Weaning babies off formula can be different for each child, especially if your child is allergic to cow’s milk (also known as cow’s milk allergy or CMA). Knowing what to expect when it’s time to start weaning can help.
Weaning a Baby With Cow’s Milk Allergy
Speak to your doctor before you start weaning your baby, as you may be advised to see a dietitian to help you through the process. Most importantly, you’ll need to avoid all cow’s milk protein all together.
As you start weaning, your child’s doctor may advise you to add breast milk or hypoallergenic formula designed for babies with cow’s milk allergy to your infant’s solid foods to increase their nutritional value.
Some hypoallergenic formulas designed for babies with cow’s milk allergy have a second-stage formula that’s specifically formulated for older babies and toddlers who are older than 9 months. These formulas have nutrients that are important for growing babies, like calcium, to support their solid food diet.
Food Challenges for Babies With CMA
When your toddler has been on a cow’s milk protein-free diet for some time and is at least 9–12 months old, your doctor may request an oral food challenge – a process where food is eaten slowly, in gradually increasing amounts, under a doctor’s supervision – to see if they have outgrown a cow’s milk allergy. You may have done this before when your doctor was assessing your baby for cow’s milk allergy.
Growing Up With CMA
Infant formulas based on soy “milk” should only be used as recommended by a doctor if your child does NOT also have a soy protein allergy (i.e. if they have tested negative for soy allergy) or if you want a formula more suitable for a vegetarian diet after discussion with your family doctor or a specialist.
Check with your child’s doctor about using other milk substitutes; the recommendation may depend on your child’s nutritional status. Try to choose a brand that is fortified with calcium where possible. If the product is not fortified with calcium, it is important to talk to your child’s doctor about a calcium supplement.
Can Babies Grow Out of Allergies Like CMA?
Most babies grow out of cow’s milk allergy and can return to a normal diet, consuming cow’s milk without allergic issues, but the timing will differ for each baby.
Although cow’s milk allergy is the most common food allergy in children under 3 years old, the good news is that more than 75% of babies with cow’s milk allergy grow out of it in early childhood (by the time they reach 3 – 5 years old). When a baby has grown out of cow’s milk allergy, they can consume cow’s milk without allergic issues — in other words, they can return to a diet that includes dairy foods.
“It may not be the end of eating normally. My son eventually outgrew most aspects of it and can now eat dairy.”
- Mom of a child with CMA
If your baby is diagnosed with cow’s milk allergy, a healthcare professional will advise you when and how to test whether they have started to grow out of their allergy. In the meantime, suitable dietary changes would be advised by a healthcare professional to manage the allergy.