Cow's Milk Protein Allergy | The Milk Ladder - Stage 1

Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy- Our Journey up the milk ladder – Stage 1

Inside: Our experience with the first stage of the milk ladder

My youngest daughter was born with a milk allergy. Not that we knew it at the time – I just assumed all was well and began life with a newborn as any mum would.

For the first 2 weeks of her life all was well besides a complete inability to latch on, which we would later discover was down to tongue-tie.

At around 5 weeks old it all began to go wrong. My calm baby became distressed after every feed, her discomfort was clear as she would struggle to sleep and produced explosive nappies every 5 minutes of the day.

She also had the most horrendous reflux – talk about unlucky! My newborn bubble was well and truly burst.

When you are new to allergies you really don’t know how to go about dealing with them. Back in 2013, there was no support online and I had to forge my own path.

My hope is that by sharing our experience and the knowledge I have gained over the years, you will find the process easier. I also want you to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Lily is now able to tolerate milk and is a happy and healthy child.

If you are not sure whether you are dealing with a milk allergy then please head over to my Cows Milk Allergy Guide, where you can find more information to help you as you get to grips with everything. 

Starting the milk ladder with a little one when you’ve been dairy free for so long is nerve-wracking. We had an appointment with our dietician who basically put the decision in my hands and handed me a list of foods to try.

I have to say that I found it a complete waste of time and Google and my own common sense provided more value.

In a nutshell, you work through a series of foods that slowly increase in the amount of dairy they contain. Your body adjusts to the dairy products along the way until finally, you can tolerate them.

Some children get all the way to the top no problem, others only make it part way and have to stop for a while and others find they are not at all ready to move up the ladder. Everyone is different and so as a result there is no one-size fits all way of doing it.

milk ladder

Stage 1 of the Milk Ladder

The very first stage of the milk ladder starts with malted biscuits. The milk content is so low that it makes for the perfect introduction to the process.

Now, you can buy malted biscuits in all supermarkets (Fox’s Moo are a brand you’d recognise) but I had to make my own due to the fact that we were also contending with a soya allergy (I told you – all the bad luck!).

The upside to making your own biscuits is that you know exactly what you are putting inside.

Malted biscuit recipe

Here is the recipe for anyone wanting to make their own:


110g unsalted butter

110g caster sugar

175g self- raising flour

50mls evaporated milk

(water if mixture is too dry)


Preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC for fan ovens)

– Cream the butter, sugar and milk together and then add the flour to create a dough.

– Add in water as necessary so that you can roll the dough into a sausage.

– Once in a sausage shape, use a knife to chop the sausage into disks. You should be able to 30-40 depending on how thick you slice them.

– Bake them in the oven for 10 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Makes 40 small biscuits

Obviously you do not need 40 biscuits but they can be frozen – either raw mixture or cooked- for use at a later date.

So how did we get on?

I decided that taking it slow was the best approach. The dietician had said to start off with a whole biscuit but I didn’t want to go from absolutely no dairy and then flood her system. Remember, you know your child and what is best for them.

Day 1 – A 10p piece sized amount. She liked the taste (a bit like rusks) and had no reaction at all.

Day 2 – We doubled the size and she was absolutely fine once again.

Day 3 – Half a biscuit. She slept right through the night (one of the signs ass that she would wake screaming).

Day 4 – A whole biscuit and still fine.


We kept her on 1 biscuit a day for a couple of weeks. Again, this isn’t what the dietician had suggested – they had said to move straight onto stage 2 but I just don’t see the need to rush. We’ve waited this long, we can wait a little longer.

The next stage is digestive biscuits, with a subtle difference of switching malted milk for butter.

Head over to part 2 to see how we got on >>>

Find the full series here.

my sig 2016


  • Reply
    Gym Bunny Mummy
    January 5, 2015 at 11:33 am

    My Archie had a severe allergy to the protein in cow’s milk and we too had to work with a dietician. His was awful, sickness, screaming/colic, reflux and really bad eczema too Our dietician never mentioned anything about the ladder, this would have been a great place for us to start. Instead we just had to introduce food with dried milk products in them, she told us to check the ingredients and then based on a reaction to build up to a yoghurt. Thankfully he’s outgrown his allergy now, I really hope yours does too x

    • Reply
      January 5, 2015 at 11:45 am

      I cant believe they never told you about this!! Glad it worked out ok in the end though. I so hope she grows out of it, I never want her to have problems going to peoples houses or out for dinner 🙁

  • Reply
    Sarah Christie
    January 6, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    This is great news, little steps I suppose. It must be a real worry having allergies like this x

    • Reply
      January 6, 2015 at 10:49 pm

      It was a worry in the beginning, now it is just a hassle. Always having to be ten steps ahead with any meal etc.. But you just get used to it. x

  • Reply
    Kat | Beau Twins
    January 6, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    I always say I am so grateful the girls (touch wood) have been fine with milk and all foods so far. After my efforts of BFing we did have to use 2 different formula’s – that was confusing enough. Glad you are in an easier play with this now lovely. xxxxx

    • Reply
      January 6, 2015 at 10:52 pm

      Oh why two formulas? Each have a preference? I had to give up breastfeeding at 7 weeks as she was so sensitive to the dairy in my milk. I was devastated to have the choice taken away from me 🙁

  • Reply
    January 11, 2015 at 10:36 am

    Great news she’s had no reaction. My eldest had really bad cmpa, hives the lot. He can now at 7 tolerate most things but can only have a little amount. If he has too much in one day he will will still get blotchy, stomach cramps, be sick. It took years of slowly introducing into his diet, then cutting it out when he reacted, but it looks like there might be light at the end if the tunnel for you too 🙂 x

    • Reply
      January 11, 2015 at 11:55 am

      She has now eaten 1/4 of a digestive the past 2 days so I am really hopeful that she will be ok. I don’t even mind if she never drinks a pint of milk, it would just be great not to have to worry about ‘may contain’ etc.. Glad your little boy is ok on the whole now, such a worry isn’t it? x

  • Reply
    February 4, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    That’s brilliant news, really happy for you that your daughter is doing so well. We are going into hospital on Friday to do the first step of malted milks. He is anaphylactic to raw milk so we have to do it supervised. Terrified but excited at the prospect of him passing.

    • Reply
      February 4, 2015 at 5:53 pm

      Oh god, I am so sorry your little one has such a bad reaction! I hope the hospital trip is a success for you xx

    • Reply
      July 5, 2015 at 2:11 pm

      I am heading over to you blog to have a read as our #5 is anaphylactic to CPM also. xx Will be an interesting read as one day we might get to this stage but for now it’s deemed too risky.

      • Reply
        July 14, 2015 at 4:05 pm

        Oh goodness, what a worry! I know of a few others who reacted really badly but are fine now so there is definitely hope xx

  • Reply
    Mumma McD
    February 9, 2015 at 2:56 am

    Great to read this Katy, thanks for sharing. My little guy is 18 months and intolerant to cow’s milk and soy protein too… we attempted to start the milk ladder a few months ago but ‘fell off’ before we got on the first rung due to an unexpected and unplanned challenge (i.e. he ate some food at a party that set him off badly!!), so I’ve been reluctant to try again.

    I look forward to reading more about your bub’s progress 🙂

    • Reply
      February 9, 2015 at 9:15 am

      We had a huge break due to teething. It is hard to want to try knowing what may lay ahead. We have been trying crumbs at a time and that has worked. Good luck! x

  • Reply
    Our Journey up the Milk Ladder #02 - What Katy Said
    February 24, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    […] left off having completed the first stage (hurrah!) of the ladder, which is being able to eat a malted biscuit. She is now able to tolerate […]

  • Reply
    Another Bun
    April 13, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Hope it continues to go well! I’m finding the cmpi/a groups on fb really helpful as we start our dairy free journey

    • Reply
      April 14, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      Oh me too, not on them so much now but when I first started they were a godsend! x

  • Reply
    July 5, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Thankyou for this popst, It is a great read. We are a way off starting the ladder with bean but hope one day we may get there!!

    • Reply
      July 14, 2015 at 4:04 pm

      I am sure you will, it is a slow process but hopefully a distant memory one day x

  • Reply
    Lindsay Hall
    March 2, 2017 at 11:26 am

    My granddaughter has started on the milk ladder, and has got to stage 4, she refuses to eat anything that she has been eating in the past or anything else on the milk ladder. All she WILL eat is spagetti bolognese ,humour sandwhich, and crackers. My daughter in law is so worried but cannot get her to eat other foods. Any suggestions please.

    • Reply
      March 6, 2017 at 2:14 pm

      Oh goodness. How old is she? I’d say not to worry if she isn’t too old. If she is happy and gaining weight then maybe just blend up veg and hide it in the bolognese sauce for goodness and just be a good role model. My children always see me eating different foods and want to copy mama x

  • Reply
    Reann Shaw
    May 25, 2017 at 11:51 pm

    Katy, we deal with a tonne of intolerances in our house, and your biscuit recipe is the first I’ve seen that doesn’t contain apple sauce and a bunch of other things I can’t sub out (successfully). Normally that first step on the ladder requires baking for ages; do you bake your biscuits at 180C (350F) for 30 mins?
    Congratulations on getting up your ladder!!!

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