Cows Milk Smile smallerTreatment of cow’s milk allergy (CMA) involves removal of all foods containing cow’s milk protein from the diet. Cow’s milk and dairy products, however, are an essential source of calcium, energy, protein and other nutrients.  For children that need to avoid cow’s milk due to allergy it is important to include a non-dairy substitute to ensure they receive all the nutrients they need for growth and development.

If you are breastfeeding …

Breastmilk is the best nutrition for babies. It helps prevent infections, may prevent development of other allergies and protects against a number of diseases later in life1.  Although it is uncommon, some exclusively breastfed babies will still develop cow’s milk protein allergy. This is due to the cow’s milk protein that is eaten in the mother’s diet, passing through the breastmilk to the baby2.

After diagnosis of cow’s milk allergy, some breastfeeding mothers may need to remove cow’s milk protein from their diet3. It is important that you confirm this with your child’s medical specialist before making any diet changes.  If elimination of cow’s milk protein is needed, it is essential that you replace milk and dairy products with non-dairy alternatives in your diet.  This will ensure that both you and your baby receive enough calcium and other important nutrients that are found in dairy products. You may be referred to a dietitian to help you through this process.

If your baby is bottle-fed …

If you are feeding your baby a formula already, there are many alternative low allergy formulas available.  These range from formulas containing ‘broken down’ cow’s milk protein (known as extensively hydrolysed formulas) to formulas that contain no cow’s milk protein at all, called amino acid-based formulas (AAF). Most babies do not react to extensively hydrolysed formulas and can manage cow’s milk protein allergy with this formula2. For particularly sensitive babies they may require an AAF.  Please consult your healthcare professional (doctor or dietitian) regarding suitable options.

If your child is eating solids….

If your child has started on solids, the treatment of cow’s milk protein allergy involves removing all foods containing cow’s milk protein from the diet3. If your child is under 12 months of age they will still need to continue breastmilk or a low allergy infant formula in addition to solids1.

Cow’s milk is found in many of the foods we eat. Children with cow’s milk allergy will need to avoid all dairy products, like milk, cheese and yoghurt. Cow’s milk protein is also often found in many processed foods so it is important to learn to read food labels and check them carefully. As dairy provides calcium and other nutrients, alternative sources of these foods need to be included in your child’s diet. An Accredited Practicing Dietitian can help guide you through this process and advise you on the right non-dairy substitutes.


when cows’ milk protein is removed, it is important to include a dietary substitute that provides the same nutrition


  1. National Health and Medical Research Council. 2012. Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines: Information for Health Workers. Australian Government. Viewed 2 June 2016.
  2. Vandenplas et al 2007 Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of cow’s milk protein allergy in infants’ Arch Dis Child Vol 92 pp: 902-908
  3. 2013. Dietary Avoidance- cow’s milk protein (dairy) allergy. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Viewed 2 June 2, 2016.