The Milk Ladder

January 11, 2021

Many years now parents of babies who have had cow’s milk protein intolerance or allergy have at some point been recommended the milk ladder by their dietician. This is a very dated way of reintroducing food that have been eliminated from the baby’s diet. I would never, ever advise doing the milk ladder in any baby and these are the reasons why.

Babies digestive systems are very different to that of an adult, they have naturally occurring holes in the digestive system wall that are there to let through the immunoglobulins from the mother’s breastmilk. These large protein molecules are there to boost the baby’s immune system and protect them against infections. These holes in the digestive system and incredibly important so that this transfer of proteins (the immunoglobulins) from the digestive system to the blood stream is possible.

In adults, and older children, only water, vitamins, minerals and certain drugs should pass through this barrier. If adult’s digestive system is with the same as babies- it would be described as leaky gut.

It was previously thought that these holes close up in the first six months, hence the milk ladder being advised around this time. It has now been proven that these holes close up over the first 5 to 7 years of life, this is why a lot of children grow out of things like asthma and eczema by around this age.

When the protein molecules pass from the digestive system into the bloodstream other protein molecules can do the same thing. These protein molecules could come from any food but dairy and eggs are very common. When this happens inflammation occurs in the digestive system of the baby as the babies own immune system fights these ‘invaders’. When this happens, it causes symptoms, these can range from mucus in the poo, digestive discomfort, eczema, asthma, constipation, diarrhoea, Colic and sleep issues.

If you try to re-introduce the foods that are causing This information in the body to soon, before these holes are closed up, it can prevent the holes from closing. This means that the issues, inflammation and food intolerances can last a lot longer.

If the food(s) that are causing the issues are eliminated these holes are able to close up because the inflammation is not present in the digestive system. This is physiologically what is meant to happen- and will happen natirally without the inflammation present.

The milk ladder, or egg ladder, introduces these foods, not only in an unhealthy way but also in an unnecessary way.

It introduces a small amount of each of the foods on a daily basis. Do remember that these foods for every baby this is advised to have cause them issues in the past. If the holes aren’t closed, which they won’t be in a child under the age of three, introducing these foods will just cause inflammation. When you start the milk ladder your baby may be asymptomatic (no symptoms). That doesn’t mean that these foods aren’t causing inflammation in your babies’ digestive system.

If this information was due to a one-off testing of a certain food then the inflammation would pass and not cause too many issues. Using the milk ladder, you are introducing a small part of this food each day, on an increasing basis causing more and more, and more, and more inflammation.

On top of this the food that they advise introducing I things like biscuits cakes and muffins; none of which I would want to be giving my under two-year-old on a daily basis!!

What I would advise doing is waiting until your baby is older, I normally advise over 18 months. At this point you can start testing on an ad hoc basis what your baby can tolerate at that time. Just be more relaxed about the diet, if you’re out and about let them have a slice of pizza, let them have a lick of your ice cream, let them have that cake at the party. If they are asymptomatic then let them have a little bit more, relax the boundaries a little. If, however the symptoms return and you know this is the level that your baby can tolerate. There is absolutely no need to introduce of food that you know cause your baby in issue on a daily basis using foods that are unhealthy for them to eat!

This ‘allergy’ is called ‘intolerance’ the reason for that is with intolerances (unlike allergies) you can ‘tolerate’ a certain amount- that level of tolerance will differ from baby to baby, and increase with age.