such as yogurt and cheese are obvious sources of dairy, but other foods like breads, cereals and salad dressings can contain milk too. You will have to read all food labels carefully for hidden milk ingredients like casein and whey. You may need to stick to a dairy-free diet for 2 weeks or longer before your baby’s allergic reactions subside. Even after then, you will need to remain dairy-free until your baby is completely weaned off breast milk or until your doctor recommends reintroducing cow’s milk protein into your baby’s diet. Do this only under a doctor’s supervision.
Formulas recommended for your baby
It’s the cow’s milk protein in routine formulas that causes allergic reactions in babies with cow’s milk allergy. Some hypoallergenic formulas are specially formulated for the dietary management of infants with cow’s milk allergy.
The two types of hypoallergenic formulas that your doctor may have recommended for the dietary management of your infants cow’s milk allergy are extensively hydrolysed formulas for mild to moderate cow’s milk allergy and amino acid-based formulas for severe cow’s milk allergy.
Extensively hydrolysed formulas
Proteins are made of numerous amino acids — like building blocks linked together to form long chains. The immune system of a baby with cow’s milk allergy mistakenly sees some cow’s milk protein chains as harmful and allergic reactions occur. Imagine breaking apart these long protein chains into lots of smaller chains. That’s what the cow’s milk protein in extensively hydrolysed formulas such as Nutramigen LGG® looks like.
The cow’s milk protein chains in extensively hydrolysed formulas like Nutramigen with LGG® are so thoroughly broken into tiny pieces (known as hydrolysed) that the immune systems of most babies with cow’s milk allergy no longer recognise the milk protein as harmful. These formulas are recommended for the dietary management of infants with mild to moderate cow’s milk allergy and are effective in approximately 90% of infants with cow's milk allergy. Find out more about the mild to moderate symptoms of cow’s milk allergy.
Amino acid-based formulas
Rarely, a baby with cow’s milk allergy reacts severely to cow’s milk protein. These babies need a hypoallergenic formula made with the individual building blocks of protein: amino acids. Unlike routine infant formulas in which hundreds of amino acids link to form long chains of cow’s milk protein, or extensively hydrolysed formulas in which fewer amino acids link to form small protein chains, amino acid-based formulas have no cow’s milk protein chains. The proteins in these formulas are in their simplest form and are composed of individual amino acids, the compounds that form proteins. Amino acid-based formulas are also recommended for infants with multiple food allergies.
An amino acid-based formula like Nutramigen PURAMINO contains no cow’s milk protein and is for the dietary management of infants with severe cow’s milk allergy and multiple food allergies. Find out more about the severe symptoms of cow’s milk allergy.