Lactose Intolerance In Babies: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

5 min read

Written by Editorial Team

Editorial Team

Lactose Intolerance In Babies

Breast milk is considered the primary source of feeding for a newborn baby. There might be chances that your infant is unable to digest the breast milk and end up vomiting or having diarrhea just after getting fed. We are talking about lactose intolerance in babies.

If your baby is facing the same issue, then he must be lactose intolerant. In this article, you will get a detailed understanding of what lactose intolerance is and how it affects the baby’s health.

 In This Article

What Is Lactose Intolerance In Babies?

It is an eating condition in which the newborn infant is not fully digested the amount of lactose, which is a sugar substance present in breast milk. Lactase is an enzyme found in the small intestine that breaks down lactose into smaller molecules.

But, if there is a shortage of lactase, then it would prevent the disintegration of lactose in the body, which will result in lactose intolerance in the body. In such cases, the lactose in the milk goes to the colon, where the bacteria ferment it.  Fermentation of milk in the colon leads to diarrhea, bloating, gas formation, and even stomach pain in babies.

What Causes Lactose Intolerance?

What Causes Lactose Intolerance_

There are mainly three reasons which cause lactose intolerance in the baby’s body, which are discussed below:

1. Primary Lactose Intolerance

This type of lactose intolerance is a relatively common condition in humans. It occurs when our body is unable to produce lactase as the baby grows older. This happens when the body doesn’t have long-term lactose-producing genes. As the baby grows older, the body stops the digestion of lactose in the body, which would make the infant completely lactose intolerant.

2. Secondary Lactose Intolerance

This is a highly complicated condition in which there is some damage caused to the inner mucosa of the small intestine, which would result in lactose intolerance in the body. Some of the common reason for the damage is cancer, Gastroenteritis, bowel inflammatory disease, and irritable bowel syndrome in children.

3. Congenital Lactose Intolerance

This type of lactose intolerance happens when the baby doesn’t have the genes for the secretion of lactose in the body. It is a kind of genetic disorder. It is quite rare that the infant is not able to digest breast milk from birth.

Are Lactose Tolerance And Milk Allergy The Same?

Milk allergy and lactose intolerance are not the same. Instead, they are two completely different body conditions. Milk allergy refers to a severe syndrome in which the body has an adverse reaction toward milk products resulting in rashes, swelling, inflammation, or acne on the body. Whereas, lactose insufficiency is the process in which the human body denies to digest lactose due to smaller amounts of lactose molecules in the body.

What Are The Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance?

Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance_

Now, lets’ have a look at some of the significant symptoms and signs of lactose intolerance in babies:

  • Watery diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Flatulence
  • Constipation
  • Eczema
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Fatigue and joint pain

Risk Factors Of Lactose In Tolerance In Babies

Here are some of the factors that increase the risk of babies contracting lactose intolerance.

Preterm Birth

Lactase-producing cells are developed in the small intestine towards the end of the third trimester. Therefore preemies are more at risk of being born with lactose intolerance.

Small Intestine Health Issues

Issues that affect the small intestine such as bacterial overgrowth and diseases like celiac disease and Crohn’s disease increase the risk of lactose intolerance in babies.

How Is Lactose Intolerance In Babies Diagnosed?

How Is Lactose Intolerance In Babies Diagnosed_

Lactose intolerance can be easily diagnosed by having a proper medical checkup from a medical expert. The doctor might suggest you go through some tests to have a confirmation about the condition of lactose intolerance in the body.

Some of the most popular tests are mentioned below:

  1. A stool test has been done to check the levels of lactose in newborn infants.
  2. The breathing hydrogen test indicated the levels of high hydrogen, which measures the undigested lactose as well as negative bacteria in the body.
  3. A blood test is a common test that measures the glucose level in the body.
  4. Intestinal biopsy. It is a painful process that collects certain molecules from the intestine as a sample.
  5. Genetic sequencing is done to indicate the amount of lactose intolerance but is quite expensive.

How To Treat Lactose Intolerance In Babies?

How To Treat Lactose Intolerance In Babies_

Currently, unfortunately, no such medical treatment is available to cure the problem of lactose intolerance in babies. Some oral drops are available that contain the enzyme lactase. These oral drops are said to be beneficial for babies who have symptoms of lactose intolerance. However, it is said that if not in relatively large doses (which even then may not help in all cases), this will not work.

When it comes to treating lactose intolerance in babies, “regarding method” is commonly followed. Here, the baby is given a lactose-free formula for 1 to 4 weeks, depending on the severity. Once the basic issue is solved, the baby is then gradually graded back to its normal feeding cycle. Regarding can be completed in five days. For example,

  • First, you should replace the formula and breast milk with a lactose-free formula (let’s say five feedings per day). It should be continued until the baby is free of the symptoms, which, as explained above, will take anywhere between one to four weeks.
  • Once the baby shows zero symptoms, replace one lactose-free formula with breast milk or normal formula. The next day replaces two lactose-free formulas with breast milk or normal formula, and so on. Like this, by the end of the fifth day, you can grade back your baby to a normal feeding cycle.

In the case of prime lactose intolerance, the infant can get a properly balanced diet to get the required amounts of lactose in the body, while in the case of the other two types of lactose intolerance, the person has to evade the intake of milk proteins throughout his life.

Preventing Lactose Intolerance In Babies

Medical scholars have no permanent preventive measure to avoid the condition of lactose intolerance since it is hereditary. But, with the help of doctors and medical experts, you can prevent the damage up to some extent.

 Managing Lactose Intolerance In Babies

You can surely manage the amount of lactose in the baby’s body by following all the suggested tips from the doctor and by providing a healthy diet rich in lactose.

  1. Breastfeeding is the main source of food for an infant and should be given to all those babies who are suffering from prime lactose intolerance. But in case your baby is suffering from any of the other two kinds of lactose intolerance, then you must avoid breast milk and provide other foods for nourishment.
  2. Food items like soy-based formula, eggs, milk, lactose-free milk, vegetables, etc., can help the baby to get all the calcium, proteins, and other nutrients that are essential for the baby’s growth and development.
  3. Certain food elements must be subtracted from the baby’s diet to prevent damage to the small intestine. These food substances are milk, bakery cakes, biscuits, pancakes, processed baby foods, etc.
Editorial Team,

With a rich experience in pregnancy and parenting, our team of experts create insightful, well-curated, and easy-to-read content for our to-be-parents and parents at all stages of parenting.Read more.

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