Adorable little african girl holding glass with fresh milk

We’ve talked about 8 of the most common food allergies on the HealthPark Pediatrics blog before. Many children have food sensitivities, intolerances, or allergies. Food sensitivities and intolerances could cause uncomfortable symptoms like gas, diarrhea, heartburn, indigestion, or nausea. Allergies are an immune response to certain proteins in foods. The symptoms of allergies can be more severe than the symptoms of food intolerance.

The most common food allergy in children is milk. While milk allergies are not the same as lactose intolerance, both should be taken seriously. Lactose intolerance might cause symptoms like bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. An allergy to milk might cause symptoms like hives, vomiting, difficulty breathing, or anaphylaxis. Infants and children that are allergic to cow’s milk are actually allergic to milk protein or they are unable to digest the sugar in cow’s milk. Tree nuts are the second most common food allergy present in children. So the many nut milks that are found in the dairy aisle might also be off-limits, but with so many options available now, there is bound to be a milk or cow’s milk alternative that works for your family. 

We’re breaking down the differences between cow’s milk and the numerous cow’s milk alternatives that are available in grocery stores today. 


Nutritional content varies widely in cow’s milk and cow’s milk alternatives. It’s important for parents to review the full list of ingredients and nutritional values when choosing a milk at the grocery store. The chart below from The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is a useful resource to reference when comparing milks.

Introducing Milk

We recommend feeding your baby breastmilk or pediatrician-approved formula for the first 6 months. If the baby is breastfeeding and the mother is consuming cow’s milk or the baby’s formula has cow’s milk protein in the ingredients and there have been no digestive issues so far, it is likely that the baby isn’t sensitive or allergic to cow’s milk. If the mother has not been drinking cow’s milk or the formula doesn’t include cow’s milk protein in the ingredient list, you can start incorporating dairy-based foods into the baby’s diet around 6 months once you talk to your child’s pediatrician.

A safe place to start would be by letting them try whole Greek yogurt to see how their body reacts to cow’s milk protein. If this goes well and once the baby is able to start incorporating other finger foods, they can try small pieces of cheese. We don’t recommend letting them drink whole cow’s milk before the age of 1 due to the development of the baby’s digestive system.

If your baby is having digestive issues while still solely breastfeeding or being formula fed, consult with your pediatrician to come up with a plan to switch to a protein-based formula without cow’s milk. If you are breastfeeding and your child’s pediatrician diagnoses them with a cow’s milk allergy, they may suggest removing cow’s milk from your diet. 

Cow’s Milk Alternatives

For many years, soy milk was the primary cow’s milk-alternative option, but there are so many milks to choose from today. Nut milks like almond, cashew, walnut, hazelnut, and macadamia nut can be great options. Other popular options include oat milk, rice milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, pea milk, and flax milk. Many of these oftentimes come in a variety of flavors like vanilla and chocolate, but be sure to avoid milks with added sugars and calories. 

For More Information

We know that your child’s health and nutrition are your top priority and our team here at HealthPark Pediatrics is here to be a resource. If you have questions or concerns about introducing cow’s milk or cow’s milk alternatives into your child’s diet, parents in the Raleigh area can call us at (919) 896-7066 for assistance.

At HealthPark Pediatrics, the health and safety of our staff and patients are our top concern. We are taking steps to ensure that you and your child will be safe while visiting our office. This includes using a separate entrance for sick visits, limiting the number of staff and physicians, observing social distancing guidelines, and offering telemedicine visits. Request an appointment online.