How do I help my child climb the Milk Ladder?

My youngest son was our Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) dairy free baba, and at aged seven weeks he needed an operation for a stomach block called pyloric stenosis – thankfully this fixed the horrendous projectile vomiting and he started to put on weight. It was all pretty stressful at that time, but we pulled through and he is now a wonderful and healthy teenager.

I learnt so much through my son about how to nourish a dairy-free child and it’s when I took weaning to another level. Firstly, I needed to ensure he wasn’t missing out on any key nutrients and found clever recipes to nourish him; and secondly, I was pretty determined for him to be able to eat dairy in the longer term. This is because it is so much easier on all levels for kids not to have any limits to their diet – even though I appreciate that some kids have very hard-wired allergies and sadly this goal is not an option.

So right from the start of weaning I gave him home made stocks and worked on his microbiome through a wide range of fruits, veg, pulses, ground nuts and seeds. You can find some of the recipes I used in my weaning book.

I also gave him probiotics that included lactobacillus, the gut bacteria that helps us digest dairy. It’s also a super important microbe for learning and working memory – and since dyslexia and attention deficit is in the family, I wanted to do my best for him to support his brain development through diet at the same time.

Then at about 14 months I cautiously started the milk ladder. Since butyrate is in both ghee/clarified butter and grass fed butter is super gut healing, those were my first steps, adding one at a time into pancakes – thankfully, he was ok with these.

Why didn’t I give him a shop bought biscuit containing skimmed milk powder like the NHS recommend? Firstly, it clashes with their advice to avoid giving under 4’s any refined sugar – and secondly white flour and hydrogenated fats in commercial biscuits are generally terrible for the microbiome!

His milk ladder was super slow, and we had some horrendous fails with crying all night, vomiting and diarrhoea but I just kept up a positive vision that one day he would be able to eat dairy!

Thankfully by his third birthday his gut immune system made the switch that he needed and almost overnight he was able to tolerate all dairy and hasn’t looked back since! Maybe he was just lucky, we will never know for sure!

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Here are my top tips when starting out on the milk ladder:

  • Precede the milk ladder with introducing a daily dairy-free probiotic and home-made meat/fish stock or broth. These can be started from 6 months when you wean onto solids.
  • Ensure your doctor is happy for your child to start the milk ladder.
  • Start the milk ladder at 14/15 months rather than 12 months as we find the baby’s gut immune system has matured better by then, and we get less “fails at the first hurdle”.
  • Introduce ghee/clarified butter first – I suggest 1g (1/5th teaspoon) baked into food for the first 3-4 days.
  • If there is a reaction at any stage, stop and go back a step
  • Do not rush your baby, their gut will be ready it wants to be.
  • Keep persisting – not all children get there, but many do!

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