How To Deal With A Milk Protein Allergy

When your little one is ill, it can be really challenging as a parent. We don’t like to see our children uncomfortable, even if it’s just a cold. And, we always want to make it better somehow.

Recently, I’ve had a question relating to milk allergy in children, so I wanted to talk a little about this, for the benefit of other parents, who are dealing with the same issue.

Milk protein allergy is actually the most common food allergy in young children. However, most babies do grow out of it, by the time they reach two or three years old.

It is the milk protein, which causes the adverse reaction, and this allergy can actually develop in breastfed or formula-fed children.

For breastfed infants, though, it usually won’t become apparent until they are introduced to solids, although they were probably sensitized to it via small amounts of milk protein in the breastmilk.


Some of the symptoms of milk protein allergy, include:

  • Eczema, skin rash or flushed skin
  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Wheezing or coughing

Diagnosing Milk Protein Allergy

It is important to get a proper diagnosis from your doctor, if you suspect your child has a milk protein allergy.

I have recently been to see our family doctor about Elissa’s skin, and it seems she has mild eczema. However, prior to this visit, I had made an appointment with a local alternative therapist, for an allergy test. After making the appointment, I immediately began to wonder about the test they were going to perform on her, so I looked into it a little more, and discovered it is not a proven way to diagnose allergy and intolerance. You need blood tests for that, and so I cancelled my appointment, and made one with my own doctor instead.

My point is, I fully understand that it’s frustrating to see your little one in pain or discomfort. But, do think carefully about your choice of therapist. It has been my experience that there are a lot of “rogue” tests out there from so-called “specialists.” However, they can do little more than guess what is wrong with you or your child.

The last thing you want to do, is impose restrictions on your child’s diet, which are unnecessarily.

It is therefore important to get a clear evaluation of your child’s symptoms, because milk protein allergy is not the only cause of the symptoms I mentioned above. Your own doctor will be equipped to do this, and also recommend when you can re-introduce the allergenic foods back into your child’s diet, as well as give clear guidance on how to go about doing that.

Treatment For Milk Protein Allergy

Cow’s milk protein allergy isn’t difficult to treat, but it does take some diligence on your part to avoid milk and milk sources.


If you are breastfeeding, you do not need to stop breastfeeding, but you do need to remove dairy products from your own diet.

Small amounts of milk protein can pass over to your baby in the breastmilk. But, if you avoid dairy yourself, this will not happen, and therefore your breast milk continues to be one of the best things you can give your child.

Formula Feeding
If you are formula feeding, you will need to avoid cow’s milk protein, which is found in all regular formulas. Your doctor can recommend something suitable as an alternative (for example, Neocate is one option here in the UK).

Milk Protein Allergy: What To Eat

Your child (and you, if you are breastfeeding) should avoid all dairy products like cheese, yogurt, butter, and ice cream.

Processed meats, including hot dogs, sausages, and luncheon meats, frequently contain milk, or are processed on milk-containing lines. So, it’s important to scrutinise food labels carefully (see below).

Check food labels on sauces and packaged foods, as milk will often be used, and may be listed as casein, whey or lactate.

The words “non-dairy” on a product label indicate it does not contain butter, cream, or milk. However, this does not necessarily mean the food doesn’t have other milk-containing ingredients.

Ingredients to look for on food labels, include:

  • Artificial butter flavor
  • Butter, butter fat, buttermilk
  • Casein, hydrolysed casein, caseinates (ammonium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium)
  • Cheese, cottage cheese, curds
  • Cream, ice cream
  • Custard, pudding
  • Ghee
  • Hydrolysates (casein, milk protein, protein, whey, whey protein)
  • Lactalbumin, lactalbumin phosphate
  • Lactoglobulin
  • Lactose (you only need to avoid if you are extremely allergic to milk)
  • Milk (derivative, protein, solids, malted, condensed, evaporated, dry, whole, lowfat, nonfat, skim)
  • Nougat
  • Rennet casein
  • Sour cream
  • Sour cream solids
  • Whey (delactosed, deminderalied, protein concentrate), hydrolysed whey, whey powder, whey syrup sweetener
  • Yogurt, fromage frais

Other sources of milk, or milk products, include:

  • Brown sugar flavoring
  • Caramel flavoring
  • Chocolate
  • High protein flour
  • Lactic acid starter culture
  • Margarine
  • Natural flavoring

So, you may be wondering what you or your child can eat.

Well, it’s not all bad news. In fact, there are lots of dairy substitutes out there, it’s just a matter of trying a few different options, to find out what you like.

Here are some ideas:

  • Milk — rice, oat, soy, quinoa, and nut milks may be a good alternative to cow’s milk. Just try to pick one that is calcium fortified.
  • Spreads — dairy-free vegetable or soy margarine spreads may be used as a substitute for butter. Check out your local health food store, or supermarket to see what they have in stock.
  • Yogurt and desserts — soy based (non-dairy) yogurts and desserts can be a good option. As well as soy, oat, rice and hemp ice creams. Again, many of the independent health food stores are your best bet for these products. And, don’t forget to check online, too.

Alternative Calcium Sources
When you exclude dairy from your diet, it is also important to get other sources of calcium, wherever possible. Some of these include:

  • Leafy green vegetables, especially the darker varieties like broccoli, spinach, cabbage, watercress, kale and pak choy.
  • Fish (with bones) such as sardines — the bones are very soft in sardines, but should be well mashed first, if you are giving to your baby. Shelled prawns are another option.
  • Foods that have been fortified with calcium such as breakfast cereals, orange juice, tofu, as well as dairy-free milk, cheese, and yogurts.
  • Legumes — baked beans, kidney beans, lentils, etc.
  • Dried figs and apricots are a good source of calcium. As are oranges.

If you have been diagnosed as dairy (or lactose) intolerant, most of the information found on this page, about what to eat or not eat, will apply to you, too — just skip the section on breastfeeding and formula feeding!

Do you, or someone you know, have a milk protein allergy? How do you cope with these dietary changes?

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About Melanie
Melanie is a Registered Dietitian who started Dietriffic in March 2007. Her aim is to make good health attainable and sustainable, without guilt and torture, making her approach popular with those who desire a level-headed approach to good health. Have you got your copy of her free book yet?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

TheGourmetCoffeeGuy May 12, 2011 at 4:50 am

Read your post with great interest because this is an allergy one of our family members has and it is sometimes difficult to deal with it. Your post was very detailed and informative, really helps to understand facts around the problem. The alternative calcium sources section was very good. Thank you for sharing.


Melanie May 25, 2011 at 9:26 am

My pleasure. I’m glad it is of some use.


Danielle December 15, 2011 at 5:54 am

My daughter has a milk protein allergy that is off the charts – I could get into it all, but it’s a long and very painful story. The one thing I wanted to mention was that soy has a 99% protein match to milk so that one should be very careful with soy as well if a milk protein allergy has been diagnosed or is suspected. Soy can often be an even stronger allergen than dairy. Neocate has soy oil in it – even though it is refined it still proved a HUGE allergen for my daughter. The medical system completely failed us – it’s important to educate yourself. We could have avoided many, many months of anguish, pain and stress by simply adjusting my diet and continuing to nurse my baby.


Melanie December 21, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Hi Danielle,
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s so important for others to read this in case they have been experiencing something similar. Is your daughter okay with rice milk, for example?


Lindsay November 16, 2012 at 12:20 am

Danielle, I have a similar story. What type of diet did you follow? I am trying to reintroduce nursing to my son.


Sharda Ramachandran January 3, 2013 at 2:04 am

Thank you for the awesome post this is exactly the thing I needed to see!


Melanie February 7, 2013 at 10:46 pm

You’re welcome :)


thoko January 3, 2013 at 5:45 pm

i am 26 years old and have realised lately that i have milk allergy.. all these years i was just started now that when i drink products with milk i get sick…please help


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priyanka srivastava September 10, 2013 at 10:10 am

Hi I’m from Delhi my 4 yr old daughter is also affected from milk protein allergy I’m giving her tofu n Casine based milk but I heard that high amount of soy products are harmful it causes hormonal problem specially in girls is it true n plzz tell me what to give her in fat foods. As she is very thin

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