Following a bout of gastroenteritis at age 19 while travelling in China, I became lactose intolerant. In hindsight, it’s likely I was lactose intolerant as a baby, making me more susceptible to it later in life. Lucky for me, pregnancy kick started my system again & now cheese in back in my life. Thank god.
Alas, at five months old with the introduction of formula, we discovered Little Miss was not so lucky. Just like Auntie Chatterbox (now nine years old) who was lactose and soy intolerant from birth, there would be no fromage frais for Little Miss.
This post is to help increase awareness of lactose intolerance in infants and to share the knowledge I have amassed on the subject through my own experience and Little Miss’.
NB: the information provided on this post is for lactose intolerance, not allergies. Lactose and/or soy intolerance is not the same as a cow’s milk allergy. If you suspect your infant has an intolerance or allergy you should speak to your GP as soon as possible. (Find out more about cow’s milk allergy on the NHS website or using their Food Fact Sheet.)
Signs and symptoms of lactose intolerance in infants:
One or all of these symptoms may be present in your infant. It can be hard if this is your first baby knowing what’s normal and what’s not but remember, you know your baby best. If something seems off, it probably is.
- wind, like, lots and lots of wind
- sickness and/or vomiting
- diarrhoea and/or exploding diapers
- skin conditions, such as eczema (though many think these are more closely linked to cow’s milk allergy than lactose intolerance)
Diagnosing lactose intolerance in infants:
- Elimination diet – cut all lactose out of your baby’s diet. It takes five days for the existing lactose to work it’s way through your baby’s digestive system, so don’t expect immediate results. After about two weeks, try your baby with a little bit of lactose again, see if the symptoms return.
- Blood tests – not usually recommended for babies as you’re supposed to fast the night before and includes multiple blood tests over a few hours. You drink a milky drink between tests & they check for changes or spikes in your results. This is uneven satiny stressful for an infant and rarely shows results an elemination diet wouldn’t.
My baby is lactose intolerant, can I still breastfeed?
In short, yes.
But you’ll need to cut lactose out of your own diet to ensure none passes through your breastmilk.
Being lactose free is a lot easier these days as brands and supermarkets have cottoned on that this is a growing market. Just find the free from aisle in your local supermarket, the own brand stuff is usually pretty good.
But keep in mind, many of the ‘dairy free’ options are made with soy products, which many lactose intolerant infants are also intolerant to. So always read the label (you get quicker at this… But it’s pretty slow going at the start. I’d plan in some extra time for your weekly shop!).
For lactose free cow’s milk products, we recommend Arla’s ever increasing Lactofree range. They simply add the lactase enzyme to the dairy products so you don’t have to. And just like that, cream cheese is back on your bagel.
I love my baby, but I can’t give up chocolate cake & cheese, can I bottle feed?
Hipp Organic offers a lactose free formula but it’s not currently available in UK stores. You can buy it on Amazon, however, and pay for shipping from other European countries such as Germany.
If you’re new to formula, it’s worth noting that in the UK, all infant milks (before 12 months) are part of a Government price freeze. There are never price promotions on formula and you can’t earn club card points of formula. All infant formulas are priced at approximately £5 per 450g or approximately £10 per 1kg carton.
There is also a range of ‘Comfort milks’ from the above brands, which supposedly help reduce colic, wind, etc. I haven’t tried these, but worth keeping in mind that your baby may not have an intolerance & these milks could help reduce some of the apparent symptoms.
Aptamil also offer a formula for those with cow’s milk allergy, as well as a range of other ‘special’ milks to help with a variety of issues.
Weaning and Lactose Intolerance
The NHS official line is that weaning should start from six months old.
After reading all the advice, we chose to start Little Miss at five months, starting withpurees, introducing some soft finger foods from six months.
I homemade almost all Littlw Miss’ in the early days, which was luckily my preference as the majority of store bought baby food (jars, pouches & biscuits) often contains milk or soya. Always check the label.
Stage 1: up to 7 months
On the whole, it’s not too hard to avoid dairy and lactose in stage 1. It’s mainly fruit and vegetables anyway until you’re nearing seven months, when you may start to introduce some meaty flavours.
Stage 2: up to 9 months
Moving on from experimenting with flavour, now you’re introducing texture. Food has small, soft little lumps to encourage chewing and finger foods also come into play.
Stage 3: up to 12 months
Texture, texture, texture! Your baby should have some teeth & have got the hang of chewing, meaning he can manage more lumps and bits and start to explore meals that more resembles what you and I would recognise as actual food.
The main issue for lactose intolerant babies is getting fat and calcium into their diets. This is where alternatives can come in handy. For instance:
Milk: your baby should only drink breastmilk or infant formula until they’re 12 months old. However, you can begin to use whole milk in cooking during the weaning stages. We used Lactofree’s Fresh Whole Milk but you could also try Almond Milk (now with unsweetened varieties).
Cheese: Lactofree has three varieties of cheese in their range; semi-hard cheese, mature cheddar cheese and soft white cheese (cream cheese). But be aware that cream cheese doesn’t offer as much fat as other types of cheeses. Sheep’s cheese (such as Pecorino) is another great alternative.
Yoghurt: if your baby is fine with soy, there are plenty of soy yoghurt alternatives on the market. The supermarket own brand ones are perfectly tasty (take it from someone who had to use them for many years herself). However, if soy is a no go area, try Lactofree’s strawberry & raspberry yogurt pots, CoYo (coconut yoghurt alternative) or Chia Pod Pots. Not that cheap in comparison, but scrummy.
Keep in mind that almonds and chickpeas are fantastic sources of calcium, which is handy as hummus is a great weaning food (if your baby will accept slightly stronger flavours).
NB: the information in this post was correct as of April 2016.