The majority of children who are allergic to cow's milk will grow out of their allergy by the age of 3 - 5 years. Your child's doctor or dietitian will help you manage their allergy as your child gets older.
by Carina Venter
Senior Allergy Dietitian, Isle of Wight
Why is weaning so important?Weaning is an important time for families as it provides the ideal opportunity to introduce the infant to a variety of new tastes and textures. These early experiences have a strong effect on later eating habits as infants who miss important flavour and texture milestones may become faddy or difficult feeders in childhood and this may persist into adulthood. This means that obtaining a varied and balanced nutritional intake will be more difficult.Why do parents of cows’ milk allergic infants find weaning so difficult?Introduction of solid foods can be daunting for most, but for parents dealing with a cows’ milk allergic infant, this is potentially an even more challenging experience. Traditionally, mothers start weaning with baby rice, fruit and vegetables, followed shortly by fromage frais and yogurt. Finger foods such as bread sticks or toast fingers served with soft cheese are also popular weaning foods. Many of these foods , as well as other favourites such as broccoli in a cheese sauce cannot be given to cows’ milk allergic infants and should be avoided.The most difficult question that remains however is at what point other foods that commonly cause allergies, such as egg, fish, soya, wheat, peanuts and tree nuts, can be safely introduced. Parents are understandably cautious when it comes to feeding their baby these foods.Weaning is further complicated by additional restrictions on the use of soya milk (shouldn’t be used until 6 months of age) and rice milk (shouldn’t be used until 4.5 years) based products for all infants in the UK.
How can a dietitian help? A dietitian can help to make weaning a less stressful event and will be able to advise parents on how to wean their infant confidently.The dietitian can advise parents on:
Each infant should be managed individually and developmental signs of readiness for solid food in the infant and parental opinions should be taken into consideration when advising on the ideal age to begin weaning.Signs of developmental readiness:
Some parents may ask if their cows’ milk allergic infant should be tested for other possible food allergies prior to introducing new foods. Unfortunately there is no clear guidance for health care professionals about whether to test or not, and practices may vary across the UK and indeed across the world.It is however known that up to 50% of infants with CMA can also develop allergies to other foods.The following is therefore recommended:
Filling out this guide will help you prepare to visit your doctor if you suspect your child might have CMA.