Since becoming a mother and joining a gazillion mother’s groups online, a few subjects seem to come up on repeat: 1) what to feed baby when the days of breastfeeding and formula are over and 2) chronic health issues such as cold symptoms, ear infections, tummy problems, and eczema. We all know that food and health are connected. Yet, when dealing with our child’s health, most of us moms are scared to try things out of the norm. These are our precious new babies and we don’t want to f*ck anything up. But we are also willing to go any length to make it all better.
And an answer to these common health issues I see on repeat: cut out cow’s milk. I’ve seen this method work for many breastfeeding mothers and also for many solid eating children. For my family, we never had the issue with cow’s milk as we live a plant-based life. We breastfed for 21 months and introduced nutrient dense foods between six to eight months. This worked for our family, but it doesn’t always work for others.
I wanted more answers to help parents dealing with possible dairy issues, so I reached out to naturopathic doctor Ashley Webber. When Ashley is determining if a child is sensitive to cow’s milk, she looks for the following recurrent symptoms:
Sniffles and cough
While having nasal and chest congestion for up to a week during a cold is expected, chronic congestion in a child that is not associated with infection is an uncomfortable nuisance. For children with chronic runny nose or chest congestion symptoms such as chronic cough, a dietary trigger, like cow’s milk, may be to blame.
Most children will experience tummy troubles, such as gas, constipation and diarrhea at some point. But when mild tummy troubles become ongoing consider diet as a possible trigger. Lactose intolerance is often blamed for digestive symptoms but it is uncommon in children under the age of 2 or 3. It may be the protein in cow’s milk (not the milk sugar lactose) that is the culprit.
Eczema is a skin condition causing a dry, itchy, red, and uncomfortable rash. The most common places for eczema in little ones are the face, neck, wrists, ankles, and bends in the elbow and knees. The exact causes of eczema are unknown, however flare-ups may be triggered by a food sensitivity, such as cow’s milk.
If the above symptoms are present, Ashley and her team at KABRITA recommend using a 7 day diet diary to track food intake and noting each symptom as they arise. Did you know that symptoms may take up to 3 days to appear? I didn’t! Thank you Ashley for the tidbit. If you are unsure if your child’s symptoms are due to food sensitivity, allergy or other cause, it’s always best to speak with your child’s health professional. But no matter what, that diet diary will help answer questions that your health professional will have.
When you determine that your child does indeed have a sensitivity to cow’s milk, it’s important to choose a good alternative. Almond, rice, or cashew milk may be delicious options for older children, but often lack important nutrients for toddler growth and development. Goat’s milk protein is naturally easy to digest, and may be a solution for children sensitive to cow’s milk. However, if your child does have a confirmed cow milk protein allergy, goat’s milk will not be suitable. For children under 2, goat milk may not provide adequate nutrients, so be sure to look for a product that is fortified. And remember, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least the first 12 months.
Have you or your child ever dealt with cow’s milk sensitivity before? What worked for you? Let me know your experience and tips in the comments please!
Ashley Weber is a board certified naturopathic doctor and works with KABRITA USA in Medical Education and Engagement. As a native Canadian, she received her bachelor of science degree from McMaster University, and went on to attend the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. Prior to joining KABRITA, she worked as an adjunct faculty member at Bastyr University California, and has guided many children and families to improve their health and wellness in private practice. Ashley has a special interest in pediatric and maternal natural health.