milk ladder
Parenting,  Parenting Advice

Beating The Milk Ladder

Austin has had a tough start to life. Right from birth, we’ve had issues. Silent reflux. A milk intolerance. Indigestion. We even had a trip to A&E with a chest infection and pneumonia. The poor little guy has battled through though and is thriving with his development. We have recently tackled the dreaded milk ladder in an attempt to wean him back onto a normal diet. Would it be a success? Or would he be once again struck down by his health? Lets find out…

Back To The Start

Let me take you right back to the beginning. The first few months of Austin’s life were hard. I remember the long evenings. Trying to calm down a hysterical newborn baby with no idea of what was wrong with him. Hours and hours of crying and frustration. From us as parents too. They were dark days. Not being able to help your child when they are crying out in pain was horrible. You feel like you are failing as a parent.

Eventually we sought medical help. There was clearly something not right. We were back and to from the doctors on a regular basis, trying new medication. Nothing seemed to be working. We were first told that Austin suffered from silent reflux and was given Gaviscon. Although this helped a little, it didn’t solve the problem. Austin ended up blocked up and was recommended Lactulose to help him poo.

After a while he was taken off the Gaviscon and put on Ranitidine which was a liquid added to his bottles to decrease his stomach acid. Austin would often be in agony after every bottle. It was impossible to get all his gas up when burping him. The ranitidine did make a difference, but it wasn’t the answer. The dosage needed to be increased as his weight increased. We ended up at the maximum dosage and couldn’t go any higher.

The Final Diagnosis

At 2 months old, Austin was diagnosed with CMPI (Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance). He was put on special formula called Neocate which finally calmed his health problems down. Although we were happy that there was a diagnosis, it brought with it some new challenges. When it came to weaning at around 6 months, every shopping trip was a struggle. Checking every single label to see if the food contained milk. It really limited his diet. Every baby going through the weaning process wants whatever you have. It was heartbreaking not being able to share my food with him in the fear of making him ill.

For about 6 months, Austin was on a strict diet of dairy free, lactose free and gluten free food. I tried some Dairy free ice cream just to see what it tasted like. It was vile. In that moment I really understood the tastes and flavours that Austin had been missing out on.

The Milk Ladder

As soon as Austin turned one it was time to start weaning him back onto a normal diet. The most terrifying part of the process is knowing how to start. There’s the fear that you are putting your child at risk by feeding them something that’s given them so much pain and discomfort in the past. It’s a scary thought. The only advice I can give is just to be brave. If you don’t try then you never know.

If you aren’t familiar with the milk ladder, it’s basically a ladder of food that you work up to wean milk back into the diet. It starts off with food that contains very limited milk protein. Each stage of the ladder increases the amount, with the final stage being whole milk. This seemed like a mountain to climb when we first started. The thought of feeding Austin a bottle of pasteurised milk after spending so long avoiding it was terrifying.

Starting From The Bottom

We started at the bottom, which was a malted milk biscuit. The first stage is always the hardest. We were so hesitant to feed him these biscuits. As time went on though, it was clear that nothing bad was happening. Not even the sign of an explosive nappy. So far so good. As each stage went by, we started to get more and more confident. We even skipped out a few stages and jumped straight to the next one. For example, we missed out the scotch pancakes at stage 4 and went to the pizza at stage 7 instead. Each time we progressed, we were expecting him to break out into a rash, but it didn’t happen.

It’s recommended that you wait around a week before moving onto the next stage. Although it’s really just a case of when you feel confident moving on. We all know our own children better than anyone, so moving forward should be at a pace you feel comfortable with.

milk ladder

Moving Higher

Although our confidence was increasing as we got to the highest parts of the ladder, so was the risk. Before we knew it, we had made it to stage 12, which was pasteurised milk. The big one! We were fairly sure that Austin had outgrown his intolerance by now. We had people sneaking him chocolate every 5 minutes and nothing bad had happened. It was all just a case of how brave we were feeling and when we wanted to make that jump. Austin has been having a slow increase of normal milk for the past few weeks and it’s so far so good. Nothing bad has happened!

We have decided to stop buying dairy free food now. It’s cost us a fortune. It’s a huge relief to be able to buy any sort of food and not have to spend hours checking the labels. I can now share my food with Austin without the fear of making him ill. The next few months will be spent catching him up on all of the amazing tastes that he has been missing out on. Ice cream, pizza, chocolate. He is going to have his mind and his taste buds blown.

milk ladder


If you are thinking of attempting the milk ladder with your child, then just remember these few tips:

  • Be brave – the hardest part is starting. Once you start, it all becomes a lot easier.
  • If your child displays any sort of reaction, then move back onto the previous stage where you know it’s safe.
  • Proceed at a pace that you and your child are comfortable with.
  • Don’t be afraid to skip a few stages

milk ladder

I think we are in a position to say now that Austin has officially beaten the milk ladder. After 17 months he is now on a regular diet. We’ve come a long way from the days calming down a screaming newborn every night. If you have any more questions about our experience or want more details then feel free to get in contact.

milk ladder



  • Danielle

    My son had reflux too. He would cough and choke until he turned blue from lack of oxygen. It is a scary thing to see as a parent. I had to cut all dairy and soy products from mine and his diet (being that he was bf). There is so much anxiety that come with it, as they begin staying with grandparents you worry they might get something they shouldn’t have. You know? We didn’t transition back to a regular diet until 16 months because he wasn’t ready at 12. Which made the second attempt pretty hard. As a parent with a reflux child you often times feel alone and judged. Way to bring awareness and great post! I’m glad to hear your son has overcome this.

  • Catherine Coleman

    It sounds like you’ve had a tough time with these food intolerances. I know several friends with babies who have different allergies or intolerances and I have seen how difficult it makes even the most simple meal or snack.
    I’m glad those days are over now for you 🙂

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