26 Oct 2017 | 4 min Read
Foram K Modi
Author | 7 Articles
Medically reviewed by
Dr Madan Mahalle
When we discovered that my son was temporarily lactose intolerant, the anxious and detective mother in me got into a full-blown R&D mode. I Googled, spoke to experts and experienced people then and have gathered a lot of stuff on lactose intolerance in babies.
Lactose intolerance happens when the body can’t break down lactose sugar.
Lactose is present in breast milk, dairy milk and other dairy products, and it is essential for a baby’s health and development.
Usually, the enzyme lactase changes lactose into sugars that are more easily absorbed. But sometimes, children don’t produce enough lactase to break down all the lactose, so the unabsorbed lactose passes through the gut without being digested. Bacteria eat the undigested lactose, which leads to a buildup of gas and causes symptoms like wind and diarrhoea.
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There are two types of lactose intolerance in babies: primary and secondary.
Primary Lactose Intolerance
This happens when babies are born with no lactase enzymes, which is genetic and extremely rare. Babies with lactose intolerance have severe diarrhoea from the very first day of life. To thrive, they need a special diet from when they are born.
Secondary Lactose Intolerance
This can happen if a child’s digestive system has been upset by tummy bug illnesses like gastroenteritis. This kind of lactose intolerance is temporary and usually improves after a few weeks. Secondary lactose intolerance might also happen if your child’s body doesn’t produce enough lactase. This usually develops after the age of three and can be lifelong.
Most lactose-intolerant children can continue to include some milk products in their diets, especially if they eat them with other foods and in small amounts throughout the day.
Lactose intolerance in babies causes a range of symptoms including:
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Red, raw nappy rash caused by acidic poop is another possible symptom or side effect of lactose intolerance. Even if your child has these symptoms, it doesn’t always mean s/he’s lactose intolerant, and it is also highly likely the symptoms will disappear.
Diagnosing Lactose Intolerance
Because some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance and food allergy are similar, diagnosing lactose intolerance in babies can sometimes be tricky.
Lactose intolerance is caused when the intestinal lining (bowel and gut) is damaged. Diarrhoea contaminated with viruses, such as the rotavirus, is a common source of this harm. Lactose intolerance causes babies to be unable to digest lactose adequately, causing it to stay indigestible in the gut.
Your doctor may conduct a few tests to determine if your baby is lactose intolerant. Weaning isn’t usually recommended because breastmilk has so many nutritional benefits. Your child can generally tolerate a small amount of lactose, and gradually increasing it can help her body produce more lactase.
If your baby is formula-fed, consult your GP or a registered dietician before using a low-lactose or lactose-free infant formula. If your child is under six months, avoid using soy-based infant formula.
Lactose Intolerance and Diet
If your child is older and diagnosed with lactose intolerance, they can eat the following foods:
Do not allow him to eat: Milk desserts, cream cheese, processed cheese and cheese spreads, muesli bars, instant mashed potato and vegetables with added milk or white sauces.
These diet tips can also help your child avoid symptoms:
So mums, watch out for signs and take your doctor’s advice. And most importantly, trust the human body.
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