Food Allergy in Infants and Children

Allergy to cow’s milk is particularly common in infants and young children. It causes hives and asthma in some children. In others, it can lead to colic and sleeplessness, and perhaps blood in the stool or poor growth. Infants are thought to be particularly susceptible to this allergic syndrome because their immune and digestive systems are immature. Milk allergy can develop within days to months of birth.

If your baby is on cow’s milk formula, your healthcare provider may suggest a change to soy formula or an elemental formula if possible. Elemental formulas are produced from processed proteins with supplements added (basically sugars and amino acids). There are few if any allergens within these materials.

Healthcare providers sometimes prescribe glucocorticosteroid medicines to treat infants with very severe GI reactions to milk formulas. Fortunately, this food allergy tends to go away within the first few years of life.

Breast feeding often helps babies avoid feeding problems related to allergic reactions. Therefore, health experts often suggest that mothers feed their baby only breast milk for the first months of life to avoid milk allergy from developing within that timeframe.

Some babies are very sensitive to a certain food. If you are nursing and eat that food, sufficient amounts can enter your breast milk to cause a food reaction in your baby. To keep possible food allergens out of your breast milk, you might try not eating those foods, such as peanuts, that could cause an allergic reaction in your baby.

There is no conclusive evidence that breastfeeding prevents allergies from developing later in your child’s life. It does, however, delay the start of food allergies by delaying your infant’s exposure to those foods that can prompt allergies. Plus, it may avoid altogether food allergy problems sometimes seen in infants.

By delaying the introduction of solid foods until your baby is 6 months old or older, you can also prolong your baby’s allergy-free period. Speak to your healthcare provider for specific instructions on when to add specific food groups to your child’s diet.