MS, RD, LDN, CSSD, CBS
Rachel holds a Master’s in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University and is also a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. She works as a nutrition and wellness coach with focuses on infant and maternal nutrition, and mindful eating.
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Here are some signs and symptoms to be on the look-out for:
Diarrhea. It can be difficult to tell if your baby has diarrhea, but it may be the case if you notice an increase in number of stools that are looser than normal. Diarrhea may be caused by an intestinal bug, so be sure to call your pediatrician should you think your little one has diarrhea.
Extra gas. Gas can be a normal part of an infant’s life. Their digestive system is not fully developed so passing gas can be a tougher process which requires a bit more straining, especially for younger babies. Abnormal gassiness may also be from swallowing too much air while crying or feeding.
However, if baby’s gassiness is above the normal amount and is not from swallowing too much air, it could be from difficulty digesting lactose. Note that sometimes extra gas may make the stomach look bloated or feel hard or tense.
Extra fussiness. Again, some fussiness may be normal, but if your baby is fussy throughout the day, and particularly after a feeding speak with your pediatrician. If you are breastfeeding or combination feeding, they can provide advice on the effect of your diet on breastmilk. If you are formula or combination feeding, they can advise on the potential need to switch to a different infant formula. The symptoms to lactose sensitivity may appear within a couple of hours or so after feeding your baby.
If you think your baby is having difficulty digesting lactose, the first thing you want to do is speak with your pediatrician before making any changes.
You may want to try smaller and more frequent feedings and/or applying gentle pressure on baby’s belly to help release some of the trapped gas.
If you are formula feeding, your pediatrician may recommend changing to a formula that has reduced lactose such as Happy Family Organic Sensitive Formula. While some babies may have a temporary sensitivity to lactose, most can tolerate it in small amounts, so cutting it out completely is not always necessary. Some studies show that reducing the amount of lactose in a formula may help reduce a baby’s extra fussiness and gas (1,2).
We can feel so helpless when watching our little one be extra fussy and gassy. With the support of your pediatrician and a lactation counselor, you can find the path that is best for your family.
*Note that an allergy to milk protein is different than an intolerance or sensitivity to lactose and should be diagnosed by your pediatrician. A baby with a milk protein allergy will require a different line of action.
Kanabar D, Randhawa M, Clayton P. Improvement of symptoms in infant colic following reduction of lactose load with lactase. J Hum Nutr Diet 2001;14:359–363.[PubMed] Kearney PJ, Malone AJ, Hayes T, et al. A trial of lactase in the management of infant colic. J Hum Nutr Diet 1998;11:281–285 Hyman M.B. Lactose Intolerance in Infants, Children, and Adolescents. Pediatrics. Date accessed September 2006, Volume 118:3. Mauro Batista de Morais Signs and symptoms associated with digestive tract development Jornal de Pediatria (Versão em Português), Volume 92, Issue 3, Supplement 1, May–June 2016, Pages S46-S56.