As with any health concern, if you think your baby's symptoms might be due to cow's milk allergy, it's important to see your doctor so that he or she can evaluate your baby and make an appropriate diagnosis. The diagnosis process for food allergies can sometimes take awhile, and in the meantime, you'll no doubt want to do what you can to help your baby feel more comfortable. Even if your baby's been diagnosed with cow's milk allergy, and has started a cow's milk protein-free diet, it could take up to a few weeks to manage their allergic reactions. So consult your doctor and find out how to help your baby feel more comfortable in the meantime.
You might find the following tips useful. In any case, you should speak with your healthcare professional for more detailed advice about managing your baby's specific symptoms and discomfort.
Help with reflux
If your baby has reflux, a couple of practical tips might help:
- Create a comfortable atmosphere at feeding time to help your baby relax
- Sometimes smaller, more frequent feedings might be better than feeding large volumes in one go
- Try to discourage your baby from drinking too quickly or gulping the formula
- Check that the bottle nipple you're using doesn't cause your baby to swallow too many bubbles while they are drinking
- Keep your baby in an upright position just after feeding, to allow the food to settle
- Avoid tight-fitting clothes that might press against your baby's tummy
- Do not let people smoke near your baby, as this might affect reflux
If these tips don't help, speak to your doctor who might prescribe a special thickening agent that you can add to your baby's formula so that it's more likely to stay in their stomach rather than coming back up.
Help with gas
All babies can get gas, but a few practical tips can help:
- Feed your baby slowly, and pause from time to time
- If you're bottle feeding
- Tip the bottle so that the nipple is always full of milk - this helps to stop your baby swallowing air bubbles while drinking
- Make sure the hole in the nipple is large enough - because if it is too small, babies can suck in a lot of air
- Make sure that your baby has at least one good burp after each feeding - try rubbing the left side of their back, starting at the lower back and slowly moving up towards the shoulders; or try gently bicycling your baby's legs while they're lying on their back
Help with colic/crying
Babies with cow's milk allergy might have colic, where they cry excessively for no other apparent reason. The crying tends to happen for at least 3 hours a day, for more than 3 days a week, and lasting for 3 weeks or more. If your baby has colic, you could try the following things:
- Try carrying your baby in an infant sling or front carrier on your chest as you walk around, as the body contact and motion can be calming
- Play comforting sounds like soft music, fan sounds or a recording of a heartbeat to help recreate a reassuring womb-like environment
- Soothe your baby with gentle, rhythmic motions, for example by cradling your baby while rocking in a chair, or using a vibrating infant seat
- Massage your baby's skin as babies love skin-to-skin contact, and you might find that a regular massage helps to ease your baby's crying and irritability. Ask your healthcare professional for more information on infant massage.
Help with skin issues
An allergic reaction to cow's milk protein might cause your baby to experience skin issues, such as an itchy rash. In this case:
- Try to discourage your baby from scratching the rash, as this could aggravate the skin and increase the risk of infection - your doctor may recommend anti-scratch mittens, and keep your baby's nails short
- If you find that synthetic fibers aggravate the rash, try to dress your baby in natural materials like cotton instead
- Wash new clothes before trying them on your baby, and avoid fabric conditioners, to leave your baby's clothes free from chemical residues
- Sometimes hot weather could make the rash worse, so try to stay out of the heat if you find this to be the case
- Do not bathe your baby with soaps and detergents - these strip the oils from the skin and can cause adverse reactions
- Ask your doctor or pharmacists about using emollient creams to keep your baby's skin moisturized, and avoid flare-ups and further skin damage
- Emollients/moisturizers should be applied under the supervision of your doctor
- Avoid aqueous creams
- Eczema causes dry skin that cracks easily - so make sure your hands are scrupulously clean to avoid introducing any infections into your baby's skin
Depending on how severe your baby's rash is, the doctor may also consider prescribing certain treatments or applying special bandages to help reduce swelling, redness and itching. Speak to your doctor if you think your baby might need these.