If your baby’s formula fed and has been diagnosed with a cows’ milk allergy, your doctor may prescribe a special kind of extensively hydrolysed formula. Here, the proteins in the milk have already been broken down into smaller pieces and your baby’s immune system doesn’t recognise it as an allergen. Rest assured that this process doesn’t affect the nutritional value of the formula, and it will still provide the wide range of vitamins and minerals that your baby needs.
It’s normal for your baby’s feeding patterns and habits to change when you switch to an extensively hydrolysed formula, and it may take your baby a couple of weeks to get used to their new milk. You may also notice that their stools may be different, becoming looser and greener in colour.
Many milks aren’t suitable for babies with a cows’ milk allergy. Soya-based products in particular, including soya based formula, are not recommended for babies under six months old. This is because they contain plant-based compounds with oestrogen-like properties known as phytoestrogens. Research has shown that 30–50% of babies who react to cows’ milk-based formulas might also react to soya-based formulas10,11.
Another type of formula unsuitable for babies with a cows’ milk allergy, is partially hydrolysed formula. These are widely available in supermarkets, and they often feature claims that they’re easier to digest12. However, their proteins are only partially broken down and can cause an allergic reaction.
If you’re concerned that your baby has a cows’ milk allergy and you want more information on diagnosis or the side effects of cows’ milk alternatives, it’s very important to consult your doctor or healthcare professional, and not self-prescribe with over-the-counter milk alternatives.