You’ve welcomed your baby into the world safely and you are thrown in head first into night feeds, nappy changing and endless sleepy cuddles. For most it’s simply a case of getting to grips with your new role as a mother/father however for some the first months into parenthood can be made more difficult by a CMPA (cows milk protein allergy).
What is a CMPA (cows milk protein allergy)?
A CMPA (cows milk protein allergy) is when your baby’s immune system reacts to the proteins in cows milk. It is the most common allergy in babies (affecting between 2%-7.5% of under ones) yet despite this, a lot of parents haven’t heard of it. I certainly hadn’t when my first son was born! (If you are unsure of the differences between a CMPA and a Lactose intolerance read What is a CMPA (Cows Milk Protein allergy) and how is it different to a Lactose intolerance?).
What are the symptoms of a CMPA (cows milk protein allergy)?
Typically symptoms of a CMPA (cows milk protein allergy) are:
- Skin reactions including itchy rashes or swelling of the lips, face and around the eyes
- Digestive problems – such as wind, stomach ache, sickness, colic, diarrhoea or constipation
- Eczema – that doesn’t improve without the need for intervention
- Hay fever-like symptoms – like a runny or blocked nose
(Some have delayed or instant reactions!)
CMPA symptoms can often be confused with other common baby ailments as well as a ‘Lactose intolerance’. This is perhaps why sadly my first born was undiagnosed until he reached 6 months. Being that we were first-time parents we were relying on medical professionals to help us. We had numerous visits to the doctor and health visitor throughout the first 6 months of his life yet none diagnosed him with CMPA instead we were told repeatedly that he had colic.
Something wasn’t right!
As a mum, I just knew something wasn’t right as his symptoms seemed to worsen as we increased the volume of formula he was having. We took all the advice given by doctors and health visitors, for example, we switched to a different formula, (one that was apparently easier to digest), winded him thoroughly making sure not to lie him flat after a feed and gave him sips of water, none of which helped. Infacol, gripe water and numerous treatments for colic were tried but with little success all the while he was getting more and more unsettled.
At 5 and a half months we had it under control to a degree but we were giving him ‘comfort milk’ (that has reduced lactose, making it easier to digest) with added Colief drops (that further reduces the lactose). Once I started to wean him off the Colief, sure enough, his symptoms returned (which apparently pointed to a CMPA). After a horrendous trip to A&E with severe constipation, we finally got a diagnosis… My son had a CMPA.
Getting a Diagnosis!
Getting a diagnosis really shouldn’t have taken so long in our case! We shouldn’t have had to wait until a trip to the hospital for the health professionals to listen as all the symptoms were there! Once we had the diagnosis, however, we were seen by the paediatric dietitian and got a hypoallergenic formula on prescription as well as a reintroduction plan.
The new formula quite honestly changed him overnight! His eczema cleared and his nappies were that of a ‘normal child’ shall we say!! Sadly, however, due to my little one being undiagnosed for 6 whole months, his stomach was so irritated it took us 18 months to be able to get him through the ‘Milk Ladder’ (See an example here). The good news, however, is that he did grow out of it and can now tolerate all dairy products with no symptoms (although the fact he doesn’t like cheese or milk is another story!!).
My other two boys were also diagnosed with having a CMPA (cows milk protein allergy). Luckily for us, as we knew the symptoms, we were able to get the diagnosis a lot earlier meaning much less irritation. With my middle son, it definitely helped with weaning on to milk products earlier. We’re not quite there with my youngest yet, he’s currently on stage one of the Milk Ladder but so far so good!
What to do if you suspect your baby has a CMPA (cows milk protein allergy)!
If you suspect that your baby has a CMPA it is advised that before taking any action, you see your doctor or health visitor for a referral to the Paediatrician/Dietician who will be able to access your individual case. (It’s worth noting that the health visitors can actually do a referral for this so is a useful option if you can’t get in to see your doctor.) As the NHS in the UK states…
If you think your baby is having a reaction to cows’ milk, see your GP to discuss your concerns.
They will be able to assess if your baby’s symptoms may be caused by a cows’ milk allergy or something else. Make sure you get medical advice before taking cows’ milk out of your child’s diet as it contains important nutrients.
Have you any experience with CMPA?
Has your child suffered from it?
Did you get the diagnosis you needed?
Please remember I am not medically trained and do not claim to be. This is based purely on my personal experiences with allergies as well as information provided on the NHS website. If you suspect that you need medical help or assistance, please contact the relevant medical/ healthcare providers. In any case of emergency, please call the emergency number (999 in the UK).