Skip to content

Can Babies Be Allergic To Formula? Signs & Symptoms of Baby Formula Allergy

Table of Contents

Baby Allergic To Formula

Table of Contents

Have you witnessed your baby vomiting, coughing, or having diarrhea after consuming infant formula? It may be because your baby is allergic to formula. Before we get into the signs and symptoms caused by formula, let’s first read and learn what a formula milk reaction is.

What is Formula Milk Allergy in Infants?

Infant formulas sold in markets contain cow’s milk with the proteins present in it adjusted for infants to digest. Lactose, i.e., milk sugar is added to the formula to equalize the concentration. Lactose is also found in breast milk. There are many other ingredients added to infant formulas such as vegetable oils and essential fats to make them easily digestible. Minerals and vitamins such as calcium, vitamin D, and iron are also added to baby formulas to meet the nutritious benefits for proper growth.

A baby with milk allergies is actually allergic to the proteins present in cow’s milk, i.e., whey and casein. This condition is called Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA).

Effects of Formula Milk Allergies on Babies

A baby with a milk allergy will have the proteins present in milk stick to particular antibodies that are created by the immune system. This can cause mild to severe symptoms as explained below.

Signs & Symptoms of Baby Formula Allergies

The symptoms and signs of formula allergy in babies depend on the severity of the child’s allergy. Here are the formula allergy symptoms you should look out for.

  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Congestion
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Fussiness
  • Changes in behavior
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping in the abdomen
  • Decrease in blood pressure

What Should You Do If Your Baby is Allergic to Formula?

If you have found formula allergy symptoms in your baby,

  • Contact your pediatrician right away even if the symptoms are mild.
  • Your pediatrician will help you find ways to alleviate all the symptoms of baby formula allergies.
  • If your little one has difficulty breathing, develops swelling, or is vomiting after consuming infant formula you need to seek urgent medical care.
  • Children with severe allergies need to be injected with an epinephrine auto-injector to treat the reaction.
  • Do closely read the ingredients listed on the products you buy for the baby and change the formulas if the one you are feeding your child is causing an allergic reaction.

Symptoms of Baby Formula Allergies: Diagnosis and Treatment

Once you visit a doctor with a baby showing signs of formula allergy,

  • They will ask you questions about what kind of products you are feeding your child and might want to examine your baby’s poop or blood.
  • In extreme cases, you will be referred to an allergist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating allergies). You must tell them your baby’s eating habits and the symptoms exhibited and how long they have been happening.
  • An allergist will do an oral food challenge or an allergy skin test to milk. For this, the allergist will make your baby consume the milk and wait to see if a reaction happens. But do not worry as a medical team is always nearby to take care if any severe reactions happen, so you are not putting your baby at any risk.
  • The doctor might also use a skin prick test or a blood test to look for immunoglobulin E antibodies. For this test, the doctor places a sample of the culprit milk on the baby’s skin and pricks the area to make the milk go inside the body. If there is an allergic reaction it will be evident within 10 to 20 minutes.

Prevention Of Allergic Reaction To Baby Formula

  • If you are using more than one formula brand for your baby, you will not know right away which product will cause an allergic reaction in your baby. Once you find out the culprit product, change the formula immediately.
  • However, before you switch, consult your baby’s pediatrician to see if they have something to recommend that will be safe for your baby.
  • Research shows that breastfeeding will reduce the risks of a baby being allergic to formula.
  • If breastfeeding is not a viable option, you can opt for amino acid formulas, rice hydrolysates, and soy formulas. Remember that infants who are allergic to cow’s milk also tend to be allergic to soy-based formulas.

Amino-Based Formulas As A Substitute To Milk-Based Formula

Amino-based formulas provide all the nutritional needs of an infant to toddlers to older children. These formulas are appropriate for babies allergic to milk-based formulas or are unable to tolerate extensively hydrolyzed formulas. The building blocks of proteins are amino acids and formulas with amino acids do not contain any intact proteins. Thus, they are easily digestible by most kids. These amino-based formulas are called ‘elemental’ formulas.

Extensively Hydrolysed Formulas

The protein casein is the main reason cow’s milk is allergic to most children. Extensively hydrolyzed proteins formulas break casein into pieces making it suitable for children with a milk or formula allergy.

Closing Thoughts

Can babies be allergic to formulas? Yes, since most baby formulas contain cow’s milk. The allergic reaction is towards the proteins like whey and casein that are present in cow’s milk. Caregivers should be vigilant of all the symptoms and signs of a formula allergy and take measures to address it as soon as possible.

You must immediately diagnose the cause of symptoms of baby formula allergies to ensure that the child is on a nourishing diet routine. There are different viable options if a baby is allergic to milk such as rice hydrolysates or amino acid formulas.

FAQs: Can Babies Be Allergic To Baby Formula?

1. What does the baby poop look like with milk allergy?

A baby with a milk allergy will pass watery and loose stool. These may appear frothy or bulky too. They are acidic which means your baby is prone to a diaper rash as the skin becomes irritated.

2. What color is baby poop with a milk allergy?

A baby with a milk allergy will have blood in its poop sometimes. At times it may be black which means it is been digested. A Poop with bright red in it may happen for very different reasons. Consult your doctor immediately if you happen to notice, poop tinged with red blood as it may indicate an allergy to milk.

3. How can you tell the difference between a milk allergy and acid reflux?

Babies frequently vomit small amounts of food, but any vomiting that goes beyond the typical regurgitation during meals should be examined by a doctor. Cow's milk allergy can cause reflux symptoms, often accompanied by distressing signs like back-arching and restlessness.

4. What are the symptoms of milk allergies?

Symptoms of milk allergy will be evident soon after they consume milk. Watch out for these signs:
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hoarseness
  • Coughing
  • Stomach upset
  • Throat tightness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen, itchy, and water eyes
  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • A drop in blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • 5. What are the signs of a formula allergy?

    The symptoms of baby formula allergies are,
  • Red itchy patches around the mouth
  • Swelling of the lips and mouth
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Red bumps on the skin
  • Bloated abdomen

  • Sources:

    Reviewed By:

    Jessica - Nutritionist Dietician

    Jessica - Nutritionist Dietician

    Jessica is the owner and registered dietitian nutritionist at Nutrition That Heals, LLC. She started her dietetics career working in acute care where she gained a great deal of invaluable experience, learning all about different disease states and their appropriate nutrition interventions. She then worked in long term care where she was able to develop her skills and knowledge base dealing with the elderly population. Following long term care, she worked as an outpatient dialysis dietitian, working with patients to help them eat their best for their kidney failure and often other health conditions (diabetes, heart disease, etc.). She then made the jump back to be an inpatient clinical dietitian. There, she was able to work with patients with strokes, cancer, orthopedic issues, as well as the pediatric population. During her most recent time working as an inpatient clinical dietitian, a great opportunity presented itself and it was a great way to move into focusing more on her dream of opening a private practice. She currently works full time as a contract dietitian with Dietitians on Demand conducting 1:1 nutrition counseling sessions while also working with patients here at Nutrition That Heals, LLC. ​She has been grateful enough to know how powerful good nutrition can be, but after being diagnosed with endometriosis in March 2022, she had to fully focus on the importance of anti-inflammatory foods, proper hydration, and self-care. This diagnosis motivated her to put pen to paper and get her business started - she wanted to teach what she had learned to others - food should be nourishing. Jessica wants to show you how you can heal with good nutrition, and feel your absolute best!

    On behalf of the editorial team at Parenthoodbliss, we follow strict reporting guidelines and only use credible sources, along with peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and highly respected health organizations. To learn about how we maintain content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.

    Share this Article

    Disclaimer: All content found on our website is published for informational and/or educational purposes only; not intended to serve or offer any form of professional/competent advice. We put in every effort to ensure that all information is just, accurate, fool-proof, useful, and updated but do not assume responsibility or liability, to loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence of information provided. Parenthoodbliss may earn commissions from affiliate links in the content.

    Rectangle 22

    Did not find what you were looking for?

    Drop-in your request and we will be happy to write it down for you!