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  • Phyllis Lai

Milk Sensitivity in Infants

Phyllis Lai, HK BioTek Nutritionist

Milk sensitivity is an immune system response to milk protein that the body mistakenly believes is harmful. Once the immune system decides that milk protein is harmful, it creates specific antibodies to it. The next time the individual drinks milk or consumes dairy products containing milk, the immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals, including histamine and antibodies, in order to protect the body. These chemicals trigger a cascade of allergic symptoms. Anaphylaxis can occur and affect the baby's skin, stomach, breathing, and blood pressure.

Treating a Milk Allergy

For formula-fed infants, you may switch to soy-protein based formula. If infants cannot tolerate soy, you should choose a hypoallergenic formula or free amino-acid based formula, in which the proteins are broken down into smaller particles so that the formula is less likely to trigger a reactive reaction.

For breastfed infants, the milk protein may be transferred from the breastfeeding mother to a sensitive infant, therefore lactating mothers should put on an elimination diet to stop the milk protein crossing to the breast milk.


Antihistamine drugs are very effective in calming down the allergy reactions, such as itching. Creams containing steroids are useful for eczema but prolonged use of them may damage the skin.

Dietary Concerns

Although eliminating milk in the diet for 6 months is a very long process, it is the most effective way to reduce allergy symptoms caused by milk allergy. However, without milk in the diet, the nutritional needs of the body need to be met. The first concern is to get enough calcium in the diet. For milk substitute, such as soy milk could be chosen with added calcium. When babies are ready to begin eating solid foods as a complement to milk, foods containing excellent sources of calcium should be chosen. This includes green vegetables (broccoli, cabbage), fish with soft, edible bones (salmon and sardines), and seafood (oysters and shrimp).

Calcium cannot be absorbed without Vitamin D. Sources of Vitamin D include eggs, liver, and sunlight.

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