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Are Soy-Based Formulas and Beverages Safe for a Child with a Milk Allergy?

For the parent of a child with a milk allergy – or any other kind of allergy, for that matter – one of the chief concerns is avoiding the food that can trigger an adverse reaction. Naturally, this can be difficult at times. Many products contain some form of milk or ingredients derived from milk, and these ingredients may not always be easy to identify. Even when formulas are employed to provide allergen-free nutrition to a child with a milk allergy, there are many factors to consider when choosing a formula or milk alternative. As soy formulas and soy milk are popular alternatives to milk-based products for children, it’s reasonable to ask: “Are soy-based formulas and beverages safe for my child with a milk allergy?” To find out, keep reading as the team at Cambrooke discusses this topic.

Are Soy-Based Formulas and Beverages Acceptable Alternatives for Children with Milk Allergies?

As one of the few plant-based sources of complete protein (meaning that it offers all nine essential amino acids), soy may seem like a natural choice to nourish a child with a milk allergy, especially since soy formulas and soy-based beverages such as soy milk are commonly available online and in stores. However, any parent whose child is allergic to milk should carefully weigh the risks of soy products and only integrate them into their child’s diet at the direction of a pediatrician or allergist.

While the protein in soy formulas and soy-based beverages differ from those in cow’s milk, there is ample anecdotal and clinical evidence to suggest that a child with a cow’s milk protein allergy may also have a significant chance of being allergic to soy. One study1 found that between 10-14% of children allergic to cow’s milk protein are also allergic to soy.  In addition to the occurrence of cow’s milk allergy mentioned above, soy is considered one of the most common allergens in the US for children with Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE)  and Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES), both less common types of food allergic conditions that may occur in children2.

The best way to be sure that your child can tolerate soy formulas and soy-based beverages is to work with your pediatrician or allergist. These medical professionals can test your child for a soy allergy in the same way that they might test for a milk allergy and ultimately determine whether soy formulas and soy-based beverages might pose a risk for your child. In addition, they can give sound medical advice based on your child’s particular medical history, so they should be included in any significant dietary decisions you make for your child.

Soy Milk

Soy milk is an inexpensive and widely available option that is often recommended for children with cow’s milk allergy.  In addition to the possible risk of reaction, soy milk may present another common challenge of not meeting the nutrition needs in small children, especially those who are having difficulty growing or those following multiple food elimination diets. Formulas designed for children with cow’s milk allergy, such amino acid-based formulas, are known to be nutritionally complete and therefore are usually a better choice than soy milk.  It is important to discuss with your pediatrician or allergist if soy milk is appropriate for your child.

Other Formula Options for a Child with a Milk Allergy

Whether your child is diagnosed with a soy allergy or you simply don’t want to risk a reaction to soy, know that there are a number of hypoallergenic formula options that many children with milk allergies can tolerate. Below, we’ll look at some alternatives to soy formulas that may be safe for your child with a milk allergy:

Extensively Hydrolyzed Protein Formulas

Extensively hydrolyzed protein formulas contain milk proteins that have been broken down into smaller protein chains to reduce the risk of having a reaction. These formulas are therefore better tolerated by children with a milk allergy than those with less hydrolyzed proteins or intact milk proteins, but because they still offer pieces of milk proteins, some children with a milk allergy or sensitivity still can’t tolerate these formulas. These formulas are available for infants and toddlers; however, there is not currently an extensively hydrolyzed protein formula available for children over 3 years of age.

Amino Acid-Based (Elemental) Formulas

Whereas hydrolyzed formulas contain some form of milk protein – albeit in a broken-down form – amino acid-based formulas do not contain any form of milk proteins, making them the safest option for many children with a milk allergy. Instead, these products (which are sometimes known as “elemental” formulas) use amino acids – the building blocks of protein – to provide complete nutrition without exposing the consumer to a potentially harmful segment of protein. Because of this decreased risk, an elemental formula may be the best option for a child with a milk allergy.  A review on the use of amino acid formulas in cow’s milk protein allergy recommends that an amino acid-based formula may be warranted in the following groups3:

  • Children who fail to tolerate extensively hydrolyzed formulas
  • Eosinophilic Esophagitis
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Children with growth faltering particularly in those following multiple food elimination diets or presenting with a combination of overlapping symptoms

Amino Acid-Based Formulas Available for Children with Milk Allergies

If your child is allergic to milk, and can’t safely consume soy formulas, consider the benefits of the amino acid-based formulas available from Cambrooke. Each product offers a wealth of essential nutrients in a form that’s specially designed for children with food allergies and digestive disorders, so they’ll be easy on your child’s system, even if they have a severe milk allergy. To learn more, visit Cambrooke online or call us today at 1-833-377-2773.