It can be so bothersome when your baby or toddler reacts after taking milk or other dairy products. In some babies, the type of milk may be the cause, while in others it is simply a condition called milk or lactose intolerance which is one of the most common allergies in babies and infants. There is a clear difference between a milk allergy and milk intolerance. Our topic of discussion is lactose intolerance in babies, and how you can manage the situation.
When young children drink cow’s milk, they have an allergic reaction. This may be due to lactose intolerance or an aversion to milk. In children under the age of five, milk allergy is much more common than lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is a digestive system issue in which your child lacks the enzyme needed to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk. Milk allergy, on the other hand, is an immune system problem in which the body responds to the protein in milk. An allergy normally affects other areas of the body in addition to the stomach, which can result in symptoms such as a skin rash or facial swelling.
Causes of lactose intolerance in babies
Lactose( sugar) is found in all animals, humans inclusive. When the lining of the gut is weakened by an illness like gastroenteritis, or an allergy or aversion to another food, it can degenerate into lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance manifests itself in babies and children as follows:
- Bloated stomach
- Irritability, crying or other colic symptoms
- Bloating and stomach aches
- Constant farting
- Rashes especially on the butt, and face
- Not gaining weight
Symptoms of milk allergy
- Frequent spitting up
- Excessive crying and irritability are signs of stomach pain or colic-like symptoms (especially after feedings)
- Blood in stool
- A scaly skin rash
- Coughing or wheezing
- Watery eyes and stuffy nose
- Swelling (especially of the mouth and throat)
How to diagnose
A breath test to determine the hydrogen in your child’s breath or placing on hold all diary products.
Continue breastfeeding if lactose sensitivity is caused by a stomach upset. Before switching to a low-lactose or lactose-free formula for your child, very importantly, consult your doctor especially, when there is blood in the stool of your child.
Alternatively, dairy foods can be reduced in older children’s diets, but not eliminated. Cheese, yoghurt, calcium-fortified soy products, lactose-free milk, butter, and cream are all allowed. The right diet for your child would be recommended by your doctor or a dietitian.
*Please note: If your child has a milk allergy, you must exclude all dairy products from his/her diet.
Milk allergies and lactose intolerance: What’s the difference?
The proteins in cow’s milk irritate the immune system of a child with a milk allergy. Breastfed babies respond to the dairy their mother has eaten, while formula-fed babies react to the cow’s milk proteins in the formula (milk proteins move through breast milk). In either case, the proteins in cow’s milk are recognized as foreign substances by a baby’s immune system.
While milk allergy has little to do with the immune system or the proteins present in cow’s milk. The digestive system, rather, is involved. Lactose is a condition that occurs when a formula-fed or breast-fed baby is unable to consume the sugar in milk.
Once a child starts taking formula (milk), it is advised to buy a particular milk and never give a child two different dairy products. Sometimes, babies react to a particular product, hence causing the allergy. It is important, that you read the content (ingredients) on the label of any diary product purchased.
Lactose intolerance in babies is a phase. Many children outgrow it as they grow older, and the majority of babies with milk allergies outgrow the disease by the age of three-five years.
If you’re still nursing and your child has been diagnosed with a milk allergy, you will need to check what you eat and exclude them from your diet. It is vital to take vitamins and supplements and eat healthily too. You’ll need to take more calcium and vitamin D supplements daily and very importantly, you should seek advice from your doctor or a dietician to recommend a healthy diet for you and your baby.