What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose is the main sugar that is present in cow’s milk and common dairy products. The enzyme, lactase, helps the body in digesting lactose. When the body doesn’t produce enough lactase for digestion, it is called lactose intolerance. The undigested lactose can cause gastrointestinal problems. Often babies, especially premature ones, may have difficulty in producing lactase for a while and this can cause lactose intolerance. Most often, the production of lactase increases as the baby gets older and they may get over their lactose intolerance.
But since milk is the main nutrition for a baby, being lactose intolerant may pose problems. A new mother may not realize that her baby is lactose intolerant and this may give rise to health issues.
Identifying lactose intolerance – Symptoms
• Abdominal pain
• Bloated or distended stomach
• Gas after a feed
• Excessive colic pain
If your baby has loose stools, and cries continuously after feeds, you should consult a doctor and check for lactose intolerance. Your pediatrician may test your child for lactose intolerance with a hydrogen breath test.
How should a new mother handle lactose intolerance in her baby?
Quite often, a baby may be lactose intolerant to their mother’s milk. If that is the case, usually the baby would also be intolerant to cow’s milk and related products. The doctor may advice the mother to start the baby on powdered milk with supplements. Here are some tips to follow if your baby is lactose intolerant.
Some babies may have slight lactose intolerance and may be able to have small amounts of lactose. Check if your child has lactose intolerance by removing all milk products out of the baby’s diet for two weeks and watch if the symptoms reduce. Gradually reintroduce milk products in a couple of weeks, and check if symptoms return. If they show discomfort, avoid the food.
Make sure to read the small print
When buying supplements or any other foods for the baby, read the label to see what it contains. Some foods may have added dairy that your baby may not be able to digest.
Did you know that lactose is not only present in many food products but also in medications? It is also added in some form to boxed, frozen and canned foodstuff. Check the ingredients on food labels and the nutrition facts to find possible sources of lactose in food products. If a food label includes any of the following words, the product contains lactose:
• Milk by-products
• Dry milk solids
• Nonfat dry milk powder
Ensure that your baby is getting enough nutrition
You need to consult with your doctor to ensure that you are providing all the nutrition that your baby needs. Most of a baby’s nutrients come from breast milk in the early months. When the baby is denied those nutrients, they need to get it from other sources.
With smart parenting and with the help of your pediatrician, you can easily handle your baby’s lactose intolerance.