There are slightly differing definitions of milk rash. All say, however, that this rash is harmless and will go away on its own. But if your baby has a skin rash or eczema that won't go away, he may be allergic to cow's milk. In this case, getting rid of your baby's rash and any other symptoms is both simple and difficult: You can't give her any dairy products, including formula made with cow's milk.
A Dictionary of Nursing defines milk rash as "a spotty red facial rash that is common during the first few months of life" and goes away without treatment.
Doctors and authors Su Laurent and Peter Reader use the term "milk rash" interchangeably with milia: small, white, pimple-like bumps on your baby's skin. These bumps are harmless and "may come and go in the first few weeks," Laurent and Reader say.
You'll usually see milia on your baby's cheeks, forehead and nose, and sometimes on the limbs, trunk or penis, according to Babytalk magazine editors. If you keep your baby's skin clean and dry, the bumps should disappear in about two to four weeks.
A skin rash in babies, however, also can be a sign of a cow's milk protein allergy, say Laurent and Reader.
Babytalk magazine editors say a milk allergy also can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, colic, hives, bloody stool and failure to thrive (meaning the baby isn't gaining enough weight).
If your baby exhibits a rash and any of the other symptoms above, you'll want to ask your paediatrician if it could be signs of an allergy. (Or, if your baby shows no other symptoms but you just want to make sure, ask your doctor anyway; most will tell you they'd much rather you ask a million questions rather than risk your baby's health.)
If you breastfeed your baby and you believe, or your doctor believes, she has a milk allergy, you may want to cut all dairy products from your own diet and see if your baby's symptoms go away. This also is an option if your doctor doesn't believe your baby has a milk allergy but seems to have a lot of digestive troubles. Cut dairy from your diet and see if it helps.
Make sure, though, that you are taking in enough calcium from other foods, like soy products or leafy green vegetables, advise Laurent and Reader.
If you give your baby formula, hypoallergenic formula may be the answer. This formula is cow's-milk based, but is made with predigested proteins. These are proteins "broken down into their most basic elements," according to editors at Babytalk magazine.
Milk allergies are rare; one or two in every hundred babies will have one, according to Babytalk magazine editors. Your baby is more likely to develop allergies if there is a strong family history of them.
Removing milk from an allergic baby's diet will greatly improve symptoms. You should see significant results by age 2, say Laurent and Reader.
If you bottle-feed your baby and discover she has a cow's milk protein allergy, another option might be soy-based formula.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, said in 2008 that 10 to 14 per cent of infants with a cow's milk protein allergy also will be allergic to soy protein.
There also have been concerns that the phytoestrogens in soy formula may have links to early puberty, attention deficit disorder and thyroid disorders, say Babytalk magazine editors.
If you have any of these concerns, the hypoallergenic formula is probably your best option.