Signs and Symptoms of a Milk Allergy in Babies

Though milk allergies in babies are fairly uncommon, they can occasionally occur. Know the signs and symptoms to watch for, so you can help your little one navigate a potential dairy allergy.

Milk allergies aren’t common in babies, but they do happen. While your little one might not yet be able to tell you how they’re feeling or what isn’t agreeing with them in words, you know his or her moods and mannerisms better than anyone! If you’re seeing signs or symptoms of a milk allergy, it is a concern worth investigating with your baby’s pediatrician. Learn the signs and symptoms of a milk allergy, how it differs from lactose intolerance, and how to get your baby tested for a milk allergy.

What is a Milk Allergy?

Milk allergies are a specific condition where your child’s immune system identifies milk protein as a foreign invader and reacts to it by releasing histamine. It is most common in young children and can result in a long list of symptoms that may appear any time up to two hours after exposure to milk.

What are the Symptoms of a Milk Allergy?

The list of potential symptoms of a milk allergy in a baby is long and varied. Most commonly, there is swelling, a rash, and, in extreme cases, difficulty breathing. If your baby appears to have difficulty breathing for any reason, be sure to call 911 immediately. A more comprehensive list of symptoms can be found below:

  • Hives (urticaria)
  • Swelling of the lips, face, or eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy eyes, nose, or lips
  • Wheezing
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Noisy breathing
  • Swollen tongue and/or throat
  • Change in mood, including drowsiness
  • Dizziness

Milk Allergy Vs. Lactose Intolerance

While many people use the terms milk allergy and lactose intolerance interchangeably, they are actually two different conditions. A milk allergy is an immune system response to the protein in milk, while lactose intolerance is a digestive system deficiency when it comes to processing milk sugar (lactose). Since lactose intolerance is a digestive issue, its symptoms are most commonly associated with the gastrointestinal system and can include nausea, cramps, gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

How to Find Out if Your Baby Has a Milk Allergy

Determining whether your little one has a milk allergy can be handled in a few different ways, including a skin test, blood test, or a food challenge. A medical appointment with your pediatrician and/or a pediatric allergy specialist will be necessary for both the skin and blood tests. While a food challenge or test can be done without a doctor, consulting them prior to trying a food test for your little one is strongly recommended.

It's All About You and Your Baby, Mama!

Medela is proud to serve as a trusted partner of mothers around the world, offering research-backed advice throughout your prenatal and breastfeeding journey. Visit our Breastfeeding Guide to learn more, so you can be prepared to begin breastfeeding as soon as your little one arrives or work through any common breastfeeding challenges later.

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