Lactose Intolerance in Babies

What is Lactose Intolerance in Babies?

Lactose is the sugar in milk. When a person stops producing the enzyme LACTASE, which breaks down lactose, lactose intolerance occurs, because of the inability to digest it.

This is a very rare occurrence and is usually not the case, most times, a baby only has acid refluxcolic or a food allergy, which is an immune response, not a digestive condition like lactose intolerance.

True lactose intolerance usually only becomes apparent at about age 10, it's very uncommon for a baby, unless he/she is premature.

A baby with TRUE lactose intolerance will need to eat a special diet, and will unfortunately not be able to breastfeed. 



crying baby, baby with lactose intolerance


What are the Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance in Babies?

  • Frothy runny stools.
  • Gassiness.
  • Bloody stools.
  • The baby is fussy, crying and irritable most of the time.
  • The baby struggles to put on weight.
  • The baby shows obvious signs of dehydration.
  • Excessive vomiting.
  • Diaper rash.
  • Milk rash (sores on the face).

Diagnosing lactose intolerance in the breastfed baby

Hydrogen breath tests are for reducing sugar in the stools and can be taken, but are not always accurate, as most healthy babies might bring up the same results before three months of age.


What is Secondary Infant Lactose Intolerance?

~ Important Fact ~

Lactose Intolerance in Babies

Never assume that your baby is lactose intolerant, removing lactose from milk is like removing the milk’s powerful brain growth properties. It should only be done when necessary and only under medical supervision.

This is when the gut lining has been damaged, this might be due to gastroenteritis, surgery, food allergy, parasitic infections or celiac disease (intolerance to gluten). Secondary lactose intolerance is temporary and only lasts until the gut lining has healed.

Mothers should continue to breastfeed, as the breast milk will assist in the healing of the gut. Babies are usually only given a lactose free hypoallergenic formula if they are malnourished and/or losing weight.

If a mother does end up giving her baby formula, she can always use alternative feeding methods and pump exclusively, until her baby’s gut lining has healed. This will ensure that her breast milk supply does not dry up.

Read more about temporary weaning.

So what can be done if baby has a cow milk allergy problem?

A mother who breastfeeds, will need to cut out all forms of dairy and get her calcium from another source.

Bottle fed babies need to be given formula that contain no cow milk proteins.

This problem usually disappears by age two.


What if the Mother has Lactose Intolerance?

She can continue to breastfeed. The mother might need to take some calcium supplementation.


What is Lactose Overload?

beautiful breastfeeding pictures, breast baby

This is when a baby consumes unnecessary large amounts of foremilk, usually due to an oversupply of breast milk. The result is a fat, fussy, gassy baby, that has explosive bowel movements and excretes excessive amounts of urine.

This occurs because the baby is drinking too much of the foremilk, which is less sustaining, compared to the fatty hind milk at the back of the breast milk cells. The result is gas, acidic poos and even nappy rash.

Drinking calms a baby, and moves the acid further down, giving him/her short lived comfort, but this just makes the situation worse.

The solution? Get your baby to finish one breast, before offering the other one; you can pump the other breast for relief and make sure that your baby drinks from the opposite breast the next time. It could be helpful to feed a baby on each alternative breast every two hours.

Read more about dealing with oversupply and block feeding here.

Read more about foremilk and hindmilk imbalance.


What Causes Lactose Intolerance in Baby?

  • Genetic factors.
  • Diarrhea can cause temporary lactose intolerance.
  • Some medications can also cause temporary lactose intolerance.

If your baby has a food allergy, it won’t help removing lactose from the diet, you will need to eliminate the specific culprit food. These food allergies (allergic to milk protein not the lactose) are much more common than lactose intolerance.

Read more about breastfeeding and food allergies



Other pages on “breastfeeding problems" in connection with lactose intolerance in babies

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