Celebrity Corner

See TV star Jennifer Ellison’s CMA success story

TV actress and West End musical-theatre star Jennifer Ellison’s son, Bobby, was diagnosed with cow’s milk allergy (CMA) – she explains why she feels raising awareness is so important.

“I feel cow’s milk allergy needs more publicity and mums need to be aware of the condition, as the symptoms are hard to detect and people may just put them down to colic or asthma and don’t necessarily think of cow's milk allergy or even know about it.

I stopped breastfeeding when Bobby was around 6 months and he went straight onto formula milk. He then had a reaction, with a spotted, eczema-like rash around the mouth, as well as reflux and diarrhoea – plus he was really uncomfortable and agitated. Whenever I fed him he would bring the milk straight up again. Luckily for me, my mother-in-law had a lot of knowledge about CMA, because when my husband was a baby he had it.

I took Bobby to the doctor and suggested that it could be CMA. He referred him to a specialist who did a skin prick test to confirm the allergy. Fortunately, Bobby’s CMA was diagnosed quickly but if it hadn’t been for my husband’s mum, I would have probably put Bobby’s symptoms down to reflux.

Bobby was prescribed an extensively hydrolysed formula, and within a few days I could see a massive change in him which was such a relief – I got my old baby back!

I joined Babycentre.co.uk when I was pregnant and I used it to speak to other mums. When Bobby was diagnosed with CMA I noticed another mother describing the symptoms on the forum, so I told her to mention CMA to her doctor and it turned out that her daughter had CMA too!

I worry that mums think the symptoms are a sign that they’re doing something wrong so they feel like failures. My mother-in-law told me not to beat myself up about it which put my mind at ease a lot. Initially I panicked – I was terrified about what it would mean in the future; but it’s important that people know that if CMA is diagnosed it can be managed and that it’s something that can be dealt with.

Making mums more aware of CMA is something I am passionate about because nobody really speaks about it at all – and if we didn’t have it in the family I don’t know how long it would have gone undiagnosed.”