Our immune system works hard to protect us from infections by attacking the viruses and bacteria that can make us ill. An allergic reaction to food occurs when the body’s immune system responds inappropriately to something in a particular food. In the case of cow’smilk allergy (CMA) the immune system overreacts to one or more “proteins” contained in cow’s milk¹. CMA is the most common food allergy in early childhood, affecting 2-5% of infants¹. Symptoms are broad (e.g. diarrhoea, wheezing and eczema) and can be distressing for both the infant and their families.

The role of specialised nutrition

Breastfeeding makes sure that babies get the best nutrition possible to grow and develop healthily. Breastfeeding is also known to be very important for mother-child bonding. Although breastfeeding is best for children, CMA babies who are very sensitive, can have allergic reactions. This does not mean that they are allergic to breast milk itself, but rather they are reacting to the small amounts of cow’s milk proteins that pass from mother to baby in breast milk. If the mother feels that removing dairy from her diet isn’t possible, a healthcare professional may recommend that baby is switched to a specialised ‘hypoallergenic’ formula. Hypoallergenic formulae tend to come in two forms: extensively hydrolysed milk formula (eHF) and amino acid based formula (AAF). Unlike eHFs, AAFs are not based on cow’s milk, thereby reducing the possibility of a CMA reaction.²

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¹ DRAMCA. WAO Journal April 2010.

² Wood. Pediatrics Vol. 111 No. 6 June 2003.

³ Kwan P et al. Early identification of refractory epilepsy. N Engl J Med 2000:342;314-319

⁴ Freeman J et al. The ketogenic diet: a treatment for epilepsy in children and others. 2007. 4th ed. Demos, New York.

⁵ Neal EG et al. Lancet Neurol 2008;7:500-506.

⁶ Keene DL. Ped Neurol. 2006;35(1):1-3.

⁷ Henderson GB et al. J Child Neurol 2006;21 (3):193-198.

⁸ Kossoff EH et al. Epilepsia 2009:febr50(2)304-317.

⁹ Levy R, Cooper P. Update in Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;3:CD001903.