Sensory Learning: How a Baby's Brain Gets Information from His Mouth and More

If a baby is diagnosed with cow's milk allergy it is important to understand why healthcare professionals may recommend a specific formula. Remember to always follow their advice and speak to them if you are worried about your baby's health.

Breast milk

As well as providing a baby with nutrition, breast milk can reduce the risk of babies getting certain infections. That's one of the reasons why the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a baby's life and continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond alongside the introduction of nutritionally adequate and complementary solid foods.

If a breast-fed baby is diagnosed with cow's milk allergy, it may be recommended by a healthcare professional that all dairy products are removed from the mother's diet. This would avoid the cow's milk proteins that trigger the allergic reactions being passed to the baby within breast milk. Find out more about the dietary changes that may be recommended for babies with cow's milk allergy.

Hypoallergenic formulas for cow's milk allergy 

Some hypoallergenic formulas are suitable for babies with cow's milk allergy. In these formulas, the cow's milk proteins are either broken down (as in extensively hydrolyzed formulas; eHFs) or aren't present at all (as in amino acid-based formulas; AAFs). eHFs are suitable for most cases of cow's milk allergy (milk to moderate cow's milk allergy) and AAFs are usually recommended for more severe cases.

Other milks and formulas are not always recommended or suitable as the first choice for babies with cow's milk allergy

Standard infant formulas and follow-on formulas

Infant formulas and toddler formulas are usually made from cow's milk and contain intact cow's milk proteins. Therefore, infant and toddler formulas are not recommended for babies with cow's milk allergy as they may trigger an allergic reaction.

Formulas that are partially hydrolyzed

Some infant formulas and toddler formulas are partially hydrolyzed. Even though the cow's milk protein chains in these formulas are partially broken down (or hydrolyzed), they're still big enough to cause allergic reactions in babies with cow's milk allergy. As a result, these formulas are unsuitable for the dietary management of babies with cow's milk allergy.

Cow, goat and sheep milks

Cow's milk is not recommended for those with cow's milk allergy as it contains the proteins that trigger an allergic reaction. Goat, sheep and other unmodified animal milks are also not recommended for individuals with cow's milk allergy because the protein in these milks is very similar to the protein found in cow's milk. This means they may trigger an allergic reaction in those with cow's milk allergy.

Soy formulas

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of soy formulas for babies with documented immunoglobulin E-associated with cow's milk allergy who are not also allergic to soy protein. Check with your child's healthcare professional to see if this is an option.