How to Avoid the Dairy Allergen

I found out that my baby was allergic to cow’s milk when he reacted to a few bites of baby cereal containing milk powder. At 19 months he is just getting over his allergy. This meant 13 months of watching, innovating and protecting him from exposure to the cow’s milk allergen, casein. This period has tested me and trained me. Here are some helpful hints that I have picked up along the way that  helped me ward off danger from my most precious possession – my son.

In most instances I would cook all my baby’s food from scratch. This prevented unnecessary exposure due to miscommunication or contamination. When you do buy pre-packaged food, even if it is just a loaf of bread, read and re-read the ingredient label. Look for the following words that indicate the presence of dairy in the product: Malted milk, milk solids, butter fat, butter solids, artificial butter flavour, natural butter flavour, quark, curd, acidophilus milk, lactaid, lacteeze, lactose, lactulose, lactoglobulin, lactalbumin, casein, casein hydrolysate, hydrolysed casein, ammonium caseinate, calcium caseinate, potassium caseinate, sodium caseinate, rennet casein, whey, whey powder, whey protein, whey hydrolysate, sweet dairy whey, hydrolysed whey, delactosed whey, demineralised whey. I have highlighted what I have found to be the common culprits.

Other more obvious ingredients that indicate the presence of dairy are: Milk, milk powder, butter,buttermilk, cheese, cottage cheese, processed cheese, cream cheese, feta cheese, condensed milk, evaporated milk, cream, whipped cream, ice cream, yoghurt, sherbert, chocolate, margarine, processed meats, chewing gum, toffee, peppermints, caramels, fudge, Clifton, Horlicks, Ovaltine. People often don’t realise that foods like margarine and processed meats often contain dairy, that being said, there are brands that do not contain dairy.

Many products do indicate the allergens it may contain. Some (but not all!) products even indicate if the product may have been manufactured in a factory containing specific allergens. This probably means that other products are being made in the same equipment line as the product you are considering purchasing; and residuals from these products (which may contain allergens) may contaminate the product. Whether or not you need to avoid these products probably depends on how serious your baby’s allergy is. My son used to mildly react to baby cereals that did not even list any allergens in the ingredients and I suspect that contamination from common equipment was to blame.

Note that allergens can pass through into breast milk as well. If your child is not severely allergic then this may not be a cause for concern for you. Especially considering incremental exposure to the cow’s milk allergen will eventually help your child overcome symptoms of the allergy.

Also note that your baby may respond with symptoms to some forms of dairy and not others depending on how acute your baby’s allergy is and depending on the concentration of casein protein in the form of dairy. Consult your allergist on when and whether you can try certain forms of dairy on your child.

Your child will likely overcome his/her dairy allergy eventually. Mines did. Hang in there!

Read the following related articles:

Cow’s milk allergens in breast-milk?

Alternatives to Cow’s Milk

Eczema in babies – Troubleshooting the itch