Kids Health Matters: Dealing with milk allergies and intolerances

WILMINGTON, Delaware (WPVI) -- Milk has been a staple of kids' diets for centuries.

However, some kids can't digest it, and recently, some parents have shied away from it.

So we asked a dietitian to bring us up to speed.

You'd never know it, but Evelyn Mills has overcome a lot in her seven years. She was born premature, very small, and couldn't even handle special formula.

"They noticed right away she was having issues digesting it," said her mom, Jennie Mills.

Medication offset that until it was time to go off formula.

"They tried to put her onto regular milk and obviously, that didn't work out so well," said Jennie.

Evelyn has a milk protein allergy.

"Milk has a lot of important nutrients, including high quality protein. It's fortified with Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and calcium along with other important vitamins and minerals," said dietitian Sofia Gomez Rubio of Nemours duPont Hospital.

Gomez-Rubio says most kids should get two to three servings of milk a day. However, about three of every 100 babies develop milk allergies in their first year and children of any age can develop another issue: lactose intolerance.

"It's the inability to digest the sugar lactose," she explains.

For those families, getting the protein and other nutrients in milk takes navigation.

"Obviously, yogurt is kind of out. A lot of things have milk in it, you'd be surprised," said Jennie.

So she's become a dedicated label-reader.

"You have to really get in there and look at the ingredients to see, and sometimes they have tricky names," she says.

Such as casein, whey, or lactoglobulin, to name a few.

Gomez-Rubio recommends some alternatives for kids who can't handle cow's milk.

"A lactose-free cow's milk, soy milk, or a pea protein milk," she said.

They have comparable amounts of protein, for building strong bones and muscles. However, the very trendy nut, oat, and coconut milks don't.

"One gram per serving, whereas in a traditional cow's milk, they would be getting 8 grams," said Gomez-Rubio.

She says that since kids have smaller stomachs, every bite should be as nutrition packed as possible.
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