What is Cow Milk Protein Allergy in Babies

Cow milk protein allergy occurs when an infant is allergic to cow milk protein. The reaction triggers when the breastfeeding mother consumes cow milk or feeds the baby with the formula for bottle-feeding that contains CMP. The symptoms could appear before or after the baby is weaned. The majority of the time, this type of allergy affects infants within the first year of their life. Most of them grow out of it as they age.

Today, we are going to discuss what causes cow milk protein allergy, its symptoms and how it can be managed. Continue reading to find out.

Is Cow Milk Protein Allergy common in babies?

Cow Milk protein or CMP allergy affects 7% of the infants. This happens when these babies are fed with formula or breast milk that contains cow milk protein. Only 0.5% of the breastfed babies are affected by this condition. This is one of the most important reasons why mothers are asked to breastfeed for at least 4-6 months of an infant’s life.

What makes infants more prone to the allergic reactions caused by CMP?

It has also been observed that babies with a family history of cow milk protein allergy are mostly affected by this condition. It also affects infants who suffer from other health conditions such as asthma and eczema. It causes severe reactions in babies with asthma especially if his condition is poorly managed.

What Causes CMP Allergy?

An allergic reaction is caused when a person’s immune system mistakes cow milk protein for a foreign invader. It attacks the allergens just as it would attack a foreign entity like viruses and bacteria that cause health problems. When this happens, chemicals that trigger the allergic symptoms are released in the bloodstream. This abnormal response of the body to Cow Milk Protein is known as CMP allergy.

Two types of components constitute milk. These components include:

  • Casein:

It results in the formation of curd as the milk gets sour.

  • Whey:

Whey protein is what is left when the formed curd is removed.

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Both of these components contain a variety of proteins. Any one of them can cause an allergic reaction in the body. Since everybody is different, CMP causes a variety of allergic reactions based on the type of chemical released as a response. These reactions can be divided into different categories.

Types of reactions caused by Cow Milk Protein allergy:

The allergic reactions caused by cow milk protein allergy can be divided into the following categories:

Reaction caused by Immunoglobulin E (IgE):

This type of reaction is caused when chemicals such as histamine are released into the blood in response to Cow Milk Protein allergy. The symptoms caused by this reaction show just within 20-30 minutes after CMP consumption. In rare cases, it takes around 2 hours for the symptoms to show.

Symptoms caused by Immunoglobulin E (IgE) reaction: 

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Skin reactions:

  • Itchiness
  • Skin redness
  • Itchy rashes
  • Swelling around face

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Gastrointestinal reactions: 

  • Lip swelling
  • Tongue swelling
  • Swelling in the mouth palate
  • Mouth inflammation
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Diarrhea

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Respiratory reactions:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Itchy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion


Reactions caused by Non-immunoglobulin E:

This type of reaction is thought to be triggered by T-cells. These symptoms take up to 48 hours to show after Cow Milk Protein has been consumed.

Symptoms caused by Non-immunoglobulin E reaction: 

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Skin reactions:

  • Itchiness
  • Skin redness
  • Eczema

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Gastrointestinal reactions: 

  • Constipation
  • Acid reflux
  • Refusing food
  • Frequent stools
  • Colic symptoms

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Respiratory reactions:

  • Wheezing
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath


Reactions caused by both IgE and non-IgE:

This type of reaction occurs when both immunoglobulin E and non-immunoglobulin E combine to cause allergic symptoms.

The confusion around cow milk protein allergy:

The majority of the time, CMP is confused with lactose intolerance which is an entirely different condition. Lactose intolerance occurs when the enzyme that absorbs milk sugar is absent or insufficiently present.

In severe CMP allergy cases, the infant might experience an anaphylactic reaction. This type of reaction needs urgent medical care as it can prove to be a life-threatening condition for the child. If you find your child experiencing shortness of breath or floppiness, you need to call an ambulance immediately. This might have happened because cow milk protein consumed is not absorbed which has led to severe complications. Poor nutritional intake can also cause this reaction which in severe cases leads to chronic iron deficiency anemia.

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Symptoms of cow milk protein allergy:

Following are the symptoms caused by cow milk protein allergy:

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive crying
  • Scaly rashes on the skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Coughing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Baby frequently spits up
  • Blood in stool
  • Irritability after feedings
  • Hives
  • Colic-like symptoms
  • Signs of abdominal pain
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling
  • A bluish skin color
  • Trouble breathing

Symptoms caused by lactose intolerance:

Following are the symptoms caused by lactose intolerance:

  • Spitting up
  • Stomach Bloating
  • Colic symptoms
  • Inability to gain weight
  • Crying
  • Irritability
  • Restricted growth
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas

How to diagnose Cow Milk Protein allergy?

The majority of the symptoms displayed by the child with CMPA resemble how he would normally behave. This makes it hard for the condition to be diagnosed. One of the most common symptoms caused by CMPA is constant crying and regurgitation. This condition also causes the baby to stay up all night and have a runny nose. One of the best ways to differentiate Cow Milk Protein allergy symptoms from the normal behavior of the infant is to observe whether or not the symptoms appear within two hours of consuming cow milk. If they do, you need to consult a pediatrician. In several cases, it takes from 2 days to a week for the symptoms to appear.

How to manage cow milk protein allergy in infants?

CMP can be very distressful to deal with for the new parents. However, by keeping a close eye on the behaviour of your child, you can avoid complications. Once the condition is diagnosed, it gets easy to manage the symptoms. This means the more seriously you take the problem, the easier it is to manage. If you feel your baby is suffering from CMPA, you need to see a doctor. He will suggest the necessary tests before diagnosing the condition.

Following are the ways parents can manage CMP allergy their child is experiencing:

Switching to elimination diets

The first step to manage CMPA is to eliminate everything that contains cow milk protein from your child’s diet. You need to switch your child’s normal diet with an elimination diet. You need to feed your child with hydrolysed formula within which the protein components are broken down into smaller parts. This makes food easily digestible for the child with the allergy. Hydrolysed formula suits more than 90% of the infants suffering from cow milk protein allergy. If it doesn’t suit your child, you should switch to the formulas that contain amino acids after consulting your doctor.

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Inject Epinephrine

Sometimes cow milk protein allergy results in severe allergic reactions also known as anaphylaxis. This leads to lowered blood pressure, hives, shocks or inflammation. This condition requires urgent treatment. If this happens to your child, the doctor should inject him with epinephrine. These injections are available in the form of an epi-pen or auto-injecting pen.

Elimination of CMP from the mother’s diet

Another important measure to take while trying to manage CMP allergy symptoms is to eliminate the type of foods that contain soy and dairy from the breastfeeding mother’s diet. These proteins make their way into the baby’s bloodstream when he feeds off breast milk. You can get a diet plan specially designed to help you eliminate those items from your diet that might trigger allergies in your newborn. However, make sure your dietary requirements are met by consuming protein from other sources.

Is it possible for the baby to outgrow cow milk allergy?

The majority of the children who suffer from cow milk protein allergy as infants eventually outgrow this condition. According to various studies, the majority of infants who experience non-IgE-mediated reactions will outgrow their allergy when they reach three years of age.

The symptoms in the majority of the Infants who experience G-mediated reactions prevail until they are five years old. Research has proven, this condition persists in the children who suffer from underlying health problems including allergic rhinitis or asthma. More severe symptoms appear in those who have higher milk-specific IgE antibody levels. Cow milk protein allergy rarely affects you as an adult.

Final word

Cow Milk protein allergy is a condition that affects one in fifty infants. The symptoms caused by CMP can range from mild to severe. Complications arise when this condition goes undiagnosed for long. However, once identified cow milk protein allergy can easily be managed. You can boost your baby’s diet with special formulas that relieve the symptoms caused by cow milk protein allergy. You can get these formulas on a discount when you shop for a newborn. You will find various websites that sell hydrolyzed formulas for cheap by offering discount coupons and promo codes to their customers.