Recognising the signs of milk allergy & intolerance

It is very common for babies to react strangely when fed cow’s milk for the first time. Though there is nothing to worry about, it is very important for you to understand if your baby’s problem is related to milk allergy or milk intolerance. Many mothers wrongly assume that both problems mean the same thing, but it is wrong.

When your baby is allergic to milk, it means his immune system doesn’t react well to the proteins present in the milk that you give him (cow, goat or sheep milk). When he is intolerant towards milk, it means, his body doesn’t produce enough of the lactase enzyme which breaks down the lactose in the milk. Lactose, which is not digested properly, starts to ferment inside your baby’s tummy, leading to issues such as stomach bloating, indigestion, loose stools, and the like.

In this article, we will let you know some of the common symptoms you have to watch out for to recognise your baby’s problem correctly so that you can get it diagnosed on time. In both the cases, the solution is to reduce or avoid cow’s milk, goat’s milk or sheep’s milk from your diet (if you are exclusively breastfeeding) or from your baby’s diet (if you are feeding him formula foods).

Milk Allergy
This happens when the proteins in the milk are too strong for your baby’s immune system. Here, you have to take note of an important point. If your baby doesn’t show any allergic reactions, it doesn’t always mean that he is not allergic to milk. We would recommend you to wait for anywhere between 2 hours and a few days to see if he is showing the following symptoms:

  • Skin problems such as rashes, itchiness, red patches, hives, and eczema
  • Respiratory problems such as asthma, wheezing, and difficulty in breathing
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhoea and stomach cramps
  • Vomiting

What should you do?
It would help to diagnose the allergy correctly if you could do the following:

  • Making a journal of the symptoms
  • Frequency of symptoms
  • Time difference between meal-time and visibility of symptoms
  • Photos of symptoms (such as skin rashes)

Your paediatrician will conduct a few more tests to confirm your baby’s allergy and advise you to reduce or completely avoid all milk-related substances from his diet and your diet (if breastfeeding).

Milk Intolerance
Some of the very common symptoms of milk intolerance are:

  • Bloating of the stomach
  • Wind
  • Vomiting
  • Passing a lot of gas
  • Green stools
  • Not gaining weight normally

What should you do?
You should first note down these symptoms if your baby is experiencing a primary or secondary lactose intolerance issue. Irrespective of the diagnosis, the solution would be to avoid dairy-related products in your baby’s diet as much as possible. You could also try eliminating cow’s milk and other milk-related foods from your diet (if you are exclusively breastfeeding) to see if that improves your baby’s reaction to intolerance.

Regardless of the issue, both milk allergy and milk intolerance are simple problems that can be treated very easily when diagnosed early. Making simple changes to your diet and your baby’s diet would bring immense relief to your baby, from these issues.

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