This week my TV asks me ‘does your child have a cow’s milk allergy?’

I’ve been dilly dallying this week trying to decide what to blog about. Too many ideas and not enough time, and then I saw something on the TV the other afternoon which grabbed my attention and got me thinking. Somewhere in between Homes under the Hammer and yet another episode of The Big Bang Theory an advert popped up on the screen asking me ‘does your child have a cow’s milk allergy?’, erm no I don’t think so. I guess I’d know if he did, but thanks for asking. But I was intrigued, it didn’t have the tone of a public health initiative (no families of multi-coloured morph-esque people leaping about being ‘active’ accompanied by patronising voice over) and the only branding I caught site of was for the charity Allergy UK…..’how the jolly feck can they afford prime daytime TV advertising slots’….I thought.10448285546_8207ac1819_z

So I had a quick shifty at the website, the aptly named isitcowsmilkallergy.co.uk What I found was a very easy to use informative and well structured website informing me that cow’s milk allergy in infants is very common. A bit more digging and my question about funding was answered, the campaign has been undertaken by Mead Johnson Nutrition in association with Allergy UK. Bit more research and I find out that Mead Johnson Nutrition are one of the leading manufactures of the type of milk that doctors prescribe for infants with cow’s milk allergy (CMA). Now some peeps may get a bit all up in their tree about the thought of a formula milk manufacturer funding a campaign designed to raise awareness of a problem which could ultimately lead to them selling more milk. But you know what? I’m not one of them. I accept the symbiotic relationship between us and the folks who make formula milk, my baby can’t live without them and I would rather they spend money on R&D to create the best kind of formula there can be to feed to babies than not.
In view of the above and the super tight guidelines for advertising of infant formula in the UK you’ll not actually find mention of any brands of feed nor a suggestion that you should formula feed over breast feeding. Indeed the website goes to great lengths to educate all feeding mums both breast feeders and bottle feeders as to the potential issues surrounding the ingestion of cow’s milk proteins and lactose by breast and bottle fed babies.
After explaining in clear terms the nature of and difference between a cow’s milk allergy and lactose intolerance it has a section which helps to identify symptoms and also a section which goes in to some detail about how to approach the matter with your GP or health visitor…..like somehow they sense it may be difficult for some parents to get the message through to their health care providers that something is not right with their baby….hhhmmm…..
Having looked it over in some detail I think that I would have found this a very useful website when I was pregnant, and in the early weeks, resulting in a better understanding of how cow’s milk proteins and lactose can affect babies digestive systems; full stop. You know it’s really not ideal for one mammal to drink the milk made by another mammal, as a species we’ve only been doing it for a few thousand years. But if you formula feed its pretty much the only freely available option unless you go down the prescription route where specialised milks (like those made by Mean Johnson Nutrition, ahem…) can be accessed if your baby is displaying symptoms of an allergy.
Although I don’t really see any reason why, if having considered the possible adverse effects of introducing a cow’s milk based product to your baby’s diet, you couldn’t opt for a soy based formula from the outset. If I’d known more about all this at the beginning, and felt able to talk to my health visitor about it I may well have done that. In addition to CMA, for example, there are fairly clear links between the use of cow’s milk based formula and an increased risk for the development of type 1 and type 2 diabetes in later life…..which will be the subject of a whole other post once I finish doing the reading, which is fairly impenetrable for someone who is neither a paediatrician nor a nutritionalist, nor a statistician for that matter….  
And finally in the spirit of a balanced review I went and checked out the page one the NHS website dealing with the same topic; the basics are there, fairly brief and to the point www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/Could-my-child-be-intolerant-to-cows-milk.aspx?CategoryID=62&SubCategoryID=63……not such a catching web address I think you’ll agree.

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