Lactose Intolerance

Some of the most joyful times between a parent and infant are feeding times. Whether you are bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, feeding time allows you the opportunity to form a close and loving bond with your child. Of course, feeding times don�t always go smoothly, especially if your baby is showing signs of lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance can prevent your baby from digesting milk properly, causing a number of unpleasant symptoms. If severe, lactose intolerance can even cause a number of serious health complications.


What is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is a metabolic disorder that prevents our bodies from digesting milk and dairy products properly. Most milk and dairy products contain a carbohydrate known as lactose. In order for your body to process lactose, it needs to break it down into simpler elements. A special enzyme inside of your digestive tract, called lactase, helps to break down the lactose in the milk. Some people simply do not have enough lactase to aid in breaking down the lactose in the milk that they drink. These people are considered to be lactose intolerant, and may suffer from a number of unpleasant intestinal symptoms.

How Common Is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance is very common in the adult population, particularly amongst certain ethnicities. In fact, more than 80% of the African, Asian, and Middle Eastern populations are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance occurs less frequently among Caucasians, affecting only 5% of this group.

Lactose intolerance is much less common amongst newborns and infants. In fact, true lactose intolerance occurs in only a minute percentage of newborns. A milder form of lactose intolerance, known as Functional Lactase Deficiency is much more common amongst infants, affecting about two-thirds of babies in their first months of life.


Does My Baby Have Lactose Intolerance?

Many parents notice that their newborns exhibit symptoms of lactose intolerance. But this does not necessarily mean that your baby has the disorder. There are actually two forms of lactose intolerance.

Functional Lactase Deficiency
Functional lactase deficiency is commonly seen among newborns and infants. Infants with this type of lactose intolerance are only experiencing a temporary problem when it comes to processing the lactose carbohydrate. The symptoms of functional lactase deficiency include:


  • colic
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal swelling


What Causes Functional Lactase Deficiency?
There are a number of possible causes for functional lactase deficiency:


  • Gastroenteritis: Many newborns who have recently battled a case of diarrhea will enter into a period in which they are temporarily lactose intolerant. This is because gastroenteritis can strip the digestive tract of the lactase needed to break down the milk. Most infants will start producing more lactase within a few weeks.
  • Prematurity: Premature babies are more likely to have this form of lactose intolerance because their bodies have not yet developed enough lactase to break down milk. Most premature babies will develop enough lactase by the time that they have reached full-term age and weight


Treating Functional Lactase Deficiency:
If your baby is showing some signs of lactose intolerance, it is likely that he is suffering from lactase deficiency. This is typically a mild problem that will not produce any serious health complications. Most babies grow out of functional lactase deficiency within a few weeks. There are some treatments that can help your baby to feed more comfortably:


  • Lactose-free cow or soy-based formula can be introduced for a short time period
  • Lactase drops are available to help increase the amount of lactase in your baby�s system
  • Try offering your baby only one breast during feeding sessions. This will ensure that baby gets milk with the highest fat-levels possible, preventing malnutrition.


True Lactose Intolerance
True lactose intolerance is very rare amongst newborns and infants. It is a very serious condition that is usually apparent within a few days of birth. Symptoms of true lactose intolerance include:


  • persistent crying and distress
  • weight loss
  • explosive and watery diarrhea
  • increased gas and flatulence
  • vomiting
  • sickly appearance


What Causes Lactose Intolerance:
True lactose intolerance is usually a hereditary problem. Babies who have family members who suffer from eczema, allergies, and asthma are more likely to develop lactose intolerance.

Treating Lactose Intolerance:
If your baby develops true lactose intolerance in the days following birth, it is important that she receive immediate medical attention. Your health care provider will treat any signs of malnutrition or dehydration. Baby will then be put on a diet free of lactose, including lactose-free formula.

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