Nature's One Blog

Ask the Dietitian - Does My Baby Have Lactose Intolerance?

Jun 14, 2019 3:35:50 PM / by Diane, MPH, RD, LD - Director of Nutrition Services

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What is lactose intolerance?

Does your baby experience symptoms like fussiness, gassiness and bloating after a feeding? Are you wondering if your child may be lactose intolerant?

I receive many questions about lactose intolerance, so I thought it might be helpful to explain what lactose intolerance is, why it can occur, and what the treatment would be.  Here goes!

What is lactose?

Lactose is a carbohydrate or a “milk sugar". It is the primary carbohydrate found in breast milk and other mammalian milk such as cow’s milk.  It is a disaccharide, meaning it is made of two monosaccharides, glucose and galactose.

What is lactose intolerance?

When an infant, child or adult is unable to digest lactose, this is referred to as lactose intolerance.  This occurs because the enzyme made by the body to digest lactose, which is called lactase, is either absent or has declined due to age – older adults can experience this.  Without the lactase enzyme, lactose cannot be broken down into glucose and galactose.  Undigested lactose cannot be absorbed like glucose and galactose and, thus, the lactose moves into the intestinal tract.  This makes the bacteria in the intestinal tract very happy as it has a food source to grow and populate.  The bacteria feeding frenzy on undigested lactose produces a byproduct of gas and loose stool.  Due to this the symptoms of lactose intolerance include stomach cramps, nausea, bloating, gassiness and diarrhea.

Are there different types of lactose intolerance?

There are three types of lactose intolerance:

  • Congenital lactase deficiency which is a genetic disorder where the body does not produce any of the lactase enzyme.  This type of intolerance will occur at birth and is very rare.
  • Primary lactose intolerance which occurs when infants, children and adults are not exposed to dairy through their diets and the body has adapted by reducing its ability to make the enzyme lactase.
  • Secondary lactose intolerance occurs after certain gastrointestinal diseases where the production of lactase is disrupted.  Common causes of temporary secondary lactose intolerance are gastroenteritis, particularly the gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus, an illnesses causing acute diarrhea.

How is lactose intolerance diagnosed?

Usually when an infant is lactose intolerant, symptoms (cramping, nausea, gassiness, fussiness, bloating) will occur soon after feeding the lactose containing product.  If there are questions as to whether your infant has lactose intolerance, your baby’s healthcare provider may recommend trying a lactose free formula, such as Baby’s Only Organic® LactoRelief® formula.  Also, a hydrogen breath test can be performed for certainty.  Or the stool can also be tested for malabsorbed lactose.

What is the treatment for lactose intolerance?

For an infant or toddler with lactose intolerance, a lactose-free formula, such as Baby’s Only Organic® LactoRelief®, will be recommended. Or Baby’s Only Organic Plant Based SOY which contains no dairy or lactose.   

If lactose intolerance is temporary due to a gastrointestinal upset or diarrhea and the infant is being breastfed, breastfeeding is usually still recommended.  However, a lactose-free formula may be needed to supplement the baby occasionally until the baby’s digestive system is again producing enough lactase to digest the lactose in breast milk.   A consultation with your baby’s healthcare professional and/or a lactation consultant should be sought to ensure that breastfeeding is not negatively affected. 

As always, send me your questions or topics that you’d like for me to cover.  Cheers!  

-Diane

**For specific medical care and nutritional advice on product usage, please see your healthcare professional

Topics: Health, Advice, Dietitian Series, Dietitian

Diane, MPH, RD, LD - Director of Nutrition Services

Written by Diane, MPH, RD, LD - Director of Nutrition Services

Diane, MPH, RD, LD has been the Director of Nutrition Services at Nature’s One since 2005. She has over 25 years of experience in maternal and child nutrition and enjoys helping parents learn more about our products and answering any questions you may have about the nutritional care of your little one.