How to deal with lactose intolerance in babies?

Milk is one of the important parts of the baby’s diet. It contains lots of nutrients which are essential for babies’ growth. But there are certain babies who are unable to digest milk or they are called lactose intolerant. So, Here is everything you need to know about lactose intolerance in the babies and how to deal with it.

 What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose is a naturally found primary sugar in milk (Breast milk, formula milk or animal milk) and most other dairy products. It is the important source of carbohydrates for babies. But to digest it and utilize it, the body should produce a digestive enzyme called lactase. 

The inability of the gut to produce enough lactase results in lactose intolerance. This, in turn, allows the lactose to stay in the intestine and cause gastrointestinal problems. Gastrointestinal problems could be uncomfortable but not life-threatening.

Lactose intolerance is not same as cow’s milk protein allergy.

Difference between lactose intolerance and cow’s milk allergy (CMA):

Although lactose intolerance and CMA display similar symptoms, they are two completely different conditions caused for different reasons.

Lactose intolerance is the inability to break down or digest milk’s sugar called lactose. Intolerance indicates the body can’t deal with this nutrient. Since the immune system is not involved in this, there is no allergic reaction occurring.

Cow’s Milk Allergy is a food allergy caused by one or more proteins present in cow’s milk. The immune system mistakes the milk proteins as a threat and releases chemicals such as histamines which in turn trigger the sign and symptoms of allergy (such as skin rash, swelling of the lips or throat, trouble in breathing).

 Causes of Lactose Intolerance:

There are three main causes for lactose intolerance:

1. Primary: 

This occurs in response to decreased intake of dairy products in dairy. This usually occurs in adulthood.

2. Secondary:

 It is a temporary intolerance caused by gut damage.

3. Congenital:

 It is a very rare genetic condition where babies are born with a low amount or without lactase.

Lactose intolerance may also occur in babies born prematurely. Their intestines are not developed enough to produce lactase. However, it usually improves when babies get older.

Symptoms of Lactose intolerance:

Some lactose intolerant people can consume milk or dairy products without any symptoms. But others may feel uncomfortable and display the following symptoms each time they consume dairy products. These symptoms usually occur within 1 to 3 hours after the consumption of lactose containing food.

· Diarrhea

· Stomach pain/ Abdominal cramping

· Bloated Stomach

· Excessive wind

Symptoms of lactose intolerance could be similar to the symptoms of other conditions, making it hard to identify. 

Treatment and preventive measures for lactose intolerant babies:

There is no specific treatment to cure of lactose intolerance. But if the baby is breastfed, lactase drops may be given to the baby to digest the lactose in the breast milk. The lactase drops are mixed with expressed breast milk and then given to baby just before the feed.

There are a few measures that could be taken to help lactose intolerant baby.

· Read labels: 

Milk and dairy products mandatorily contain lactose. There are other products too, such as cookies, pancakes, margarine, lunch meats, bread, etc that could contain lactose. Reading labels and avoiding such food helps lactose intolerant babies to stay safe from symptoms of lactose intolerance. 

· Baby’s response to lactose containing food

Some babies are highly sensitive to the lactose and some can digest a small amount of lactose. Based on the baby’s limit, the amount of lactose containing food could be given.

· Buy lactose-free products:

 There are loads of lactose-free products available in the stores. They have all the nutrients of the regular dairy product except lactose. 

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