What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is a health problem that occurs due to body’s inability to digest sugar in milk and many other nutrients. As your body cannot produce enough lactose, the enzymes have difficulty in decomposing sugar and this causes gastrointestinal problems.
Even though these problems tend to be uncomfortable, note that they are not dangerous. Lactose intolerance usually shows up in teenage years, but sometimes they may appear earlier.
What causes lactose intolerance?
It’s not clearly known what causes lactose intolerance. Babies may be born being lactose intolerant due to the genes they acquire from their parents. In such cases, the baby will not be able to digest the sugar in breast milk and foods made with cow's milk. For this reason, babies with lactose intolerant need special, lactose-free infant formula.
It is very important that you consult your doctor to find the right formula for your baby. If your baby has had a severe case of diarrhea, this may be because he is having difficulty in digesting lactose. Also some medications may cause temporary problems in digesting lactose.
How can I understand whether my baby has lactose intolerance or milk allergy?
Even though the symptoms are similar, there are ways to distinguish lactose intolerance from milk allergy.
If your baby is lactose intolerant, he may have abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and gas about thirty minutes to 2 hours after drinking breast milk or eating dairy products. Another difference is that allergy is a general condition whereas lactose intolerance is a digestion related problem. Also note that abdominal cramping after drinking milk and eating dairy products is a symptom for both.
However if your baby develops itchy rashes and swelling of the lips, nose or any other body part after consuming these kinds of products, it may indicate that your baby has allergy to one of the proteins in cow's milk. It is very unlikely that your baby shows signs of lactose intolerance at babyhood and childhood, but you should consult your doctor on this. Upon recommendation of your doctor, you may eliminate all sources of lactose from your baby's diet for a couple of weeks to monitor the results
How can I help my baby with lactose intolerant?
You should support your baby by not feeding her with milk and dairy products. However some foods like oils, breads, cookies contain milk and dairy products, so make sure that you check the food labels of packed products.
Some lactose intolerant people can easily digest small amounts of sugar. However some are very sensitive to even the smallest quantities. Some products contain less lactose, so they will be easier to digest. For example compared with other dairy products, yoghurt is easier to digest due to the good bacteria it contains. So many people with lactose intolerance can comfortably have yoghurt in their diets. If your baby is extra sensitive to lactose, you may want to avoid milk and all dairy products. If not, you may be able to give your baby small amounts of selected dairy foods along with other foods you would include in her diet.