Does feeding a baby cow’s milk formula change their risk of developing a cow’s milk allergy? The COMEET study helps answer this question. Learn about the main findings from the COMEET study, plus key takeaways from this study for parents.
As a new parent, you want to do everything you can to ensure your baby is healthy and happy. One of the most important decisions you'll make is how to feed your baby. Breastfeeding is often recommended as the best option, but not all mothers are able to – or want to – breastfeed. In these cases, cow’s milk formula is the most common alternative.
Scientists have wondered if cow’s milk formula changes the risk of developing a cow’s milk allergy. But studies have typically been based on parental recall long after their baby was an infant, which can make conclusions difficult. That’s where the COMEET study, or Cow’s Milk Early Exposure Trial study, comes in. Today, we’ll cover the key findings about formula feeding and allergies from the COMEET study, and what these findings mean for parents.
The COMEET Study: What did it involve?
The Cow’s Milk Early Exposure Trial (COMEET) study aimed to assess the association between early, continuing exposure to cow’s milk formula and the development of IgE-mediated cow’s milk allergy in a large birth cohort. The study followed infants from birth to 12 months of age, and included infants from urban, suburban, and rural areas.
The COMEET study aimed to answer the question: does early and consistent exposure to cow’s milk, using cow’s milk formula, reduce babies’ milk allergy risk?
To be eligible to participate in the study, infants needed to:
- Be term or near-term: born after 36 plus 0 gestational weeks
- Have an appropriate birth weight based on their gestational age
- Not have any known congenital anomalies
Parents were given the choice between exclusive breastfeeding or exposure to cow’s milk formula from birth.
Doctors enrolled 1,992 infants in the COMEET study:
- 1,073 were in the exclusive breastfeeding group.
- 919 were in the cow’s milk formula group:
- 617 of the babies in the formula group would be fed a combination of breast milk and formula.
- The other 302 would be exclusively formula-fed.
Parents chose how they thought they would feed their baby at the outset of the study. But since things often change when babies are young, the scientists looked at how babies were actually fed during the study in order to analyze the data.
There were 17 infants diagnosed with an IgE-mediated cow’s milk allergy, and all were in the exclusively breastfed group.
When the scientists reviewed how parents actually fed their babies, they found that 13 of the 17 infants who had developed a cow’s milk allergy had been exposed to small amounts of cow’s milk formula, but only in the first days of life – less than 5 meals. This factor shows how important it is to maintain common allergens in the diet after they are introduced, and not just introduce them once or twice.
Overall, the researchers found that introducing cow’s milk formula to babies early and consistently reduced the risk of a cow’s milk allergy. This is similar to the SPADE trial, which found that introducing a small amount of cow’s milk formula every day to otherwise breastfed infants significantly reduced the rate of cow’s milk allergy.
Breaking Down the Findings: What They Mean For Parents
What do these findings mean for new parents? Here are some key takeaways:
- Breastfeeding is still a great option for feeding your baby if possible. Breast milk provides optimal nutrition for infants and has many health benefits, including a reduced risk of infections.
- Consistently add cow’s milk into your baby’s diet. Including cow’s milk formula is safe and effective to prevent food allergies, as long as it is done consistently.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about your feeding options. Your healthcare provider can help you make an informed decision about how to feed your baby. They can also provide guidance on how to introduce new foods and monitor your baby for signs of allergies or other health issues.
- Be aware of the signs and symptoms of cow’s milk allergy. Cow's milk allergy is a common food allergy among infants, and it can cause a range of symptoms, including hives, vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing. If you suspect that your baby has cow’s milk allergy, talk to your healthcare provider right away.
How can Ready. Set. Food! help?
Ready. Set. Food! Stage 1 introduces cow’s milk (as well as egg and peanut) slowly and gradually, and can be mixed into breast milk. It is an easy way to make sure that your breastfed baby is getting consistently exposed to cow’s milk safely.
You can start using Ready. Set. Food! with any baby as early as 4 months of age. And after your baby is finished with Stage 1, you can continue to keep cow’s milk, egg, and peanut in their diet using Stage 2 (which also mixes with breastmilk).
Even if you’re using formula, Ready. Set. Food! can help make sure your baby is consistently consuming other common allergens – beyond just cow’s milk – in line with medical guidelines.
All health-related content on this website is for informational purposes only and does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician in connection with any questions regarding your baby’s health.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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