What is a Milk Protein Allergy?

Milk protein allergy is best described as irritation or inflammation that occurs in a baby's intestinal tract in reaction to protein exposure.

Milk (and most foods) is made up of there major components – protein, fat and sugar. It's the protein part of the milk that gives allergic babies a problem. These proteins are made up of large chains of amino acids which are the building blocks of protein Sometimes the body reacts to certain sequences that these amino acids form and the result is milk protein allergy.

Whether or not your baby will react to milk protein depends whether or not his or her immune system perceives the protein as a problem. If it does it will recruit white blood cells to the lining of the intestinal tract. These white blood cells release chemicals making the GI tract red, swollen and ulcerated. This, of course, can cause your baby great pain!

The two proteins most often responsible for reactions in babies are those found in cow's milk – casein and whey. The protein whey used in standard infant formulas comes to cow's milk. It isn't intact or whole protein but it is cow's milk protein nonetheless.

Even if you are breastfeeding your baby you are not safe from passing on a cow's milk allergy to your baby. Infants can react to proteins found in our milk.

Between two and eight weeks of age the typical baby with milk allergies shows some combination of the following symptoms –

· Bloody stools – Infants with milk protein allergy often have blood-streaked stools. Not all blood in baby's stools is visible and you may have to have the stools analyzed to detect it.

· Mucus production – The colon, like the vagina, sinuses and lungs is a mucus-producing organ. When there is a milk protein allergy your baby may excrete thick, stringy mucus that mixes in with stools.

· Cramping and fussing – Babies with ulcerated intestines tend to be very crabby. That is because they are experiencing painful spasms in their intestines that may be dismissed as just colic.

· Diarrhea – When the bowel is not happy it produces diarrhea. Diarrhea is caused by the inflammation of the intestinal walls.

· Excema – This is dry scaly patches of skin that are found on the extremities. Dry weather and excessive bathing of the baby can make matters worse. If your baby's eczema is milk induced you will notice a marked improvement within two to four weeks after changing to a hypoallergenic formula. Infants with eczema due to milk allergy do have a more intense case of allergic inflammation.

· Wheezing and congestion – Like eczema, wheezing and chronic nasal congestion are often described as symptoms of milk allergy but in most babies they aren't a problem. For most babies the reaction to milk protein occurs at the lining of the intestinal organs.

If you suspect your child has a milk protein allergy consult him or her right away so your formula can be adjusted.