How does cow’s milk allergy affect family life at home?

red ribbon cmaParents’ experience of looking after a baby with cow’s milk allergy can vary, but most will say that it takes time to adapt their family life to accommodate their child’s food allergy.

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Speak to your healthcare professional for advice and support. On this page, you’ll find a few tips on life at home with your little one that you might find helpful.

A parent's guide to CMA

Life at home page functionality


How do I manage family mealtimes?

Once your baby moves onto solid foods, you may feel a little overwhelmed trying to encourage your little one to try new foods as well as catering for the different needs of the whole family. But a little planning can help to make mealtimes a little more straightforward:

  • Avoid running a “restaurant service” where you cook different meals for different family members – instead, prepare cow’s milk protein-free meals that the whole family can enjoy! Lots of family favourites are often naturally milk-free, like spaghetti bolognese or roast dinners – but obviously check the label of any food and drink just to be sure. But if a recipe does call for milk, for example to make a white sauce or rice pudding, simply substitute cow’s milk with a hypoallergenic formula specially designed for babies with cow’s milk allergy – this adds variety to your meals and helps to increase their nutritional value too
  • If you’re preparing a cow’s milk protein-free version of a meal for your little one, reduce the risk of contamination by washing cutlery and crockery thoroughly, using separate chopping boards, practising good hand washing, and discouraging your children from sharing glasses, plates or cutlery
  • Let mealtimes go at your baby’s pace – don’t rush a meal or force feed them, and let your little one decide when they have had enough
  • Include your baby in family mealtimes wherever possible, and get older kids involved in the shopping or food preparation too
  • When you’re planning and shopping for family meals, always check food labels carefully to make sure there are no hidden cow’s milk proteins – you might find this list of common foods to look out for useful

Which foods contain cow’s milk protein?


Brothers & Sisters

What about my other children?

Managing a baby with cow’s milk allergy can be more difficult when you have other children who don’t have an allergy. They may feel jealous of the attention that their allergic sibling is getting, so:

  • Explain to your non-allergic children why it’s necessary to manage their brother or sister’s allergy
  • Be inclusive – get all the kids involved in the cooking or shopping, and have the whole family eat together
  • Try to spend quality time with your non-allergic children too
Out & About

What snacks can I take out and about?

It may seem a little daunting taking your baby out and about, especially if they have cow’s milk allergy. But packing the right snacks can help you have a fun and stress-free trip with no allergic reactions – here are a few ideas for cow’s milk protein-free snacks:

Dont panic there are plenty

Cucumber or pepper sticks to dip in hummus

  • Popcorn
  • Ready salted crips or snacks that are cow's milk protein-free
  • Chopped fruit
  • Cow's milk protein-free finger sandwiches (e.g ham, milk-free cheese)
  • Rice or corn cakes
  • Marshmallows (if your child is not allergic to egg)
Baby's Sleep

How can I help my baby sleep better?

As with all babies, your little one may have trouble sleeping from time to time. A few suggestions might help:

  • If your baby keeps waking during the night, try to pinpoint if it’s because of too many daytime naps, separation anxiety, something that is upsetting them (e.g. losing a dummy), hunger, or something else
  • Try offering your baby a top-up feed just before bedtime to make sure they don’t go to bed hungry
  • Think about weaning your baby onto solid foods under the supervision of your doctor to make sure your little one is getting enough energy
  • Try adjusting your baby’s sleep position to see if this makes a difference
  • Don't let your baby get too hot so keep the room around 18°C and keep your baby’s head uncovered – use sheets or lightweight blankets which should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders
Parent's Sleep

How can I survive without sleep?

It’s never easy getting enough sleep with a new baby, but this can be even more difficult when you have an irritable or colicky baby with cow’s milk allergy. So, of course, try to grab as much good quality sleep as you can:

  • If your baby’s asleep, have a lie down too
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a partner, or friends and family, if they’re available, to give you a well-earned break
  • Remember to make time to eat properly yourself, and avoid too much alcohol before bedtime