Baby food allergies

If your child has a food allergy, the body's immune system mistakes particular foods as harmful. An allergic reaction to food can cause a whole range of symptoms.

About 2 to 5% of children are sensitive to certain foods but many more parents suspect that a food is causing problems for their baby or toddler. The foods that most commonly cause problems are milk, eggs, soya, fish, wheat and peanuts. Many children grow out of their food allergies by 12 months so it is important that their condition is monitored carefully to ensure special diets are not continued for longer than needed.

Baby food allergies - the symptoms

Symptoms of immediate-onset allergy may occur up to one hour after a food has been eaten and include skin itching, rash, vomiting, angioedema (severe swelling caused by fluid gathering beneath the skin's surface) and anaphylaxis (a whole-body allergic reaction that occurs suddenly). Delayed onset reactions are harder to diagnose and may not appear until hours or days after the offending food has been eaten. Possible symptoms include eczema, chronic diarrhoea, colic, tummy ache and slow growth.

Diagnosis

Food challenges are an integral part of diagnosis in order to:

  • Detect a specific food that causes symptoms – a positive result confirms the need to exclude that food from your baby’s diet
  • Prove that a specific food is not responsible – if there are no symptoms then the suspected food does not need to be avoided

Once diagnosed, a food that is causing your baby symptoms should be avoided altogether.  And if you’re breastfeeding you may need to exclude foods from your diet too. However, if you exclude milk and milk products from your diet you should take a calcium supplement to make sure you don’t become deficient.

Advice from a registered dietician is recommended to ensure your child’s milk and weaning food intake continues to provide all the necessary nutrients for growth and development.

Excluding cows' milk protein

‘”Extensively hydrolysed infant formulas’”, as they are known, are formulas where the milk protein has been broken down into much smaller pieces. This allows your baby to have plenty of protein in their diet, but the smaller pieces will no longer cause an allergic response.

These milks have an unusual taste and young babies accept them quite readily, but older babies might find the taste less acceptable.

Other milks

  • Amino acid infant formula – if an improvement in symptoms is not seen you could try this formula
  • Soya formula – these are not recommended for babies under six months as they may cause hormonal problems
  • Calcium enriched soya milk – ideal to try if your baby is over a year old
  • Oat or almond milk – when these milks are used, dieticians recommend you also give your baby a vitamin and mineral supplement, as these milks cannot be directly substituted for cows’ milk
  • Rice milk  – this milk is no longer recommended for children under five as  some have been found to contain small amounts of arsenic.

Please be aware that the information given in these articles is only intended as general advice and should in no way be taken as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you or your family or your child is suffering from symptoms or conditions which are severe or persistent or you need specific medical advice, please seek professional medical assistance. Philips AVENT cannot be held responsible for any damages that result from the use of the information provided on this website.

Related products

Related advice

Milk Allergies

Milk Allergies

Baby colic - what you need to know

Baby colic - what you need to know

Advice for Bottle feeding

Advice for Bottle feeding

Starting solids

Starting solids