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Milk Allergies

Milk Allergies & Weight Gain in Babies

By Amalah

Advice Smackdown ArchivesAmalah, oh help …

My daughter is allergic to milk: when-milk-touches-my-skin-I-break-out-in-hives allergic (no anaphylaxis, thank heavens!). At her one year doctor’s appointment today, she weighed 17.25 pounds. Up from 9 months, when she weighed … 17 pounds. She’s not a big gainer, that one. Her doctor said he’s not terribly worried, because she eats well and is very alert, active and looks healthy (I’ve been making all her food, inspired by someone who writes an advice column, hm, I wonder who that could be). He just said he would like her to show some healthy weight gain by 15 months, otherwise we’re looking at blood tests.

I’m nursing, which he thinks could be part of the issue, because sadly, there is no gauge on the sides of my breasts telling me how much she’s eaten, so who knows how my milk supply is (although I can hear her swallowing). She eats about a cup of food for each meal, plus a couple snacks. Meals consist of fruit or veggies with organic rice cereal, sometimes ground turkey mixed in. She nurses 3-4 times a day. What else can I do? Cook her veggies with olive oil? See if a stick of butter makes her break out? Go with soy milk? Doc also didn’t seem terribly concerned about the hives (although he hasn’t seen them) and told us to give whole milk a try (she’d only had ice cream and frozen yogurt – blasted grandpa!), which we did and ta-da! Hives. The only alternative he gave was soy milk.

So, help? Will she grow out of this? Is there a cumulative effect from milk exposure, meaning she’ll only get hives now, but it will be a full-blown reaction later? Will we see the glorious return of the knuckle dimples if we can just fatten her up?

Thanks!
I’m Itchy Just Thinking About It

GET THEE TO A NUTRITIONIST.

I’m kind of surprised your doctor didn’t mention that as a possibility or an option — we’ve had that suggestion brought up at a couple of Noah’s check-ups already, mostly because his diet is so danged picky and restrictive. His doctor just thought we’d find some extra diet advice helpful, and offered some local suggestions. I assumed that was a standard procedure for children with identified food allergies — especially for a milk allergy. Call your doctor back and tell him you’d rather NOT take the wait-and-see approach and would like some guidance NOW about how to handle the milk allergy and your daughter’s diet. Personally, I’d ask for an allergist and a nutritionist. An allergist with lots of childhood food allergy experience will be able to answer your questions about how to best substitute the milk proteins and fats…and whether she’ll outgrow the allergy. And hell, if it actually really IS a milk allergy and not a series of hive-y coincidences…I’d kind of prefer to know that before just going, OH HEY HERE’S SOME STRAIGHT-UP WHOLE MILK, LET’S WATCH WHAT HAPPENS.

(For the record, we spent a month trying to isolate what we thought was a food allergy in Ezra after a couple hive outbreaks. Turns out it was two separate and entirely unrelated — and completely harmless — viral rashes. I didn’t know viral rashes could manifest as full-on scary hives like that. I assume you had to cut all dairy out of your diet while nursing? Is she prone to eczema? These are all things to be talking to an allergist about, especially because if it IS a real honest-to-God allergy, you’re going to need more information and hidden-ingredient food-label education as your daughter moves on to more and more table food.)

Anyway. So besides all that, your daughter’s diet sounds really good! To me, in all of my armchair non-expert glory, it sounds like she’s getting plenty to eat, and is just a skinny little thing. I have two of those myself. And it’s SO COMMON to see very little weight gain between nine and 12 months. SO COMMON, which I guess is why your doctor is going with the “I’m not concerned…yet” stance of semi-non-helpfulness. Babies this age are incredibly active: crawling, cruising, even walking, and they’re just too BUSY for storing baby fat anymore. If it weren’t for the milk thing, I’d simply tell you to start adding in some Omega-3 fortified olive oil or margarine whenever possible, and start introducing more meats (chicken, lamb, etc.) and pour yourself some wine. But since she DOES have that allergy, I can’t help but think that there are EXPERTS out there who deal with this sort of thing ALL THE TIME and can quickly and easily get you the answers and advice you really want and need right now.

Readers, on the off-chance the OP’s doctor and/or insurance won’t cooperate, can anyone recommend some good online resources for parents of kids with milk allergies?

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If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected]

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Katie
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Katie

I could have written this letter. My 1 year old was given a stern talking-to at his well-baby visit last week, for only gaining 2 ounces since his 9 month visit. He has sensitivities to milk, soy, and eggs, so my diet over the last year has been pretty restricted. our doctor recommended that i add olive oil to all of his food, and have him eat avocado every day. I’m also nursing, but give him pumped milk at daycare, so I know how much he’s getting, and it’s A LOT. I’ve also changed my approach to food from “it’s… Read more »

Bethany
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Bethany

By trial and error in the 1st month, we discovered my son couldn’t tolerate dairy. By the time he was 5 months old, I had him allergy tested (against the pediatrician’s advice) and found out that he has an egg allergy. He didn’t test positive for milk, but after more experimenting, he doesn’t tolerate it. Also through extensive food journaling, I’ve found he can’t do berries or carrots. I COMPLETELY understand how scary hives are. My son had a couple really bad bout of them too. I got him to an allergist and they recommended http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org. It’s a very helpful… Read more »

Stefanie
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Stefanie

My 9 month old has milk allergies too along with poor weight gain.  She’s around 16 pounds.  We noticed quite a bit of weight gain when we started her on chicken fingers (I make my own with crushed up kix for a coating) and avocados.  I counted her calories for the day and she is getting around 1500, so I try not to worry too much about her small size.  We have a pediatric gastroenterologist that we see which has been SO MUCH more helpful than our pediatrician, who was wonderful, but had reached the limit of her knowledge.  I… Read more »

Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

We are in the throes of food allergies. My daughter had major swelling of the lips from one bit of baba ghanoush that necessitated a trip to the ER (eggplant dip) — turns out she’s severely allergic to sesame. She also breaks out in rashes from eating peas and has tested positive for other legumes — lentils and chickpeas. I would definitely recommend talking to an allergist. My pediatrician wasn’t sure it was necessary, but we pushed after the blood test results came back. We’re now about to do some food challenges, when we give our daughter some suspected food… Read more »

Christine
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Christine

Amy, Are you sure you aren’t a pediatrician in real life? 😀 I agreed with pretty much everything you’ve said.  I’d just add in a few things.   1) Try to make sure that nutritionist is familiar with pediatrics.  While nutritionists are all familiar with adults, kids (especially toddlers with their food transitions and special needs) are definitely different.  I have issues even in my pediatrics unit when the pediatric RDs go on vacation and the adult RDs sub for them.  It just doesn’t work, they get very confused by the needs of a growing child.  Most children’s hospitals will… Read more »

Rachel
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Rachel

Don’t get thee to a nutritionist; get thee to a Registered Dietitian. Any fool can say they are a nutritionist, since its not a legally protected title. Registered Dietitians have to complete at least a bachelor’s in nutrition (your nutritionist doesn’t even have to have a high school diploma, most dietitians have master’s degrees nowadays) and a dietetic internship where they gain hands-on experience in a variety of dietetic settings. These internships and university programs are regulated by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. CDR also keeps track of all the continuing education hours required to continue to be an RD.… Read more »

lolismum
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lolismum

You can certainly add more meat to her diet. And fish. She should be able to eat salmon or some other fatty fish. Also, at this point (1yr), you can move away from the tasteless steamed veggie/ mashed fruit meals and move towards regular table food, mashed up with a fork or pulsed in the blender for ease of eating. I would make rice with a little olive oil (and season it) and I would make meat stews with lots of veggies and a little olive oil. The whole family ate the same thing. You can buy a whole chicken… Read more »

Chaya
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Chaya

We have a bunch of food allergies that manifest in eczema, and I would echo the nutritionist, and seeing a specialist (we actually used a pediatric immunologist after being pretty disappointed with the allergist we originally saw).
It never hurts to have experts involved, although your ped is probably right, that if she is developing nicely the weight is not a huge thing per se.
Good luck!!!

Rachel
Guest
Rachel

Also: nutritionist and registered dietitian are not interchangeable terms.

Amy
Guest
Amy

If it is an allergy, you might want to find out if it is an allergy to milk, or lactose. My 2 1/2 year was reacting badly to milk when I weaned him, and we have had great success with lactose free milk. Sometimes goat’s milk is easier too. It is supposedly more similar to human milk than cow’s milk is. My boys were very skinny for their first year (9 month old weighed in at 16 1/2 pounds at the last visit), but my older son turned into a giant at around 1 1/2. He loves eating, and the… Read more »

Samantha
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Samantha

I’m not sure I can offer advice, but maybe something about my experience will help. I have a 2 year old daughter (25 months). She’s really small too. At 9 months she weighed 16 lbs 8 oz and at 12 months she weighed 17 lbs 12 oz. So whereas she was gaining like a pound a month before that, she only gained one pound in 3 months. Like Amy said, I think this is really normal. My daughter had a milk allergy until the age of 15 months. My understanding is that most children outgrow milk allergies by 1 year,… Read more »

HereWeGoAJen
Guest

I certainly think that the specialists are good ideas. But my daughter gained only two ounces between nine months and one year. She learned to walk at nine months and kind of shot up and slimmed down. And she was sensitive to milk (red marks around her mouth when I fed it to her and hives once when I got a little loose with the cottage cheese) but she grew out of that around eighteen months. Of course, her sensitivity was never that bad. She could handle a little milk or cheese, so I just kept giving it to her… Read more »

Alison
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Alison

This all sounds familiar to me too. I can tell you what we did: 1. Didn’t worry at all about the weight gain. I’m skinny. I was a skinny kid. My kid was skinny. 2. Attributed the lack of weight gain to starting to walk a bit on the early side. 3. Did soy milk for a while- my ped recommended the Edensoy Plus type, which is the most fattening. While there are non-soy options (rice milk, etc) they are not nearly calorie or nutritionally dense enough for a little one. 4. Kept checking, a little, on the dairy allergy.… Read more »

mk
Guest
mk

Keep breastfeeding! My sons have all had MSPI (milk soy protein intolerance). The older 2 “outgrew” the “allergy” by 15 months. There are several cookbooks for mama’s to adjust their diet and babies. If it is a milk protein intolerance they will outgrow it. If it is a true allergy to milk, they ususally outgrow it a little later. Go to an RD. Check out some MSPI recipe blogs for helpful tips. I would avoid soy milk- I drink almond milk, gives kiddos coconut milk yogurt. Good luck.

Jaymee
Guest
Jaymee

Here’s my question…… What does it mean when your kid breaks out in a bottom rash after having milk, but nothing happens when he eats cheese/yogurt/breastmilk(and I drink a lot of milk myself)? Is that still a milk allergy? I know it has to be caused by the milk, because we did the ‘give him some milk and see what happens’ thing. Everytime we gave him milk, his next diaper change was accompanied by a rash on his butt. Milk = rash Cheese/Yogurt/Breastmilk = no rash.

Jen
Guest
Jen

When you talk to an RD ask them about coconut milk. Many people with milk allergies use it as a substitution for certain things with great results. It’s fatty but its healthy fat and fat is good for babies. Check out http://www.thenoureshinggourmet.com. The girl who writes it has young kids and talks a lot about nourishing foods in general and I’ve seen a bunch about dealing with dairy intolerance/allergy. 

I'm Itchy
Guest
I'm Itchy

Thanks for all the advice! I’ve been so worried and it’s great to actually have some ideas to go off of. All the advice helps tons. Oddly enough, I did cut dairy out of my diet for a while, thinking it would help with gas, but I’ve been eating dairy now for several months without any problems. Oddly enough, my mom had to go off dairy when she was nursing me and my two siblings, but none of us have milk issues now. Now, my daughter DID have major eczema at 2 months that landed us in the ER of… Read more »

I'm Itchy
Guest
I'm Itchy

Oh, and we’re close to a wonderful pediatric hospital, so I hope finding an allergist will be easy. And covered by insurance.

Kathie
Guest

This all sounds very familiar to me, as well. My son (now 2) was allergic to milk protein at that age, and just wasn’t gaining weight, how ever much he ate. In the case of a milk protein allergy, soy milk is also contra-indicated, as the proteins are apparently very similar. Our dietician did however recommend giving goat’s milk a go, as the protein in that is apparently very different and much easier to digest. I started out by using it, as I was still breastfeeding at that point as well, and then I started trying Toby on it directly,… Read more »

Me
Guest
Me

This exact same thing happened to our daughter – huge, scary hives all around her mouth when we first introduced milk. So we stopped, saw our family doc, who referred us to the pediatric allergy clinic at our hospital. It took 2 months to get a n appointment and we did soy etc all the time until then. And we saw the doctor, who was convinced it sounded like a milk allergy, did the tests…and….it wasn’t! He said that babies can grow out of allergies extremely quickly and in his view she was allergic but had grown out of it.… Read more »

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

Whole milk gave my daughter diarrhea and she really just didn’t like it (threw her cup when I gave it to her). I drink almond milk, but she didn’t like it. She didn’t like coconut milk, either. I gave hemp milk a try and she LOVES it. It has a good amount of fat per serving and has no known allergens. It is pretty expensive but we can deal with that since my daughter only drinks ~16 ounces a day AT MOST. Anyway, the OP might find it worth trying.

http://livingharvest.com/hemp-101/nutrition

NinaN
Guest
NinaN

My understanding is that hives is in the same family as an anaphylactic reaction and repeated exposure to the allergen could lead to one. If it was a rashy reaction (such as eczema) than it would just be a skin reaction. Luckily, the only food allergy that we deal with is strawberries (???) and it “only” causes eczema. I’d be going to an allergist and getting an epi pen if I were you.

Allyson
Guest

Not sure if little babies are allowed this, but two words: Coconut Milk. It’s fatty, good for you, and doesn’t have soy, dairy, eggs or wheat-all of which I react to (not to mention onions-aren’t I a joy to eat with?) Thank god my dairy allergy is mild-so I can cheat on it. I eat coconut milk ice cream (and almond based ice cream, too) and it’s pretty good. Might be something to consider? Whole foods even sells it in cartons, milk-style in DC, where allergies apparently rule the world.

Tiffany
Guest
Tiffany

Whooo Boy – another person in the dairy allergry club! <— this is my attempt to make this a cool club. Did it work? I have been dairy free while breastfeeding since Oct, my son just turned one we had blood testing done and soy was negative and dairy was equivical not positive, not completely negative BUT there are lots of false positives and we have never had hives, he had all GI symptoms, gass, blood in the stools, etc. Anyway what have I learned in a year?? KEEP BREASTFEEDING! The older your baby gets the more your breastmilk becomes… Read more »

Crystal
Guest

Hey, sorry I’m late to this smackdown. I actually KNOW STUFF!!! My best advice to the LW is to get a referral to a gastro. They’ll check your baby’s poop for signs of allergy (usually blood…even it’s invisible to the naked eye, as my daughter’s was). The four most common baby food allergies are… 1-Dairy (and OY is it in EVERYTHING) 2-Soy 3-Nuts 4-Egg I’m somewhat surprised that given your daughter’s issues with milk you haven’t been told to go non-dairy which were the first words out of my daughter’s gastro’s mouth. If you want to keep nursing, you might… Read more »

Tina
Guest
Tina

I wish I would have seen this earlier! You got a lot of good advice, and I just wanted to mention a few pieces of my daughter’s story to try and be reassuring. She was diagnosed (by a pediatric allergist/immunologist) with allergies to milk and eggs when she was around 14 months old. I was still nursing her – thank goodness – and I went on the dairy-free egg-free diet too. She was simultaneously diagnosed with failure to thrive – she weighed right around 13 lbs. And we were told that in addition to dropping dairy and eggs, we needed… Read more »