How Can You Tell If Your Newborn Is Lactose Intolerant

How Can I Help My Baby

Is Your Baby Lactose Intolerant? Breast Milk and Formula Milk ��

If you think your baby is lactose intolerant, or if youre concerned, always seek the advice of your healthcare professional, such as your GP, health visitor or public health nurse. They may advise you to eliminate lactose from their diet, but you should wait for them to advise this before making any big changes yourself. This is especially important since you want to make sure your babys still getting all the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. For bottle-fed babies, your healthcare professional may advise the use of a lactose-free formula but always check with them first before switching.

If your baby is breastfed you may be recommended lactase drops to help baby digest the lactose found in breast milk.

What We Commonly See Is Secondary Lactose Intolerance Which Usually Happens After A Severe Bout Of Gastroenteritis


Most problems in infants like bloating, flatulence and abdominal discomfort, especially during the first is commonly blamed on lactose intolerance. But before forming any opinions, it is important to take a sensible perspective on what lactose intolerance is. Lactose is a form of sugar found in milk or milk-based products.

It is present in both breast milk and formula feeds. Our body digests this form of sugar using an enzyme called “Lactase”. This enzyme helps break the compound form of sugar into two simple sugars “Glucose” and “Galactose”, which are …


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What If A Specific Food Appears To Be A Problem

If you think your baby is reacting to a particular food, then eliminate that food from your diet for 2-3 weeks to see if babys symptoms improve. If babys symptoms do improve, then this food may be a problem for your baby. Eliminating a food for less than 2-3 weeks may not be effectivecows milk protein, for example, can persist in moms body for 1½ 2 weeks, and it may be another 1½ 2 weeks before the protein is out of babys system.

Babys symptoms will usually begin to improve within 5-7 days of eliminating a problem food. Your baby may not improve immediately, however, especially if the reaction is to a food that has been a regular part of moms diet. Some babies seem to feel worse for about a week before symptoms begin to improve. Sometimes it takes several weeks to see an improvement.

One way to confirm that a particular food is a problem for your baby is to eat that food again to see whether baby has the same reaction. The more severe your babys original symptoms, the longer you may wish to wait before reintroducing it into your dietfor a very severe reaction you may not reintroduce the food at all. If you reintroduce a food and your baby does not have the same reaction as before, then baby is probably not sensitive to that food. If he does react in the same way, you will want to limit or avoid this food for a time until baby is older or in some cases until baby has weaned.

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Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance In Babies

The symptoms of lactose intolerance can be similar to those of other conditions, meaning that its sometimes hard to identify. However, common symptoms include6:

  • Tummy pain and rumbling
  • Excessive wind
  • Vomiting

These symptoms usually occur within 13 hours after the food containing lactose has been eaten7.

What Age Does Lactose Intolerance Symptoms Start

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Symptoms can start to happen after the age of five but are usually more noticeable in teenagers and young adults. Children can usually still tolerate small amounts of lactose in their daily diets. This happens when babies are born with no lactase enzymes at all.

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Sensitivity To Cows Milk Proteins

Breastfed babies who are sensitive to dairy in moms diet are sensitive to specific cows milk antibodies, in the form of proteins , which pass into the mothers milk. Cows milk is a common source of food sensitivity in babies. Cows milk sensitivity or allergy can cause colic-like symptoms, eczema, wheezing, vomiting, diarrhea , constipation, hives, and/or a stuffy, itchy nose.

If your baby is sensitive to dairy in your diet, it will not help to switch to lactose-free dairy products. The problem is the cows milk proteins, not the lactose. Cooking dairy products may reduce but will not eliminate the allergens.

A significant percentage of babies with cows milk protein allergy will also react to soy. Most dairy-allergic babies will also react to goats milk or sheeps milk. Some will also react to beef.

If you think that your baby may be sensitive to dairy products in your diet, remember that it can take 10 days to 3 weeks to eliminate cows milk protein from your systemallow a full 2-3 weeks of dairy elimination before evaluating the results.

If your baby is only a little sensitive to dairy proteins, you may be able to relieve babys symptoms by eliminating only the obvious sources of dairy you may even be able to eat small amounts of dairy without it affecting baby.

If your baby is highly allergic, it will be necessary to eliminate all sources of dairy proteins, which requires a careful reading of food labels. See the Hidden Dairy Cheat Sheet .

Symptoms Blamed For Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is often blamed as being a contributory factor for colic, resulting in cessation of breastfeeding and substitution of lactose free formula. Infants with gastrointestinal symptoms on exposure to cows milk are more likely to have cows milk allergy than lactose intolerance

Green and frothy bowel motions may be a sign that the baby is receiving too much lactose, which has a rapid gut transit time. This may be due to an excess of the early less fat-rich milk or switching the baby between breasts before emptying one breast first. Babies may be very unsettled and windy. Mothers may have an overactive letdown reflex.

Assessment by an experienced breastfeeding worker may be beneficial to ensure optimal milk removal by the baby is taking place before considering lactose free formulae. Imbalance of milk transfer can produce similar symptoms i.e. loose bowel motions, which may be green and frothy. This is due to the rapid transit time of large volumes of lower fat milk and consequently an excessive consumption of lactose . Breast compression when the baby is not actively sucking may improve milk transfer.

Babies can exhibit excess wind and gastric discomfort, which may be diagnosed as lactose intolerance, but which in fact is transitory lactase deficiency i.e. too much lactose for the available lactase.

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What Is Cows’ Milk Allergy

Most infant formula milk is made from cows’ milk. The first time a baby has cows’ milk, it’s very likely to be in formula. That’s because cows’ milk itself isn’t recommended as a drink for children under the age of 1. But from around 6 months old, when a baby is being introduced to solids, they can have cows milk as an ingredient in foods.

Cows’ milk allergy is one of the most common allergies for babies and young children. Experts estimate that 2% to 7.5% of U.K. babies under 12 months old have it. If it happens, your child’s immune system reacts to the proteins in milk, triggering allergy symptoms. That’s why it’s sometimes called cows’ milk protein allergy.

If your baby does get an allergy to cow’s milk, it usually starts when your baby is first exposed to cow’s milk, through formula, or later with solid foods.

Sometimes, but not very often, babies who are breastfed can have this allergy. It’s because the cows’ milk from the mum’s diet is being passed on to the baby through their breast milk.

Most children grow out of the allergy by the time they reach the age of 5.

What To Expect From Your Lactose Intolerant Babys Poop

Does your Baby Have Lactose Intolerance Or Cows Milk Allergy?

Loose, watery stools – diarrhoea, are common in babies with lactose intolerance. But loose poos can mean other things, too. So if your baby starts having runnier poo than usual, this doesnt necessarily mean that they’re lactose intolerant.

Remember that its not unusual for newborn babies to have the odd runny poo. Every baby is different when it comes to their pooing habits, both in terms of frequency and consistency, not to mention smell. Once you get to know their particular toilet habits, youll know whats normal, and whats not so normal, for your baby.

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What Are The Causes Of Lactose Intolerance

Only 1 in 50 people of European descent have an intolerance to lactose2. In the UK, its more common in people of Asian or African-Caribbean origin3.

There are three main causes of lactose intolerance4:

Primary this is when the bodys natural lactase production decreases by around 10-30%. This could be as a result of age, or in response to reducing the amount of dairy products that you eat. A primary lactose intolerance doesnt usually occur before adulthood, and in most cases is associated with cultural groups where dairy products are not a regular part of the adult diet5.

Secondary this type of intolerance is temporary. It occurs as the result of gut damage, caused by a stomach bug or infection, undiagnosed coeliac disease, or a long course of antibiotics, for example.

Congenital an extremely rare, genetic form of the lactose intolerance, where babies are born without, or with very low amounts of lactase.

Lactose intolerance may also occur in babies who are born prematurely. This is because their small intestine is not developed enough at birth, and things usually improve as babies get older.

Milk Intolerance In Babies And Children

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Some babies and children have a reaction when they drink cow’s milk or formula made from cow’s milk. This could be due to 2 things: a lactose intolerance or an allergy to milk. If your child has one of these conditions, you will have to alter their diet to cut down on milk or avoid it altogether.

  • wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • they are pale and floppy or unconscious

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What Are The Symptoms

Symptoms of lactose intolerance can be mild to severe, depending on how much lactase your body makes. Symptoms usually begin 30 minutes to 2 hours after you eat or drink milk products. If you have lactose intolerance, your symptoms may include:

  • Bloating.
  • Loose stools or diarrhea.
  • Throwing up.

Many people who have gas, belly pain, bloating, and diarrhea suspect they may be lactose-intolerant. The best way to check this is to avoid eating all milk and dairy products to see if your symptoms go away. If they do, then you can try adding small amounts of milk products to see if your symptoms come back.

If you feel sick after drinking a glass of milk one time, you probably do not have lactose intolerance. But if you feel sick every time you have milk, ice cream, or another dairy product, you may have lactose intolerance.

Sometimes people who have never had problems with milk or dairy products suddenly have lactose intolerance. This is more common as you get older.

If you think you might have lactose intolerance, talk with your doctor. He or she can make sure that your symptoms are caused by lactose intolerance and not by another problem.

Lactose Intolerance And Breastfeeding

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This information can also be viewed as a PDF by clicking here.

The information provided is taken from various reference sources. It is provided as a guideline. No responsibility can be taken by the author or the Breastfeeding Network for the way in which the information is used. Clinical decisions remain the responsibility of medical and breastfeeding practitioners. The data presented here is intended to provide some immediate information but cannot replace input from professionals.

Lactose is the sugar in all mammalian milks.

The amount of lactose in breastmilk is independent of the mothers consumption of lactose and hardly varies.

The quantity of lactase, the enzyme needed to breakdown the sugar, does vary.

Lactose intolerance occurs when a person does not produce the enzyme lactase, or does not produce enough of it, and is therefore unable to digest lactose. If it is not digested and broken down, lactose cannot be absorbed. The undigested lactose passes rapidly through the gut until it is broken down by bacteria, producing acids and gas. The production of lactase decreases in most humans from the age of two years although symptoms of intolerance are rare before the age of six. Lactose intolerance in adults is very common. Lactose intolerance is not the same as intolerance to cows milk protein .

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Avoid Solid Foods That Contain Lactose

If your baby is already eating solid foods, or once they become old enough to begin eating solids, youll want to be sure to avoid feeding them foods that contain lactose. Also, be sure to check the labels on any prepackaged foods, as many foods contain ingredients with lactose.

It can be worrisome if you think your baby is lactose intolerant. But, once you use the signs and symptoms to identify the lactose intolerance, with just a few modifications, your baby can continue to grow and thrive!

Will My Baby Grow Out Of Their Lactose Intolerance

Its very likely yes and most likely it will be gone by 7-9 months of age. Its easy to test by reintroducing a small amount of milk into their diet and seeing if their diarrhoea, wind and bloating returns. Its quite safe to do this at home. If the symptoms do come back then go back to following a lactose-free diet and try again in a month or so. If your baby is still lactose intolerant by her first birthday, do seek the advice of a registered dietitian.

For more information, consultations and advice you can contact Sarah via her website at

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What To Think About

Lactose intolerance in newborns of normal birth weight and in babies is rare. But if your child has symptoms of lactose intolerance, see your doctor right away. Diarrhea is very dangerous because it can lead to dehydration, a serious problem that requires immediate attention.

Babies who are only fed breast milk do not develop lactose intolerance, because breast milk contains lactase, the enzyme that helps digest milk sugar. If your baby is formula-fed and develops lactose intolerance, you can switch to a formula made without lactose. In rare cases, a baby may have a reaction to the proteins in milk, which is a different condition called sensitivity to milk protein.

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