Medical nutrition

Cow's milk allergy

Cow’s milk allergy (CMA) is one of the most common food allergies, affecting 2-5% of infants in the UK.1

Babies with cow's 
milk allergy
have many 
different symptoms

Cows milk allergy is
triggered by the protein in
cows' milk

Cow’s milk allergy typically develops in a baby’s first year, and it occurs when the immune system reacts inappropriately to a protein in cow’s milk2. The protein could be in infant formula, or in breast milk from whatever mum is eating.

The allergic reaction usually causes symptoms like diarrhoea, wheezing and eczema. Cow’s milk allergy can be distressing for babies and their families, because it’s not always easy to spot. These symptoms are common in infants who aren’t well, so it can take time to diagnose.

Breastfeeding is always best for babies, but some babies with CMA are very sensitive, and they can have allergic reactions when small amounts of cow’s milk protein pass from mum to baby in breast milk. In this case, a healthcare professional may recommend to mum to remove dairy from her diet. It is important that this is being done under medical supervision to ensure that mum and baby still get all the nutrition they need.

If removing dairy isn’t possible and all other options have been tried, a healthcare professional may prescribe a hypoallergenic formula. There are two main types; one is based on cow’s milk, but its proteins are broken down into smaller more digestible parts, which makes them less likely to trigger an allergic reaction. The second type doesn’t contain any cow’s milk protein, but is made from “free” amino acids (the building blocks of protein) which makes a reaction even less likely.

Healthcare Professionals can prescribe a Nutricia product if a diagnosis of cow's milk allergy is suspected or established.

Disclaimer: Nutricia products are foods for special medical purposes and must only be used under medical supervision.

  • 1. DRAMCA. WAO Journal April 2010. 2. DRAMCA. WAO Journal April 2010.