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Your baby keeps crying while drinking milk? How should parents deal with this situation?

Michelle Lee, HK BioTek Intern

Some newborn babies have strong reactions while drinking milk - also their bodies full of rashes, having diarrhea or vomiting, even when they have not started eating solid foods. This may be due to the body’s sensitivity to the milk proteins in conventional infant formula. After the babies consume powdered milk, the milk proteins stimulate the body's reaction against it. The babies would have intestinal discomfort, and also body and skin allergies at the same time.

Among proteins in milk, 80% is casein and 20% is whey protein. Most babies are allergic to casein in milk proteins. Of course, there are also some babies allergic to whey protein in milk.

Adults who are sensitive to milk can avoid milk as much as possible. What should a baby do when their early meal option is “milk only”? Milk proteins have complex structures and they are difficult to be digested. Therefore, there are many hydrolyzed protein formula milks on the market. Breastfeeding is also another way to replace conventional infant formula milk.

Hydrolyzed infant formula is an infant formula that uses hydrolysis technology to disassemble milk protein into smaller protein molecules --- to be hydrolyzed milk proteins. Hydrolysed infant formula can be roughly divided into three categories:

  1. Pre-digested

  2. Partially hydrolysed

  3. Deeply disassembled or Extensively hydrolyzed milk proteins.

Hydrolyzed infant formula is clinically proved to be effective to reduce the infant's risk of milk allergies, especially eczema, by about 42%. However, studies have pointed out that hydrolysed infant formula with a higher degree of proteolysis does not necessarily imply that it largely lowers the milk allergenicity. Simply saying, highly disassembled or hydrolyzed infant formula may not be more effective in preventing baby’s allergies to milk proteins. However, it is still believed that hydrolysed infant formula helps alleviate the symptoms of milk protein allergies.


When children grow up, most babies who are allergic to milk proteins may develop a certain degree of tolerance to the allergens (milk proteins). Therefore, parents do not need to worry too much, and can rest assured that they can gradually let their babies to consume infant formula. Most importantly, breast milk is still the most ideal source of nutrition for babies. Mothers should consider breastfeeding if possible to reduce the occurrence of milk protein allergies. When parents suspect whether their children show the symptoms of milk protein allergies, they should consider taking their children for a food allergy test , in order to process detailed analysis.

The hydrolyzed infant formulas on the market must indicate that the infant formulas contain partial or deeply hydrolyzed protein on the food nutrition label. Parents should pay more attention when they are purchasing infant formula in stores. The smell and taste of hydrolyzed protein formula milk are slightly different from conventional ones. Hydrolysed infant formulas have less strong smell and taste, some babies might find it less tasteful or less attractive. Newborn infants may be more adaptable to those hydrolysed infant formulas, but for older babies or babies who drank conventional infant formula for a long time, it may take time for them to adapt.


  • Formula Options for Infants and Toddlers With Food Allergies

  • HKIA Guidelines for Cow’s Milk Allergy

  • The Role of Hydrolysed Formula in Allergy Prevention

  • Extensively Hydrolysed Formulas - Hydrolysis | Nestlé Health Science

  • Guidelines for the use of infant formulas to treat cows milk protein allergy: an Australian consensus panel opinion

  • Allergy to cows' milk protein and the appropriate use of infant formula

  • Do hydrolysed infant formulas reduce the risk of allergic disease?

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