You may know that lactose is a sugar that is commonly found in dairy products, including breast milk. And while these foods are building blocks for your little one, lactose intolerance in baby can make them his worst (digestive health) nightmare.
Lactose intolerance is a disorder wherein one is unable to digest lactose present in dairy products. While lactose is an important carbohydrate for babies, it has to be broken down by the enzyme lactase.
So if the baby’s body is somehow unable to produce enough lactase, it won’t be able to break down lactose or get energy from the dairy products.
This can often lead to severe flatulence, colic and even diarrhea if it’s left unchecked.
Typically, lactose intolerance is of three types.
- Congenital lactose intolerance: This type of intolerance occurs due to a deficiency of the enzyme lactase, which essentially metabolises the lactose the baby consumes.
- Primary lactose intolerance: This particular type of intolerance occurs when the baby is born with low lactase levels.
- Secondary lactose intolerance: This happens if the baby is already suffering from a certain illness such as constipation or diarrhea and he develops a transient lactose intolerance.
Even with this knowledge, however, sometimes its tough to identify lactose intolerance in baby straight away.
You need to bear in mind specific signs that indicate this condition in your little one.
Signs of Lactose Intolerance in Baby
Generally, the signs of lactose intolerance in baby may differ from one to the other. But generally, you’ll be able to spot this condition if your baby has the following problems.
- Abdominal pain
- Trapped wind
- Watery stools
- Frequent crying or discomfort
- Noisy bowel movements
Any or most of these symptoms can occur a few minutes or a few hours after consuming milk or dairy products. However, since some of these coincide with other health problems in a child, like fever, it can be tough to identify it as lactose intolerance.
But if you suspect that your baby has lactose intolerance, you should bring him to a paediatrician without delay. The doctor may conduct certain tests to determine, if in fact, your baby has lactose intolerance.
Tests to Check Lactose Intolerance in Baby
Generally, doctors perform a Dimona test or the hydrogen breath test. But sometimes, it’s not that feasible to conduct on babies. Therefore, doctors usually prefer to run stool tests.
If the stool is too acidic, which means the pH levels are less than 5.5, then the baby has a possibility of being lactose intolerant.
On the other hand, if the stools are not too acidic, the baby may be suffering from the aforementioned symptoms due to another underlying medical condition.
Treatment of Lactose Intolerance in Baby
Generally, the doctor will diagnose your baby with lactose intolerance if he detects not just one but at least two to three symptoms. This is especially true for congenital lactose intolerance.
1. Congenital Lactose Intolerance
Lack of weight gain, constant vomiting, diarrhea and colic may be taken together as symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Now, if these symptoms are further corroborated by the stool test, then you will have to stop giving your baby any dairy products immediately.
There are several lactose-free milk formulas available in the market that you can try. But unless your doctor specifically asks you not to or the child is highly symptomatic, do not stop breastfeeding. In rare and acute cases, doctors may ask you to stop breastfeeding to check if the symptoms reoccur.
2. Primary Lactose Intolerance
In case of primary lactose intolerance in baby, your doctor might recommend giving your little one lactose-free products for a trial period.
This window could be a few days up to a few weeks, depending upon the severity of the condition.
3. Secondary Lactose Intolerance
If a baby suffers from secondary lactose intolerance, he may suffer from an attack of severe diarrhea or vomiting. At this point, you may be recommended to stop lactose-based products for a while till he recovers.
Once he recovers, you can start giving him dairy or dairy-based products. Usually this window helps babies gain weight and get better and they can digest lactose-based products in the long-run.
Irrespective of which type of lactose intolerance your baby suffers from, remember that it can occur at any time. It doesn’t necessarily have to be when he weans, or is exclusively on milk.
However, a child with congenital and primary lactose intolerance will have a problem with dairy and dairy-based products from birth.
For a child with secondary lactose intolerance, the condition can get better over time. Either way, you will have to keep a close tab on the symptoms and take your baby to a doctor for a thorough checkup and diagnosis.
Feature and lead image courtesy: Pixabay