Could your little one be suffering from lactose intolerance? It’s not overly common, but it is possible for babies to develop a lactose intolerance and it can cause quite worrying symptoms.
Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know about lactose intolerance in babies and why a correct diagnosis is essential.
What Is It?
Before you can determine whether or not your little one has a lactose intolerance, it helps to know exactly what it is.
Lactose is found in dairy products such as cow’s milk, and it’s a natural type of sugar. Our bodies contain a digestive enzyme known as lactase, which is responsible for breaking down lactose so it’s easily digested.
A lactose intolerance develops when the body isn’t producing enough of the lactase enzyme, making it more difficult to break it down. As the unchanged lactose passes through the gut, bacteria start to eat it, causing unpleasant symptoms such as diarrhea and a build-up of excess gas.
There’s actually two different types of lactose intolerance, each caused by slightly different things. So, let’s look at these different types and their possible causes…
Primary And Secondary Lactose Intolerance
Few people are aware there’s actually two types of lactose intolerance. It’s typically associated as one general condition, but understanding the different types helps to establish the cause and in turn, proper treatment can then be prescribed.
So, let’s look at each type and the different potential causes of each one…
Primary Lactose Intolerance – This is typically the most common type that most people with lactose intolerance suffer with. Its main cause is genetics, which means it runs in the family.
The condition develops when the production of lactase slows down due to a decrease in the amount of dairy and milk consumed. Therefore, it largely affects children over the age of two when you’ve stopped bottle or breastfeeding.
Secondary Lactose Intolerance – This type of lactose intolerance tends to be caused by an issue within the small intestine. It can sometimes be brought on by a separate condition, medications or surgery.
Secondary lactose intolerance can develop at any age, though it does tend to be particularly common in babies. There are many potential causes and often it can only be temporary. Again, it’s triggered due to a decrease in lactase.
These are the two main types of lactose intolerance, but there is a third, rare type that’s also worth mentioning. Congenital lactose intolerance is very rare and it’s a genetic condition. Babies suffering from this type of intolerance have usually been born with zero, or very little, lactase.
Finally, it’s also worth noting that premature babies can develop temporary lactose intolerance due to the small intestine being underdeveloped.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance In Babies?
Now you know a little more about the condition, you may be wondering – how do I know if my baby is lactose intolerant? Let’s look at the symptoms you should be looking out for to determine whether your baby does have a lactose intolerance. The main symptoms tend to include:
- Pain in the stomach
- Excessive wind
- Bloated stomach
As you can see, these symptoms are pretty generic and can point to a number of conditions. Therefore, it can be quite difficult to diagnose lactose intolerance. However, you’ll usually find if it is to do with a lactose intolerance issue, the symptoms will start to develop roughly 1-3 hours after baby has consumed food containing lactose.
Is Lactose Intolerance Just A Milk Allergy?
No, lactose intolerance is completely different to a milk allergy. Many babies can be allergic to cow’s milk for example, but that doesn’t mean they are lactose intolerant.
With a milk allergy, it produces an immune response, while lactose intolerance on the other hand, is more of a digestive problem. The main reason the two are largely linked together is because the symptoms are almost identical. However, you’ll know if your little one has an allergy rather than an intolerance if they start to develop a rash, swelling of the lips, watery eyes or a runny nose.
Should I Take Baby To The Doctor If I Suspect Lactose Intolerance?
Absolutely! It’s always best to seek a proper diagnosis and see your doctor whenever you think there’s a problem.
They will typically ask you numerous questions about baby’s dietary habits and symptoms. Then, you may be instructed to cut out lactose from the diet to see if it makes a difference.
Is It Possible To Prevent The Condition?
Sadly, lactose intolerance isn’t something that can be prevented. However, once it has been diagnosed you can take measures to control it.
Food labels are a great resource. Always read the labels to see whether the foods you plan on feeding your little one contain lactose or not. This even applies if you’re breastfeeding, as what you eat, your baby ultimately ends up consuming.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that some babies will be more sensitive to lactose than others. So, your baby may be able to consume small amounts of lactose without developing any nasty symptoms. Monitor your little one to see how much lactose they can consume without it causing a problem.
Overall, lactose intolerance is often misunderstood and it can be difficult to diagnose. If you suspect your little one has the condition, it’s worth paying a visit to the doctor to get it confirmed before you cut out lactose from the diet. If it does turn out they have the condition and you need to cut out all dairy products, you’ll also need to look into finding alternative sources of calcium to ensure baby’s bones still grow strong and healthy. Fortunately, more and more formulas for lactose-intolerant babies are becoming available, and with the help of your doctor, you’re bound to find something that works for you and your little one.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or licensed medical professional before making any medical decisions.