Lactose is one of the most important carbohydrates in breast milk and milk-based formulas, When a baby’s digestive system is still developing their body may not make enough of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose into two simple sugars: glucose and galactose. Since the body doesn’t produce enough lactase, some of the lactose may not get broken down in the small intestine, so it passes into the large intestine, where bacteria may ferment it, producing gas and acid. In short, your baby may not be able to digest all of the lactose. Here are some common myths and facts about lactose intolerance in babies.
- Most babies have normal lactase activity at birth.
- Certain ethnic groups are more prone to lactose intolerance.
- Lactose-sensitive babies can experience discomfort if they consume lactose.
- The degree of lactose sensitivity can differ from baby to baby.
- Switching formulas may help your baby’s issues.
- If your baby has a sensitivity to lactose, they will be that way for life.
Most babies have normal lactase activity at birth.
Truth. Newborns tend to have normal amounts of lactase. It’s when they get older that lactase amounts may decrease. So even if your baby doesn’t have lactose sensitivity now, it’s still good to know what to look for in case they develop it later in life.
Certain ethnic groups are more prone to lactose intolerance.
Truth. Children of Hispanic, Asian, African American, and Native American descent are more likely to experience lactose intolerance, although usually later in childhood.
Lactose-sensitive babies can experience discomfort if they consume lactose.
Truth. The end result for your little one could be digestive discomfort anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours after consuming lactose.
The degree of lactose sensitivity can differ from baby to baby.
Truth. Some babies may have a mild sensitivity, and it may be just a matter of managing the amount of lactose ingested. If babies have more severe or persistent issues, it could signal an underlying cause like milk protein allergy.
Switching formulas may help your baby’s issues.
Truth. If you suspect a sensitivity to lactose, ask your pediatrician about switching formulas.
If your baby has a sensitivity to lactose, they will be that way for life.
Myth. Lactose sensitivity in infancy is different than the lactose intolerance that can develop later in life.
Visiting the Pediatrician
If you think your baby might be sensitive to lactose, make an appointment for an exam with your baby’s pediatrician. The pediatrician may request a stool acidity test, in which a sample is examined for lactic and other acids. Many suspected cases of lactose intolerance actually turn out to be other simple digestive issues that are easily managed. It’s a good idea to come prepared and bring a list of questions with you.
Prepping for Your Pediatrician Appointment
Your time with the pediatrician might be limited, so make sure you come to the appointment prepared. Write down all of your baby’s digestive issues and your concerns:
- How long after they finish eating do the symptoms start?
- Any other issues or behaviors, like fussiness?
- Log anything you are giving your baby:
• Breast milk, formula, or a combination
• Vitamins or other nutritional supplements
• Any solids
- Note any changes in your baby lately: sleep pattern, eating habits, illness
Having all this information on hand will make your pediatrician appointment to find out about lactose intolerance and your baby as helpful as possible. Get even more tips and questions to ask your pediatrician when you head to the office.