Lactose is a complex sugar found in milk and dairy products.To be absorbed by the body it has to be broken down to simpler sugars like glucose and galactose by an enzyme called lactase. When the small intestine is unable to produce enough lactase there is a tendency to develop lactose intolerance.
Sometimes, this condition occurs in prematurely born babies who are born with very low levels of lactase. As a result, the build-up of unprocessed lactose causes gastrointestinal discomfort like stomach cramps and bloating. Though it rarely occurs in new born babies, it’s a temporary disorder that disappears as the baby gets older.
This condition doesn’t normally show up in children born at full term, until they are at least 3 years old.
Lactose Intolerance And Milk Allergy Are Not The Same
Often the two conditions are confused because the symptoms tend to be similar. Milk allergy is caused when the immune system reacts to proteins found in milk; while lactose intolerance happens due to the undigested lactose in the gut.
If you notice itchy rashes or swelling of the face, lips, or mouth whenever your baby has consumed dairy product, it could be probable that he is reacting to one of the proteins in cow’s milk.
What Are The Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance?
A baby who is lactose intolerant will have abdominal cramps, bloating, excessive burping or diarrhea about 30 minutes to several hours after drinking breast milk. If your baby has started on solids, you will see these symptoms after he has consumed dairy products like cheese and yogurt.
Causes For Lactose Intolerance
Though it’s believed to be a genetic disorder, the causes for this are still unclear. However, it is very common in adults worldwide. In communities where a lot of dairy product is consumed, lactose intolerance is less common.
Very rarely, babies are born with lactose intolerance. If it does show up, the baby will react to the lactose in his mother’s milk or formula milk and have severe diarrhea. In such cases, the baby would need a special lactose-free infant formula. This could continue for a week or two before it settles down.
Can Lactose Intolerance Be Cured?
No unfortunately there is no cure for this condition. However, it can be controlled by making changes in the diet – primarily avoiding dairy products and all sources of lactose.
Be extra cautious when you’re buying food for your baby. Sometimes, you may find a lactose-base even in the most unexpected products like soups, breads, breakfast cereals, cookies. So watch out and read the labels thoroughly before you put them into your shopping cart.
How To Ensure That You’re Baby’s Getting Important Nutrients
If you’re baby is extra sensitive to milk and dairy products, you may have to totally eliminate dairy products from his diet. To ensure that he gets his required doses of calcium, you could explore other non dairy sources like soya milk, tofu, nuts, broccoli, cabbage, fortified bread and canned salmon.
Lactose free products are also available in supermarkets. They are enriched with all the nutrients of regular dairy products without the lactose.