Milk Allergy

Archived Q&A and Reviews


14-month-old with milk allergy and mild wheat allergy

Jan 2003

Our 14-month old son has been diagnosed with a fairly strong allergy to milk and a mild allergy to wheat. He's still nursing, but we're thinking ahead to the day when he won't be any more, perhaps in three to five months. We're struggling with ways to feed him healthy, nutritious foods that don't exacerbate his allergic reactions. We're also hoping that he will lose his allergies as he grows up, but we're having difficulty finding good information on this issue. If anyone has experience with these childhood allergies, we'd appreciate learning more about how you dealt with it. Thanks and best regards. Bradley

While my own children do not have allergies, I have a multiply- allergic niece (2 yrs old), so I know it can be difficult. I've reviewed the archives, and noticed that nobody mentioned that you can be certain something is dairy-free if it is labeled KOSHER/PAREVE - typically indicated by the letter ''P'' after the O-U symbol (that's the letter U inside O) You'll still have to read lablels re: wheat. If the allergy is severe, you will have to be vigilant around other children as they carry around bottles and/or sippy cups of milk or formula. My sister-in-law found that even when the other child's parent is aware of the allergy, and says ''I'll watch them'', they often don't even notice that a cup of milk has been left within reach. She also carries Benedryl and an Epi-pen EVERYWHERE (there's one in the diaper bag, one in the car, one at home). Good Luck! R.K.

There are a gazillion (so it seems) websites that cater to those needing a wheat free/dairy free diet. This is actually a very common diet for autistic children, so a scan of websites catering to that population may be useful. Or you can just plug in ''wheat free, dairy free'' into google and see what comes up --, (gluten free casein free), among others. At this age, it is possible that your son will outgrow his sensitivities, especially if he is strict with avoidance over the next year or so. There are many whole foods nutritionists in the area who work with this issue often. Feel free to contact me or my office for a recommendation. Tara

Our son also had wheat allergies when he was little, as do I - his mom. Food allergies vary in degree of severity, and his manifested itself in the form of eczema mainly. In the adult version I get circles under my eyes and hives and weight gain. The good news is that there are lots of wheat free foods on the market. Some good places to buy them are Village market (Piedmont), and Whole Foods. Even Trader Joe's has Joes' O's cereal, which are like Cheerios without the wheat and other wheat free snacks like Pirate's Booty and Veggie Booty. You can feed your child rice crackers, non wheat bread (look in freezer section) and waffles, and even wheat free cookies etc. And rice is a great substitute in general for wheat... rice cakes, steamed rice, rice pasta etc. At the Berkeley Bowl I have also bought a baking mix from Arrowhead Mills that uses rice and potato flour instead of wheat and can be used interchangeably with regular wheat flour in all recipes I have tried. There are lots of people in the same boat, so you are in good company. The bad news is that a lot of foods contain wheat that you would never suspect, so you MUST read labels. Some sneaky wheat foods include things like chicken broth and soy sauce (you can get wheat free version). Luckily, our son outgrew his allergy by about 18 months, or at least the eczema part. He still eats a lot of rice and loves many of those wheat free products. He is however, sort of a picky eater, which I am not sure is related to the allergy, but for example he will not eat sandwiches and noodles (I was late in finding and giving him these wheat free versions) so do try to find as many wheat free versions of common foods like that as possible and present them early. Good luck! Cheryl

A note regarding the post concerning dairy and Pareve-labed products. The Food Allergy Network no longer recommends relying on Pareve-labed products for milk-free diets elisa

It is true that if something is certified kosher parve (or pareve) that it is dairy free. However, the U with the circle around it with a P next to it means that it is kosher for Passover, NOT DAIRY FREE!! Usually if it is dairy, it will have a D next to the OU (U with a circle, stands for Union of Orthodox Rabbis). If it contains no dairy but was made with equipment that is also used for dairy foods then it will say DE next to the OU. For a full list of kosher symbols, go to Katya

My son and I also have dairy allergies. I would first, strongly encourage you not to wean so soon. The breastmilk is an excellent source of nutrition for your child, especially in times of illness, when they aren't eating well. La Leche League has some books and groups about nursing toddlers. We use the Rice Dream brand calcium fortified rice milk. It is good for both drinking and cooking, except for packaged pudding mix, when it doesn't get firm. It is available at Andronico's and Berkeley Natural Grocery. It tastes pretty good, unlike some other choices. Good luck. Dairy Avoiding Mom

2-year-old with milk allergy

April 2002

When my daughter was born almost two years ago, it quickly became apparent that she had a dairy allergy. She breastfed, and if I had even a spot of milk in my tea, she would break out into a rash. We had thought she had outgrown the allergy, but we realize now that she as sensitive to dairy as ever -- the symptoms have just changed (eczema, congestion and sleeplessness).

I have never had a problem with dairy myself so I don't know much about how to cook and eat without it. After I bought some soy cheese that caused her to become symptomatic (I belatedly realized that it contained casein, the allergenic milk protein), I recognize that I'm going to need some guidance in navigating this new terrain.

What resources (books, cookbooks, people) do people know of that can help me educate myself about dairy allergy? I'm especially at a loss when it comes to baking, something I really enjoy doing. Is there a margarine-like thing that isn't full of hydrogenated oils? A good tofu baking book (I once had a vegan custard made of tofu that was delicious)? Also, she seems to do fine with goats' milk. Are there un-goaty tasting cheeses that would be toddler-friendly? Any advice on this issue will be greatly appreciated! -- Ilana

I have had good luck with ''366 Simply Delicious Dairy-Free Recipies'' by Robin Robertson. You can find good vegan foods at Whole Foods and Berkeley or El Cerrito Natural Food Stores--including fruit pies, chocolate pudding, delicious cookies and healthy margarine. Also, imported feta cheese is generally not made from cows milk, so that is another option to add to goat cheese. And, finally, cooking recipes from non-western countries will generally offer you a good selection of dairy free meals. Amy

My son was allergic to dairy up until the age of 3. He is no longer allergic at the age of 6. The milk allergy is commonly outgrown. The key is to keep your child off of all dairy. A good starting point is the Food Allergy Network. They are on the web at Here are some cookbooks: ''My kids allergic to Everything'' Dessert Cookbook' by Mary Harris and Wilma Nachsin. Books by Carol Fenster, she has at least two books. Fruit juices can be used as subst.for milk in some recipes as well as fruit purees. Do not worry the dairy allergy will be very managable. I know, my son is still allergic to wheat, rye and barley but he has outgrown both dairy and egg. The main effort on your part will be to make sure your child gets enough calcium and fat in her diet. Take care and please contact me. Elisa

Some people allergic to cows milk can handle sheep as well as goat milk and cheese. What I've found with goat cheese is that it stays fresh for maybe 2 days and then gets a goaty taste so you have to eat it quickly. There are some wonderful sheep cheeses that may work. One is called Pecorino (sp?) and there are a few different kinds of it. They are hard cheeses.There is a pretty good selection of sheep fetas and Pecorinos at Berkeley Bowl. My 7 year old does fine with the sheep cheeses though not with cow cheeses. June

I'm dairy free on and off, also w/ a sensitivity to casein. Rice and soy milks are nice alternatives. They make a good hot cocoa or chocolate milk esp. w/ ghiradelli ground chocolate (available at trader joes). In many quick breads canola oil is a good substitute for butter/margarine. In cookies applesauce or other fruit puree can substitute for fat. mashed tofu can give a cheesy consistency to pasta casseroles and lasagna. Oprah's spa cook book has a tofu cheese cake recipe in it and there's a cook book called ''I can't believe this has no sugar cook book' and it is also dairy free. The apple crumble and carrot cake are both very good recipes. I've made nice rice pudding w/ raisins and soy milk. in last wednesday's sf chron food section there was a recipe for vegan/raw mock parmesan cheese. I've always used a little of that when I wanted it. Jessica

I don't have any specific advice about dairy allergies, but I recently asked my allergist for advice (I'm concerned about my 9 mo. old having allergies) and his office referred me to these two resources: FEAST and FAN. I haven't checked them out yet, but maybe they will be of use to you. FAN stands for The Food Allergy Network. Their phone number is 703-691-3179, web site is FEAST stands for Food Education Allergy Support Team. Their web site is (I believe FEAST is a local organization and FAN is national.) Good luck! Aimee

My 3 yr old daughter is highly allergic to dairy also. We use Nucoa margarine (no whey) in place of butter and rice milk in place of milk. She is also allergic to Soy products and eggs, which makes cooking extra challenging. I have not looked into goat cheeses, but all others I've looked at either contain whey or casein (both cows milk proteins). For baking, I use rice milk and usually have to adjust the amount slightly for each recipe.

I apologize for any of this that might be redundant. My son was diagnosed with a dairy allergy quite recently, and I anted to add some of the observations I've made to this discussion topic.

First of all, allergies, unlike intoleramces, mean that even a trace amount of the offending food can cause allergic reaction. Dairy allergy contributes not only to symptoms like skin rash, runny nose, and exacerbated asthma symptoms, but also to microscopic-level intestinal bleeding, associated with severe anemia and nutritional deficiency.

Reading labels has brought me to the conclusion that I need to be on the alert for whey, casein, and milk, cheese, etc, even in the most unexpected foods. Post makes several dry breakfast cereals that include whey in the ingredient list. There are a couple of ways to bypass the possibility of forgetting to read labels or that a baby-sitter or relative will unwittingly feed the child something with dairy. The most time-consuming way is to prepare your own foods whenever possible. Oatmeal, for example, can replace breakfast cereal and is pretty coinvenient. It takes only a few minutes to cook, and if you buy the 100% oats, available in old-fashioned, quick, and instant varieties, you can be confident in serving a very nutritious breakfast made from a healthy whole grain, and YOU are the one who has control of whether to add sugar/honey and how much, which is another advantage over commercial sweetened cereals. Cream of wheat and cream of rice offer the same advantages.

The less time-consuming but more expensive option is to buy products labeled as VEGAN (not vegetarian). This way you are guaranteed that absolutely NO dairy or dairy derivative will be present in the food. This saves you the hassle of reading ingredient lists and the risk that the family refrigerator will harbor potentially harmful foods. It is easy for the whole family to remember that the child cannot have cow's milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc; it is not reasonable to expect everyone, including older siblings, to remember that most commercial spaghetti sauces, to name just one example, are equally unsafe for the child with the allergy. Buying vegan products takes care of this problem, as well as the problem of cheese and yogurt substitutes which actually contain whey and/or casein. It's really important to remember that lactose-free does not by any means mean dairy-free; sometimes even dairy-free products contain the proteins our children are allergic to. The way to go, then, is vegan. Wild Oats Market (now Picadilly Market) and Whole Foods are two stores where I've found a wide selection of such foods, as well as employees who are helpful and knowledgeable when it comes to shopping for the child who is allergic to dairy.

A related observation is that prices of these foods vary widely from sotre to store. Andronico's sells Edensoy Extra (soymilk fortified with calcium, etc) for 2.59 a box, whereas Picadilly sells the same product for $1.99 a box. So pay attention to prices, save and compare receipts, and try not to go bankrupt in the process of feeding your child. I've decided to stick with Edensoy, since it's nutritious and doesn't have the bitter flavor that some soymilks do. It's also organic and free of genetically modified ingredients. The added advantage of this product (and many other soymilks) is that it's shelf-stable, so that when it goes on sale somewhere, I can stock up on boxes. I don't recommend switching brands of soymilk too often once you've found something your child likes. Unlike cow's milk, one brand does not taste just like any other. In order to prevent your child from developing an aversion to soymilk altogether, try to stick with the first brand that she or he seems to like.

I hope these observations will be useful. Sara