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Milk Ladder Recipes | Stage 1 | Malted Milk Biscuits

Inside: How to make malted milk biscuits for stage 1 of the milk ladder.

I first worked my way up the milk ladder with my youngest daughter in 2015, with her successfully reaching a point that she can eat most foods. She may well have made it to the very top but she actually didn’t enjoy the taste of milk so I didn’t push it (you can read all about my first experience of the milk ladder here).

A few years later my son was born and he too had a milk allergy. The worry never goes away, even though you know it will all be ok. So if you are going through the early stages of diagnosis or are ready to start the milk ladder, I am right here with you. I get it.

If you aren’t sure if you’re dealing with a cow’s milk allergy then head over to my CMPA guide for parents.

What is the milk ladder?

If you or your child has a milk allergy (or intolerance) then you will have been advised that you need to work your way up the milk ladder. However, sometimes this information seems to slip through the net and people have no idea that it even exists.

Our own experience is that it is pretty much up to you to deal with it – having to search out the recipes and steps to get yourself through it.

The milk ladder is essentially a series of steps from a tiny amount of baked milk, up to being able to drink a whole glass of milk. It isn’t a quick process and you may find yourself repeating steps if a stage causes a reaction, but there is hope at the end of the tunnel, I promise.

When to start the milk ladder?

I started the milk ladder with Lily at around 2 years old (I think!) but due to the amazing choice of dairy-free products on the market, I have been spoiled with William. It has made me a little complacent with the whole process but he is getting to an age when he recognises that he is different.

I never want him to feel as though he is different to his sisters or his friends, so it is definitely time.

It is up to you when you start, but most doctors recommend starting at 1 year – 18 months old. But if you choose to start later (as I am with William at 3 years old) then that is absolutely fine too. In fact, I did the milk ladder on myself aged 34!

How to start the milk ladder

As you can see from the picture above, there are 12 steps on the ladder, with malted biscuits being the first stage. Choose a time that suits you, when everyone is well and rested.

Starting with the first stage, give a quarter of a biscuit on day 1. If there are no side effects then continue with the same amount for day 2 and day 3. Then you start over, this time with half a biscuit each day. Carry on with this method until you have completed 3 days giving a whole biscuit.

Once you’ve completed the first step, move onto the second, then the third etc etc…

What if they fail a step?

It is absolutely normal to reach a step and stay there for a while. It doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong, just that they are not ready to progress further at that very moment.

The advice is to wait 3 months if you encounter a reaction. Not to stop completely, but just not to take on the next step. So if you are on step 3, keep on allowing them to have foods from that step.

Stage 1 of the milk ladder – malted milk biscuits

You don’t have to make your own biscuits, there are plenty of malted milk biscuits available in the shops. For us though, we are dealing with a soya allergy too and so the only option for us is to make our own.

This recipe makes 40 small biscuits


110g unsalted butter

110g caster sugar

175g self-raising flour

50ml evaporated milk

Water if the mixture is too try


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.

Flour the countertop and then use a knife to chop the dough into discs. You can either use up the whole mixture to make around 40 discs or divide up the mixture and save some for later. You can wrap and freeze the excess dough to use another time.

Cook for 15 minutes, until the biscuits are golden but still soft.

Leave to cool and then they are ready to eat.

How did we get on?

We completed the stage successfully but did reach a stumbling block as William caught a cold. I wasn’t sure if symptoms were due to the cold or a reaction to the biscuits so we waited. Once he was well again we carried on and he was absolutely fine eating a whole biscuit. Now it is time for stage 2!

Click here to read the full milk ladder series for my daughter’s progress. I will add in links for my son’s progress as and when we work our way up the ladder.

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Wednesday 8th of July 2020

Great post, thanks! Have you tried making these without sugar or with a sugar substitute? I have a sneaking suspicion that my daughter has a sugar intolerance (as well as milk protein) and to truly start the milk ladder I want to eliminate sugar but can't find a sugar free receipe for the malt biscuit!


Monday 13th of July 2020

Oh bless her! What makes you think that? My first daughter had lactose intolerance and that caused explosive green poos - yuk! But she was fine with fructose etc... I know people use honey instead of sugar or sometimes bananas. I guess maybe make some and see what she thinks of the taste. xx


Monday 4th of May 2020

Hi Katy - this is a really helpful blog, thank you. My son has CMPA and we are looking to start the milk ladder, but having no joy with the NHS recipe! The biscuits are rock hard on the outside and raw in the middle, despite various attempts with different temperatures and cooking durations.

We are going to try the above, but had a quick question - should this be dairy free butter, or normal butter? Want to make sure I have the correct amount of dairy.

Thanks Chloe


Saturday 9th of May 2020

I used non-dairy first as I wanted to increase the dairy in stages of that makes sense. Next batch I used dairy xx