Early feeding with cow’s milk formula may protect babies against cow’s milk allergy.

In a lengthy prospective study, Professor Yitzhak Katz of Tel Aviv University's Department of Pediatrics, Sackler Faculty of Medicine and colleagues looked at the feeding history of 13,019 infants with the object of establishing how often an allergy to cow’s milk was accompanied by an allergy to soya.

However, while they could find no connection between cow’s milk allergy and soya allergy they discovered that children who were started on infant formula containing cow's milk protein in the first through the 15th days of life were almost completely protected from developing cow's milk protein allergy – 19 times more protected than babies fed cow's milk protein after 15 days.

It is thought that this early ingestion is acting as a sort of vaccination by boosting the immune system. At this point, it is not possible to say how much formula is needed to produce the protective effect, but Professor Katz suggests a single bottle-feed at night for those mothers who are breastfeeding. More conclusive studies will be needed to provide a definite recipe.

The Tel Aviv University study provides valuable information for lactation specialists, including the WHO, which currently recommends that a woman switch from breast to bottle at the three-to-five month period – exactly the age at which Professor Katz found that it was most dangerous to expose a baby to cow’s milk.

The study also suggest that although the incidence of cow’s milk allergy in babies and children is quite high at 0.5% of the population, it is much lower than the 2–4% that has been suggested.

Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

First published in July 2010


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