My Child Has a Milk Allergy

You may not be as lucky as my son and I are. My wife was very quick to discover and pursue a diagnosis of his reflux (GERD – Gastroesophageal reflux disease). She put that same determination and web researching ability when my son was later diagnosed with a “milk allergy”. Little Lex has had it rough, and he still does at the time of this writing, but luckily his mother is a very perceptive and determined woman. If you and your child are not so lucky then you might consider developing your paternal instincts and researching skills. Either way, let me give you a good start.

My son started showing signs of colic before he left the hospital (2nd night of life). We thought the crying was normal until we started the second week and it got worse. His pediatrician diagnosed him with colic and started him on Enfamil’s Nutramigen formula (hypoallergenic formula, expensive). He stayed on this and breast milk until he was about 6 months old at which time he solely drank Nutramigen. Between his 7th and 8th month he had a Diarrhea that wasn’t going away and was really causing him damage down below.

Luckily Lex was already seeing a Pediatric Gastroenterologist for his reflux. He immediately suggested that Lex had a milk allergy and that we should change his formula to something even more elemental (I heard expensive and ele-what?). He pointed out that even Nutramigen had traces of milk and that if we merely changed the formula to this “elemental” thing we would see an improvement. He was right. After securing some office samples of Abbott’s Elecare we were ready. Anyway, the Elecare, as bad as it tastes did the trick. Lex started feeling better and the explosions in his diaper subsided. We were very happy. My wife found out that some mothers in some forums had reported that their insurance covered Elecare. As it turns out ours did and we even had it delivered through Byram Healthcare (but I would switch to another provider if I could).

Calcium intake was not a concern of ours at that time, but just after his 1st birthday Lex stopped drinking his “milk” during the day. Suddenly we found ourselves looking for a supplemental source of calcium. Again, his mother pounced on this, but I jumped in too. My research mostly turned up articles that questioned the whole “got milk?” conspiracy. My research pointed to food high in calcium: certain beans, soybeans (he turned out to be allergic to soy too, I heard 20+% of those with dairy allergies are), cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, nuts, and oats (finally something he eats). I late discovered that figs were not that bad either.

An Appropriate Calcium Supplement for Toddlers

My wife also discovered that calcium in certain forms was an acceptable supplement for young children. Common calcium carbonate is not the best for young children as it can through off the pH of the digestive system and must not be consumed on an empty stomach. Bone Meal calcium can contain heavy metals. Better forms of calcium are calcium gluconate, calcium citrate, and calcium lactate. It is difficult to find these in a powdered form and without lots of added magnesium. Fortunately, my wife found the perfect solution. KAL’s Crystal Calcium has a mixture of calcium gluconate and calcium lactate that dissolves nicely in liquids. It also has some vitamin D as well which is actually something many children don’t get enough of.

According to my calculations we should serve my son 1 teaspoon per day. So we have been adding 1/2 of a teaspoon of the powder to his “sippy cup” twice a day. His “sippy cup” is usually just filled with 1 part juice and 6 parts water and yet he doesn’t seem to mind or notice the calcium supplement. We feel as though he had a growth spurt just after we started him on the calcium, but honestly, these little angels are moving targets and they make for some very loose test cases. At least, we feel the supplement is helping him. however, either way, we feel better and sometimes this is just as important.

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Update November 9, 2009

We recently ran out of KAL Crystal Calcium and had to find a substitute quickly for our son, who can now eat small amounts of cheese. We also needed a reminder of how much calcium Lex needs at 3 years of age. We found this information in an article titled “Calcium and Your Child” at KidsHealth.org:

Although there isn’t definite scientific proof yet that taking in these amounts of calcium will result in stronger bones when kids grow up, the current recommendations are:
  • 1 to 3 years — 500 milligrams of calcium daily
  • 4 to 8 years — 800 milligrams
  • 9 to 18 years — 1,300 milligrams

Getting enough calcium is just part of the equation. All children — from babies to teens — also should get 400 IU of vitamin D daily.

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Update November 1, 2010

Lex is now 3.9 years old and his Milk Allergy is diminishing and is mostly under control, we believe that, aside from naturally growing out of the allergy, his regular consumption of Milk Kefir is aiding his digestion of dairy greatly. Please read this article “Milk Kefir for Children excellent Probiotics and a Milk Allergy Cure

22 thoughts on “My Child Has a Milk Allergy

  1. Hello! My son is almost 14 months old and we have just found out he is allergic to milk products and he totally refusses soy. I have been so worried because he is not getting the amount of calcium he needs. We have discovered that everything has milk in it including some snacks we were giving him. So, I have been doing some research online and found your webpage explaining what you have been through with your son. My son, has been on Nutramigen since he was five weeks old after discovering he could not take any milk based formulas. Now that he is older we have no idea what to feed him or where to get the calcium from. So, is the Kal C-Crystal the way to go? Did his doctor approve? The reason I ask that is our doctor does not seem to care as long as we give a little juice a day. To me that is not enough. Please help!

    Thanks,
    Misty

  2. Hi Misty,

    Your little guy sounds like our Lex, only I think Lex was about 9 months old when his milk/dairy allergy was diagnosed. I suspect that your son had colic as you were using Nutramigen since his fifth week. Ouch!

    Our doctors (pediatrician and pediactric-gastroenterolgist) didn’t/haven’t seemed overly concerned about Lex’s calcium consumption. That really bothered us. The peditrician gave us some dietary handout that was full of dairy options (thanks a lot!) and she keeps forgetting about his milk allergy. The specialist told us to get a recommendation from the pediatrician on calcium. Anyway, my wife did like she has always had to do since my son was born. She took matters into her own hands and did lots of research.

    Ultimately, she found Kal’s Crystal Calcium to be the way to go. It had the right kind of calcium and more importantly, none of the wrong kind (containing heavy metals or digestion altering). So this is what we us, EVERY DAY. The doctors say “sounds good” to our choice and method and the pediatrician only warned against letting him sip on sugary drinks all day. By the way, our favorite juices are those Juice Blast from Hansen’s for Kirkland (Costco) and lately we put in Carrot Juice too.

    I also recommend looking for foods and snacks that have calcium in them. I would not go out of my way to get something that has calcium added because it will probably not be near as good as the Crystal Calcium. Instead look for fruits and vegetables, such as figs and kale (although figs, especially dried ones will be infinitely more popular).

    Thanks for your comments.

    Good Luck,
    James

  3. Hello,

    My daughter just turned one on the 8th of Jan. and I’m still a breastfeeding mother, but I’m ready to start weening her but she has a milk allergy. I have no idea what to try and feed her as some say that soy is very allergenic as well. So what about goats milk? Should I feed her formula or adult form. I have no idea I’m so confused.
    HELP!

    Thanks,
    Heather

  4. Hi Heather,

    I understand your concerns. Count yourself and your daughter lucky that at least you know about the Milk Allergy up front. We didn’t, but of course we were using a Hypoallergenic Formula (Nutramigen) and it took months for our son to manifest his Milk Allergy.

    People say goat’s milk works, but it is hard and expensive to get and it may not work anyway.

    Elecare and Neocate are both completely free of dairy, but they can be pricey and your child may refuse their terrible taste. Mine has just started to refuse Elecare after 1.3 years of it. Insurance covered it all the way so it was fairly affordable, but you will need a prescription to get coverage and you have to jump through some other hoops.

    A tip, if you get insurance to cover something stay away from Byram Healthcare as a supplier because their billing department will make your life very difficult and you will have to do half of their job.

    Other options are to just do away with Milk entirely. Some believe that it is a myth that humans need any milk beyond human breast milk. They may be right, but it is a convenient source of fat, protein, and vitamins/minerals.

    I’d love to hear other’s insights on this topic. Please leave a comment.

    Best Regards,
    James Christian

  5. Hello all,
    Great site. My daughter is 6-1/2 years old. I finally put the puzzle together earilier this month.

    When she was about 4 months old, I found small flecks of red stuff in her stool. It turned out to be blood. I was exclusively breast feeding. My pediatrician at the time told me I had to stop breast feeding and switch to formula otherwise she’d bleed to death. I told her, “Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.” her reply was, “It’s too much work and you realy don’t want to.” That angered me. I was hell bent on continuing to breast feed.

    After 4 days of formula I got in to see a Pediatric Gastroenterologist. He told me that my body wasn’t breaking down the dairy proteins and they were going into her body which too wasn’t able to break them down. He never actually called it a “dairy allergy”. He told me I could continue to exclusively breast feed but I had to cut out all dairy including any packaged foods that had hidden dairy. I never knew they were so tricky with different names for dairy. Anyway, I continued to breast feed her until she was 18-months-old without incident.

    As time went by I forgot about what went on when she was so little. As any parent would do, I tried to give her cow’s milk when she was around 1. She didn’t like it. It took me 6 months and 3 flavors later before she started drinking strawberry milk. She still didn’t drink much, but she loved cheese.

    Looking back, she always complained of tummy aches. I never thought much of it. I just thought she was trying to get her way and was making it up for sympathy. They always seemed to subside fairly quickly.

    Two December’s ago, the school nurse gave me a call. My daughter had been visiting her alot lately. I had no idea. She kept going in with a tummy ache. So I took her to see the Pediatrician. He wasn’t available, so we saw the Nurse Practicianer. She couldn’t find anything wrong, so she sent us on our way. The next day my daughter was misserable and in the nurses office again. This time when I called the pediatrician’s office, the Nurse Practicianer sent me for an x-ray before our appointment.

    My duaghter was diagnosed as being severely constipated. They put her on two 1/2 doses of MiraLAX a day for 2 months. Actually, they never told me when to take her off. The MiraLAX was very hard on her. She would get sevear stomach cramps shortly after taking it. I felt awful giving it to her. So when it seemed like she was having normal bowel activity, I stopped giving it to her and all was well.

    This past December became a repeat of the previouse. Once again she was going into the nurses office with stomach aches. I really didn’t want to put her back on the MiraLAX. For heavan’s sake, she’s only six. I don’t want her to be dependant on MiraLAX for the rest of her life. So this time I bipast the pediatrician and made an appointment at the same Pediatric Gastroenterologist’s office.

    While waiting for my appointment date, I started cutting out dairy and replacing with Soy. No change in her symptoms after a week. So, I moved on to enriched rice milk in the food I was prepairing for her. After a few days her stomach aches were gone. We met with the doctor yesterday and she told me I did a great job of diagnosing my daughter. She has a dairy and soy alergy. MiraLAX is not neccessary at this point, but we’re going to try the dairy free diet for the next 3 months and see how she progresses. I was supplimenting with Viactive Chews but the doctor told me to stop that for now since the non calcium ingredients within the Viactive can cause constipation.

    I’ll probably pick up that calcium suppliment you suggested for those days when I’m convinced she hasn’t gotten enough. Thanks for reading my story. Hope it helps others out there.

  6. OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is insane! My son is now 10.5 months old. Screamed for 6 friggen months straight! ughhh! Awful! Projectile vomit and all. After 3 pediatricians we have come to the conclusion that Tyler has REFULX, Ashtma, Milk and Egg Allergy. It’s a shame it takes so damn long for doctors to figure this out. I was persistent and knew something was wrong (just no clue what it was). I was not giving up. Tyler is now on Soy formula and avoiding all egg and milk has proven to be very difficult but we are managing. With that and his medicine for reflux and asthma; what a different child! Wish i would have read this awhile ago.

    Thank you!!!!!!!

  7. I am so sorry Sarah. I need to find ways to make my articles more apparent to Google in hopes parents can find them as soon as possible for them.

    I am glad to hear you guys are all healing now and on the path to a bright future. Let me warn you that when he gets a little older you might want to try soy milk, like Costco’s Kirkland brand. Then before he gets a soy overdose, start introducing Almond Milk. My wife makes it herself with Costco Raw Almonds for Lex (who is now 3.5 years old).

  8. Our son is now 13 months old. He’s been drinking whole milk, but his stools has been completely varied. Some days he’s constipated and others he’s pooping 7-8 times. He was on Nutramigen until 12 months, then we tried whole milk, He doesn’t seem to be in pain, but his BM is so irregular! He’s getting plenty of fruits and veggies through his diet and isn’t on any juice. Any suggestions? Ditch the milk?

  9. Going from Nutramigen to Whole Milk seems like a drastic sudden change to me. The only thing that could be more drastic would be to go from Elecare (has no dairy content at all) to Skim Milk (very hard to drink for lactose intolerant). Of course a drastic change in diet will often accompany irregularity, but that should usually level out after a month. Is your son very gassy, more than before?

    Your son is a bit young for this, but we use chewable “Lactaid” (partial tablets) when our son (3.5 years old) consumes very much dairy and that seems to reduce the symptoms that diary causes him. Nevertheless, we give our son regular doses of Culturelle’s pro-biotic and we like to think this helps him digest small amounts of dairy without any trouble (when he was 1 he couldn’t touch a spec of dairy and drank only “Elecare” formula).

    Most doctors seem to think that the best diagnostic method with suspected food allergies is to withdraw the suspected allergen from the diet and observe the results. Ultimately if you still suspect the milk is the issue you will have to stop it (after giving it at least 2 weeks to allow for usual digestive system adjustments) and see what happens.

    Please do provide an update when you have one. Good luck to both of you!

  10. Thank you so much for this post! I have been on the hunt for a vitamin that had a good amount of calcium in it since I realized the infant drops I purchased didnt have any!! We recently discovered that our little guys is extremely allergic to milk, eggs and peanuts. I make a homemade rice milk that he has loved
    http://onlysometimesclever.wordpress.com/2007/06/08/healthy-creamy-yummy-rice-milk-recipe/
    but it lacked the calcium I know he needs. This powder seems like it will do the trick! I just got it in the mail today…thanks for the time you took to research this issue to help other parents!

  11. Hi Kelly, I am glad you found the article and product suggestion useful. My son is now almost 4 years old and we are still giving him this same KAL powder calcium. Even my wife likes to supplement with it too. I was kind of laying off it a little since my son now does fine with Kefir Yogurt mixed with some juice, but my wife insists that we keep up the KAL calcium as well.

    I am writing an article about the HUGE success we have had with giving my son milk Kefir. I wonder if your son would do as well on it.
    =============================
    UPDATE NOV 1, 2010: The article on Treating my son’s Milk Allergy with Milk Kefir is published now.

  12. James – thank you for sharing your son’s story and you and your wife’s journey – it is inspiring and helpful.

    My daughter is 3.5 and suffers from bad eczema. Recently we are trying a dairy elimination diet to see if her skin condition improves. After just over a week, we have noticed drastic improvement. Now, it is about getting her used to some new items in her diet, most notably, goat milk instead of cow milk. She is missing yogurt but we are finding new things to keep her occupied and full:) However, my bigger concern now that I have identified dairy as a trigger for her eczema, is ensuring she gets the proper nutrition, as you mentioned.

    Thanks for sharing your experience on the supplement, I will definitely look into that. Along with additional calcium rich foods.

    Similar to your son, she also had colic. She was breast fed exclusively for 4 months and then I began supplementing. I ended up using soy formula after she spit out the milk formula, and then beyond that we did end up using some Relux meds on her when she was quite young…..in hindsight now wondering if that messed up her digestive tract and caused her to have issues now….that are leading to the eczema flares.

    Also interesting to hear about the kefir, I will look into that more as well. I am a little hesitate only because we think she is also sensitive to yeast….but we definitely give her a dose of probiotics at each meal – giving throughout the day was recommended to us by our pediatric chiropractor.

    Thanks again – I appreciate you sharing your story. I too, like your wife, am one determined mother in my fight to give her excellent nutrition and high quality of life.

  13. Thank you Theresa for sharing your daughter’s and your story. We never had to struggle with eczema, Lex’s symptoms were limited to diarrhea mostly. I am moved to hear of your struggles and of your success in eliminating dairy. When Lex was at his worst even the smallest traces of dairy would have a terrible effect on him. Even goat’s cheese was a problem. This makes me wonder if you even want to try goat’s milk without first experiencing a longer period of no dairy whatsoever; regardless, mother knows best.

    Kefir grains can be used in goat’s milk as well, and MANY people do this. Milk kefir can easily be made into yogurt with a little effort and practice too. I understand your hesitance because of the yeast content in milk kefir; however, I can tell you that my wife thinks she has a yeast sensitivity and has found that she can eat milk kefir (with much of the whey removed) just fine and she also uses straight milk kefir as her yeast to make her own bread, which she believes is MUCH better for her and great tasting. You may consider this if you are trying to avoid bread yeast in your daughter’s diet.

    We are heavy milk kefir consumers in our household for 1.5 years as of now, and I can tell you that Lex can now drink an entire chocolate milk, or eat an entire ice cream cone without any Lactaid of other digestive supplement and he has no issues whatsoever! 3 years ago I would never have believed this to be possible.

  14. Thank you again James for sharing your experience and the success you and your family have found in using Kefir grains to make kefir milk. What an amazing journey Lex has been on and what positive results he has experienced! And, kudos to you and your wife for continuing to search for a natural solution to his condition. You are laying such a healthy foundtaion for his health, I applaud you for this. And, based on your results I am definitely interested in learning more.

    Reason being – although we have experienced some mild success as of late – after eliminating cheese, yogurt and cow milk/adding in goat milk and almond milk – my success is being challenged by my spirited, sensitive daughter 🙂

    She has decided after almost 2 weeks that she does not like goat milk at all. Tonight she had a meltdown asking for cow’s milk at the dinner table. Ahhhhh, the challenges of trying to do the “right” thing for her eczema management, nutritional needs and food tastes. Poor thing – she is only 3.5, I don’t want her to be traumatized by this!

    So, that brings me back to why I am so interested in learning more about milk kefir. Here are just a few of my questions:
    -Do you make your milk kefir with cow’s milk?
    -Did you confer with your pediatrician prior to starting Lex on milk kefir, and if so, were they supportive? Any concerns they had?
    -Have you always made your own milk kefir or ever purchased at a natural foods grocery store?
    -Any tips for how to make it or good websites on this? Also, any special recipes Lex particularly likes? Or, do you just always offer it plain?

    Any insight and experience you can share is much appreciated.

  15. Hi Theresa,
    I apologize for my delayed response. I’ll spare you the excuses, but please accept my apology. Thanks for the praise on our efforts with Lex. I do think the results are validating and may past self would be amazed to see them.

    1) We use store bought organic cow’s milk to make our milk kefir. We avoid ultra-pasteurized milk and try to use whole milk whenever possible. My wife sells her rapidly reproducing kefir grains to folks that have had lots of success using them with goat and sheep milk as well.

    2) At two months Lex’s pediatric gastroenterologist strongly recommended that we give him Culturelle with Lactobacillus GG, this was even before the milk allergy was diagnosed. We never ran milk kefir by any of his pediatricians before we started it at age 3.5. My wife has infused it with the Lactobacillus GG strain and as a result we have stopped regular doses of Culturelle.

    3) We only make our own milk kefir. Everyone agrees that most any store bought milk kefir is significantly inferior in probiotics to what you can make yourself.

    4) I can send you the guide that my wife sends to her buyers (let me know if interested). It has some good instructions and a few recipes. The best website of all for kefir is Dom’s About Kefir in-site. Lex likes milk kefir most when we remove at least 60% of the whey (reduces lactose significantly) and make it like a yogurt consistancy. We often mix this with juice and make what he calls “milk juice”. He won’t eat it plain. Kefir absorbs flavors well and works very well with agave. If you have a yogurt lover you could easily make a fruity yogurt and sweeten with agave for a perfect dairy snack.

  16. Thank you, you have helped me a lot. I am a mom researching the milk allergy. My son is now 14 months and was breast fed for 13 months. He ate baby food since about 7 months old; and I had no problems up until now. He is starting to refuse it, but he will still eat it because that is all he really knows. He has had slices of Banana (that has been his favorite, he is my little monkey). I am introducing or starting to introduce solid foods. My family is going to have to change a lot, everything we ever eat usually has dairy!! So much food has dairy in it! So far I have given him soy powder formula in his baby cereal (he won’t drink it) but knowing that there is something else for calcium (Kals Crystal Calcium) I am grateful! I didn’t realize that Soy could also be an allergy with dairy; I wonder why the Drs give soy if usually an allergy to milk is an allergy to soy? He has not had the severe reaction to the soy like he did to cows milk the first time i tried it; well yo baby yogurt was the first (THAT WAS A SCARY DAY!! I am so Blessed to have him after that awful reaction!) Now researching I am amazed at how common this allergy is and how many recipes that are dairy free (I LOVE recipes!!)… This is a challenge but I am determined to give my little guy strong healthy foods to help him grow! Thank you, I can rest better now. 🙂

  17. Thank you for this information!! I have identical twin girls that are 3 and have just stopped drinking soy formula. One of them has a severe milk allergy. We learned through a trip to the ER that it is too risky giving one twin milk and not the other. Even with great efforts, things get cross contaminated with the milk. Soy, rice, almond milk in all favors have been rejected over and over again since they turned one, that is why we continued with the soy formula. (Buy the way, anyone who hasn’t tried chocolate almond milk…should! A new favorite of mine!) Anyway, lately, I have been giving them the gummy bear Ca supplements but now they refuse to eat them. They taste exactly like candy and they just won’t eat them! I am soooo glad to have discovered Kal crystal calcium through your website. I just ordered some and can’t wait to add it to their sippy cups. My pediatrician does feel it is important for them to get calcium and recommended the same amount as in your website for their age. He referred us to a specialist to learn tricks in adding Ca to their diets since I had tried all his tricks already. I am thankful to have found your website! Wish us luck!

  18. Hi James, I have just read your story and all the comments that have been left. Thank you for pointing out what is obviously very common in children these days….. Dairy intolerance.
    Kaian is 3.5 years old and was diagnosed at 8 months with a dairy intolerance and nut and egg allergy after suffering from reflux and eczema from 2 months old! He still suffers from the above alongside eczema (no sign of it going!), which flares up after eating anything with dairy or can be triggered off by weather, central heating, frustration, stress etc etc…
    He is currently drinking rice milk with added calcium but I was getting worried about whether he is having enough calcium as he only drinks a glass of rice milk a day if that!
    Can you advise what I can give him and whether the Kal C-Calcium would still be beneficial at his age? Doctors are useless and don’t seem to care…. they just say that he will grow out of it by the time he is 5 but I have little hope of that happening!!
    Please help!!

  19. Hi Evonne, you guys have our sympathies and prayers. As you have seen, we have been were you are now (more or less). Our little Lex is a big 6 years old now, and as so many told us years ago, he has outgrown his dairy and soy allergies. We hope that sharing this update renews your hope for Kaian’s future. Nevertheless, we don’t attribute his progress only to growing up and we actually attribute much of it to probiotics.

    After my wife read your message she felt strongly to tell you to give probiotics a good try. As you will find on this website, we have had very positive experiences with the Culturelle probiotic bacteria strains (Lactobacillus GG); however, in the past 3 years we have diminished our dependence on Culturelle in favor of the “homegrown” probiotics of Milk Kefir (link to more info). The promises of Milk Kefir are many and most of them have proven true for our entire family.

    Regarding Kal’s Crystal Calcium I can tell you that my son and wife continue to take it every day. My wife believes based on her own experience that this is one of the purest and most direct forms of calcium to take. One of the attributes that backs up this belief is the ease at which it can be dissolved (hidden) in almost any beverage. So please feel comfortable giving this to your son at any age. Best of luck to you guys, please keep us posted.

  20. Hi there, just wondering if you are still using Kefir and what are your thoughts on it. I am thinking of starting to make my own and would like a little advice.
    Thanks again

  21. Hi Philip, yes we still do it, but my son’s flexibility and tastes have changes. Now I am the main consumer of the Milk Kefir we make. I still get my son (now almost 8 years old) to take Culturelle as regularly as I remember. Luckily, his milk allergy is virtually gone as proven by a large ice cream he had on Tuesday and quarts of chocolate milk over the past month. But I still feel it important that he should get some Kefir in his system every once in a while.

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