Q&A: I think my baby has a dairy intolerance. Should I exclude dairy from her diet?

Worried that your child can't stomach milk? Read our expert tips

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Many parents suspect that their child has an allergy or intolerance to a food, but before you exclude the suspected trigger food from your baby’s diet, it’s essential to seek expert advice. This is particularly important if you have concerns about a major food group, such as dairy produce, as eliminating one of these groups could leave her lacking in essential nutrients.

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Signs that can indicate an intolerance to dairy produce include recurrent colds, a runny or blocked nose, asthma, eczema, constipation and digestive discomfort. If you suspect that dairy is causing problems for your baby, the first step is to keep a detailed food diary for a few weeks. Write down exactly what your child eats and drinks every day, along with the symptoms that you notice. It may take several days or weeks for a pattern to emerge, but you can then show this diary to your GP or health visitor.

If your health professional believes there’s cause for concern, she may suggest trying an elimination diet, where you exclude the potential trigger food from your baby’s diet for several weeks then reintroduce it gradually to see if it her symptoms flare up again. In the case of dairy, it’s particularly important to do this under expert guidance from a GP, dietician or nutritional therapist, especially if your child is under 12 months old – milk forms the bulk of her diet at this stage, and simply switching from cow’s milk formula to soya formula may not be the best course of action.

If it does turn out that your child has a dairy intolerance, your dietician or nutritional therapist can advise you on alternative ways to meet her needs for calcium, whether that’s by using a hypoallergenic formula or increasing the amount of calcium-rich foods, like green leafy veg, seeds and fish, in her diet.

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Answered by: Catherine Jeans, clinical nutritional therapist, www.thefamilynutritionexpert.com

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