Everything About Lactose Intolerance In Babies

Lactose intolerance in babies pulls many myths and understanding towards it. However, not everything is true and valid. So this article talks about what lactose intolerance is, symptoms/signs, and types of lactose intolerance.

What Is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose is the form of sugar found in milk and milk products. Lactase an enzyme used by the human body to digest lactose and turn it into glucose and galactose. Glucose and galactose can be easily absorbed by the body. When the body doesn’t produce adequate lactase, the undigested lactose enters the bowel and let bacteria feed on the undigested lactose. This leads the to the¬†building of gas in the bowel and causes pains and diarrhea as other symptoms. Lactose makes up 7% of breastmilk’s composition. So lactose intolerance in babies is a huge deal if not diagnosed.


Types Of Lactose Intolerance

Congenital Lactose Intolerance

This type of lactose intolerance is very rare and caused due to inherited metabolic problems. A baby suffering from this will be born with no lactase enzymes at all. during their first week after birth, the baby becomes very sick and will not grow well until congenital lactose intolerance is diagnosed and the baby is stopped from any lactose-containing foods. These babies will require a special lactose-free diet or formula.

Primary Lactose Intolerance

Also known as developmental, late-onset or adult lactose intolerance, this is caused gradually. When there is a decrease in the body’s production of lactase gradually, it is known as primary lactose intolerance. This type is common in adults however, it almost always appears before the ages 2-5 years.


Premature Babies

Premature babies may sometimes have lactose intolerance(developmental lactose deficiency) which is temporary. This could be because the baby’s body is not yet producing lactose. But this is temporary and will disappear as the baby and his/her gut mature.

Secondary Lactose Intolerance

Also known as acquired lactose intolerance, this disorder can appear at any age and any time. It is caused when the lactase activity in the body sees a reduction due to any damage to the intestinal brush border. Infections, allergies or inflammatory processes are the common causes in this case.


What Are The Causes Of Lactose Intolerance?

The causes of lactose intolerance are varied and include the following:

  • Bowel Infection
  • Parasite
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Coeliac or Crohn’s disease
  • Intolerance or Allergy
  • Bowel Surgery

Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance

The symptoms of lactose intolerance caused by the bacteria eating the lactose in the gut are:

  • Excessive gas or wind in the stomach
  • Paina nd swelling of tummy
  • Green frothy or liquid bowel motions
  • Irritability
  • Latching on and off during breastfeeding
  • Nappy rashes caused by acidic poo
  • Failure to gain weight

While these symptoms point to lactose intolerance, they can also be common in healthy breastfeeding babies. So how to distinguish from healthy and lactose intolerant babies? Most likely, the symptoms will disappear with time and as long as your baby’s weight and health are not affected, there is nothing to worry about. But, if you find any other discomfort or see a steady failure to gain weight in your baby, consult a doctor.

What Is A Lactose Overload?

The symptoms of secondary lactose intolerance in babies are same for infants who suffer a lactose overload. Lactose overload in babies refers to a condition where the baby is getting too much lactose from the breastmilk. the amount or level of lactose present in the mother’s breastmilk is not calculated or determined by the mother’s food habits. Lactose overload may make the baby uncomfortable but the baby still gets all the required nutrients from the mother’s breastmilk.


The oversupply in the mother causes a large-volume, low-fat milk feed to the baby. This leaves the lactose to be undigested in the baby’s body when it reaches the lower bowel. The undigested lactose in the bowel ferments causing gas and acidic stools apart from tummy pain and discomfort. The baby may act hungry and cry or want to suck.

What Is Cow Milk Protein Intolerance(CMPI)?

The symptoms of CMPI are similar to lactose intolerance or lactose overload. Due to this, they are often misdiagnosed or confused. Cow’s milk protein intolerance (CMPI) is an abnormality where the immune system reacts to a protein present in the cow’ milk. This disorder affects roughly 2% of the infants in Australia and New Zealand.


The two types of Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance are:

IgE- Mediated CMPI

In this type of CMPI, the reaction is instant within 2 hours. The symptoms include hives, rashes, wheezing and a running nose. Additionally, gastrointestinal issues can also be included.



Non-IgEE- Mediated CMPI

This type of CMPI sees a delayed reaction ranging from 48 hours to a week. The symptoms of this disorder include vomiting, blood or/and mucus in stool, poor weight gain, eczema, and diarrhea.

CMPI is common in babies whose mothers consume products which contain cow’s milk. The best way to avoid this disorder is for the mother to eliminate cow milk or cow milk products from her diet. also, most babies who are intolerant to cow milk are also intolerant to soy. Therefore avoid soy milk and other soy products if you see any symptoms even after excluding cow milk and cow milk products from your child’s diet.

About 75% of children with CMPI were resolved of this issue by the age of three. For any further queries or doubts, consult your general pediatrician.