Police quiz parents for ‘child abuse’ only to find baby had allergy

Police arrest father and quiz parents for ‘child abuse’ after health visitor reports child’s red and blotchy skin to NHS – before discovering he has a milk allergy

Parents who were falsely accused of abusing their newborn when he displayed milk allergy symptoms have spoken of their ‘harrowing‘ ordeal.

Marc Sutherland and Natalie Whyte were separated from their son and interviewed by 22 people after repeatedly raising concerns about ‘screaming fits‘ which left him red and marked.

Mr Sutherland said  the ordeal, which included him being arrested and questioned by police, was ‘hell‘.

‘We were put through two months of hell because they didn‘t test for his allergies the day we went into the hospital,‘ he said. ‘It‘s a horrible experience that no-one should go through.‘ 

The ordeal started when health experts said baby Callan was suffering from colic but the parents ‘knew‘ there was something seriously wrong.

Ms Whyte, who is also mother to seven-year-old Lucy, said: ‘We were constantly told that is was colic. But I knew it wasn’t just that – every feed he would be agitated and scream the house down.‘

After one particularly hard night last month, Ms Whtye again spoke to the health visitor – who asked if she thought her young daughter could be hurting seven-week-old Callan.

The 28-year-old, of Auchleven, Aberdeenshire, said: ‘I had taken Lucy out and on my return Marc told me how Callan had really struggled. 

‘He had been pushing and straining and had gone bright red and purple. The left side of his face was red and slightly swollen.

‘The next day, his face still had some strange red and purplish marks on it and I was very worried, as any parent would be.‘

She took him to the doctor and was told once again that it was colic and the marks were from the straining.

The following week however, Ms Whyte told her health visitor about Callan’s bath time ‘fit‘ and was immediately met with ‘accusatory questions‘.

‘She asked if Lucy could have hurt her brother or if I felt safe leaving the baby alone with my husband,‘ she said.

Callan was displaying an allergic reaction to milk but his parents were told it was colic

That evening the family were told to attend Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where Mr Sutherland was informed he was being investigated for child abuse and they ‘would be arrested‘ if they tried to leave.

Ms Whyte described the following five days as ‘harrowing‘ as she was separated from Callan overnight, adding: ‘We were interviewed by 22 different people. 

‘We were placed under tremendous scrutiny and told we couldn’t be around either of our children unsupervised.

‘Lucy was investigated and her school was ed for comment on what kind of parents we were.

‘I was forced into leaving my newborn overnight. Our hearts were in a million pieces – we were absolutely devastated.‘

Baby Callan underwent blood tests, eye examinations, CT Scans and two full-body X-Rays.

‘I had to stand back and watch three nurses pin every little bone on his body down as he shrieked,‘ said Ms Whyte. ‘All to prove we hadn’t broken his bones.‘

The couple were eventually allowed to go home, although Mr Sutherland was later quizzed by police – who have confirmed no action is being taken against the 33-year-old after he was arrested, cautioned and held for four hours, reports.

Spotting and treating a milk allergy in newborn

Rashes, lip swelling as well as swelling of the lips, face and eyes can be signs of an allergy to cows‘ milk.

Other symptoms include stomach ache, vomiting, colic, diarrhoea, constipation, runny or blocked noses and eczema that fails to improve with treatment.

If your baby presents these symptoms, your doctor may advise removing all cows‘ milk from your child‘s diet for a time.

Your GP can prescribe special infant formula if required.

Parents are warned not to give their child any other type of milk without getting medical advice first.

The child in question should be assessed every 6 to 12 months to see if they have grown out of the allergy.  

Mr Sutherland said he never saw the detention coming, adding the resources spent treating him like a criminal could have been spent investigating actual abusers. 

It was only after the couple sought a second opinion from another doctor that a dairy-intolerance was diagnosed.

His relieved mum said: ‘The change was instant – after his first feed with the non-dairy milk. He’s like a different baby.

‘I can’t believe we had to go through all that torment – someone should have picked up that he was allergic to milk – I knew something wasn’t right.‘

Now the couple have raised a formal complaint against the health visitor and her supervisor and are still waiting for an apology.

Ms Whyte said: ‘I understand that you have to protect vulnerable babies, but no-one listened to me. I just hope no other families have to go through the same thing we did.‘

A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian said: ‘Ms Whyte and her family have raised their concerns directly with us. As this matter is currently under investigation it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time.‘

Detective Inspector David Howieson said: ‘When concerns about children are raised to police – no matter the nature – they must be taken seriously until the full circumstances are established.

‘In this case a report was received from a partner agency and enquiries were subsequently carried out, with all those involved updated at each stage.‘


Colic is excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy.

The problem affects about one in five babies and tends to begin when a baby is a few weeks old. 

It usually at four months or six at the latest. 

There‘s no method that works for all babies with colic, but there are a number of techniques that may help.

These include:

Some babies may also benefit from changes to their diet, such as adding drops to breast or bottle milk that aid digestion and release any bubbles of trapped air in your baby‘s digestive system.

Speak to a GP or pharmacist for advice before trying these.