Our First Attempt at the Milk Ladder

Trying the Milk Ladder with My Daughter for the First Time

Aria eating malt biscuit

If you’re a regular reader of my blog or follow me on Twitter, you will probably know that my daughter has cow’s milk protein allergy (you can read more about her diagnosis here). Since she was just a few weeks old she has been on a dairy free diet and the difference to her health and well-being because of it has been significant.

As she turned one, and following discussions with her Dietitian we had planned to start her on the milk ladder. If you haven’t heard of the milk ladder, it is a ladder to slowly reintroduce milk back into someone’s diet in a measured way to see if they react. You start with a malted milk biscuit that just has milk or whey powder in and build up slowly to items with just actual milk, butter and cream in.

Before we started Aria on the ladder, I’ll admit to feeling pretty apprehensive. It’s a strange thing knowing that something you are doing for a child’s own good may ending making them poorly. But also, I so wanted her to succeed. At 14 months, she is much more aware of the foods everyone else is eating and wants that same as her brother has. We bought ice creams on holiday without realising and she got upset that she couldn’t have some too.

Aria’s reaction to milk is gut and skin, which means it upsets her stomach and gives her gastric pain as well as causes her to break out in a rash and eczema too. But it has been such a long time since she has eaten or drunk cow’s milk – she was literally weeks old, I had no idea what to expect really.

As soon as we started we immediately noticed a flare with her eczema. The very night we introduced the milk she had a rash on her neck. But I decided to continue as there seemed to be no problems with her stomach. My logic being if it was just her eczema I could keep her dairy free day to day but allow her the odd treat and just manage her eczema.

We progressed up to step 6 of the ladder, with each step I noticed eczema flares or a rash. If I’m honest I think I have been a bit in denial. I so wanted her to succeed. But by step 6 the symptoms became apparent that her body wasn’t tolerating the milk. She had a rash and eczema all over her back, which had also started to spread to the front of her torso. The next day she was off her food, windy and very unsettled in the evening, the day after she was constipated. It took 5 days for the rash to go. Even now I am wondering if the unsettled-ness was down to teeth, it is so hard when they cannot tell you what is wrong. But it all seems a bit coincidental.

For the moment, I have decided to take Aria off the milk ladder entirely. I am pretty sure she is not ready. We have a Dietitian appointment in a week’s time so I will discuss next steps with her.

I feel sad that she reacted. Who doesn’t want normality for their child? Most children outgrow their milk allergy by the time they are five. So there is still plenty of time. But for now we remain dairy free.

Domestic Momster

A Cornish Mum
Maternity Matters~ Ghostwritermummy

14 thoughts on “Our First Attempt at the Milk Ladder”

    • Thanks Donna we saw the dietitian today and she said very similar she’s still young and we should take a break and try again in 2/3 months.

  1. Ah, from what I saw on Twitter I rather thought it might not go as hoped 🙁 but as you said, she is still quite young. We are still battling this and my daughter is five now! That said she doesn’t react as quickly or as badly as she used to, so we are getting there very slowly, via ‘baby steps’!

    Did the dietitian advise you to keep giving her the levels she is OK with? This can help her body to develop tolerance towards milk. So, if she’s OK with baked milk, stick with giving her that daily and it will also give her a bit more variety of things that she CAN eat, which has got to be good!

    • Hi yes 🙂 we are going to try every 2/3 months as the dietitian has advised me leaving her without eating these foods for too long can make it worse. But as her skin reacted after step one and I carried on the dietitian also said if she had it daily her skin would probably build up and get worse. So the agreement for now is try again shortly. Thanks for your advice on this as always x

  2. I just came across your blog, and wanted to add my empathy to your struggle. One of my 12 month old twin boys is CMPA and has similar to your daughter, it comes out in his skin (eczema) and his stomach (originally bad wind and constipation). His started showing within a week of his birth, I couldn’t BF so he and his brother were on Hipp Organic from birth. I knew as soon as I started seeing patches of eczema what it was, but it took about 4 months before we ended up on Neocate (via a couple of other formulas) which sorted his eczema out – and initially his stomach problems. However, before long he was more constipated than ever, and research has led me to discover that Neocate itself can cause constipation.

    He’s also recently been diagnosed (along with his brother) of having ‘undiagnosed reflux’; mostly due to the fact that he struggled hugely with even tiny lumps in food, plus the fact that he’s a highly unsettled sleeper at night. Nothing to do about that apparently but wait for his system to mature.

    Anyway, he’s still struggling daily with constipation due, I believe, to the Neocate, despite being on Movicol every day (which does help, eventually), and I’m trying to find a decent replacement milk that I can get him onto to get off the Neocate. He’s under a very good paediatrician, who has had us gradually introduce other allergenic foods (except milk), but it’s difficult to know what he is or is not reacting to since the Neocate-caused constipation is clouding things. I make breakfast for him with Koko coconut milk, which is ok but I understand isn’t high enough in fat to be a ‘replacement’ milk for the Neocate. Do you give your daughter a ‘replacement’ milk to drink or make food with, and if so, which one? I cannot give him soya milk as he reacts to that – and given the potential damage on their reproductive systems, I wouldn’t anyway – and having tasted almond milk/oat milk myself, I thought them both awful. I don’t believe they’re any better in terms of fat content either.

    I just wondered what you were doing for your daughter, if you’d care to share please??

    • Hi Helen – I’m sorry about the constipation we have luckily avoided that. My daughter is on similac alimentum milk, not neocate and the dietitian has advised she should be on the until she is two before trying to move her onto another milk as she sometimes reacts to soya too and can only tolerate a little bit of it, so it wouldn’t be a great substitute. We actually use oat milk in foods, but the dietitian did advise me that you can add oat cream to the milk to make it fattier. A tip on the flavour although Aria has been ok with just plain oat milk – trying adding a little vanilla essence (another dietitian tip). I hope this helps xx

      • Thanks Laura .. I had considered adding coconut cream to the coconut milk we’re using, but wasn’t sure if that would then be ok to drink. I’d be happy for my DS to stay on Neocate (or at least, the next version up for his age) if it weren’t for the ongoing constipation. Glad to hear your daughter hasn’t experienced that, and hope they all grow out of this really soon!!

  3. This is so nice to read to see other mums going and feeling exactly same as me. As sometimes I feel on my own especially when I am telling people she can’t have milk yet they insist on giving her stuff with milk !! We have the milk ladder to start this week and although she is 18 months iv tried now and then but then due to unsettled nights iv refused to do anymore as I’m too scared to not have sleep as she has never slept through with me and I work also and she’s a very up and down baby especially with mood, diarrhea, constipation. You always ask yourself will this ever end? Lol

  4. Hi Laura,
    Any news on how your child was able to tolerate past stage 6 on the dairy ladder?
    So sorry to hear your journey has been tough so far. We too are currently on the dairy ladder and on stage 6.
    I can see you haven’t posted for a while, but wondering how it went and how does your child cope with the dairy now?


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