Friday, 6 June 2014


So your baby is inconsolable and having trouble feeding. Maybe it’s colic? Or is there more to it? As a mother, sometimes it’s simply a matter of gut instinct…


What is an allergy?

An adverse reaction produced by the body’s immune system when it encounters a normally harmless substance.

What is cow's milk allergy (CMA)?
CMA is an adverse reaction produced by the body’s immune system when it encounters the protein in cow’s milk.

Why can babies suffer with such an allergy, despite being breast or bottle fed?
Cow’s milk is the main component in baby’s formula, and breast milk contains protein from milk and other dairy products in the mother’s diet.

What are the key signs of CMA?
Sometimes the signs are very obvious, with swelling of the lips and an itchy skin. But more often the signs are subtle, such as excessive crying and restlessness. The infant will continue to have milk, which is of course the cause of persistent symptoms.

Symptoms of CMA include:
Sickness and vomiting
Colic, reflux
Difficulties breathing
Failure to gain weight

Is there a test to diagnose it?
Sadly no, which is why it is important to know the signs and then speak to your GP. Parents ought to be aware that continual crying in young babies may well be reflux (or silent reflux). All too often a CMA is missed.
Ways to manage cows’ milk allergy include:
Introduction of hypoallergenic formula
Introduction of reflux medicine

Can you try your baby on other milk?
Neither goat nor sheep milk will be suitable as a replacement. The body will recognise the milk proteins as being physically similar and react in the same way as to cows’ milk. Soya milks available in shops and supermarkets are unsuitable for babies under 12 months.

Is CMA linked to genetics?
If you have an atopic family history, carrying eczema, asthma and/or allergies, you are more at risk of passing on an allergic tendency to your child.

Is it related to what you eat in pregnancy?
No, it doesn’t seem to be. And it has been shown that a breastfeeding mother who cuts out dairy from her diet, will not necessarily help with the issue.

What can you do to help it?
Get your baby in a good feeding routine. Wait six months prior to weaning and use food alternative recipes such as those available from sites such as - see link below. Also, the homeopathic remedy Colocynth, didn't cure my girls but it certainly helped.

If you think your infant may have a food allergy, talk to your Health Visitor or GP.

Fortunately, my daughters have since outgrown CMA; (87% of children do by the time they are three), but year on year, the number of food allergy sufferers increases by 5%. Half of those affected are children, with CMA being the most common problem, affecting up to 1 in 14 under the age of three. Half of those however, will have grown out of CMA by the time they turn one.

That first year can be an emotional rollercoaster for the parents of a baby with CMA. And clearly, the emotional impact requires guidance and support.

Online, this has already improved greatly from when Esme Grace was a baby.  Food alternative recipes and weaning advice exists on websites such as, a resource for parents and carers of babies and children with special nutritional needs, which Dr. Dawn Harper (of Embarrassing Bodies fame) recently put her name to. As well as Social Media groups such as

For myself as a mum of children that suffered with CMA from birth, it’s my hope that this post will highlight the fact that continual crying in young babies may well be reflux (or silent reflux); often the result of allergy. And that if basic treatment for reflux doesn’t relieve the pain, a swift diagnosis of CMA will mean both parents and baby alike receive the help they need; in the form of hypoallergenic formula, medication and support.


This post has been put together with the information I sought for two separate articles on CMA, that featured in Prima Baby and Baby London magazines. My thanks to the team at Gt Ormond Street Children's Hospital for all their help.

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