RD, LDN, CBS
Certified in Maternal and Infant Nutrition from Cornell, Angela’s mission is to help people reach their wellness goals. She also helps run a program that teaches pregnant women about how a healthy lifestyle optimizes prenatal and postnatal care.
Some babies can’t tolerate dairy, whether through the mother’s diet in breast milk, or once they’ve started solids. But how do you know if it’s lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy? These terms have different meanings, although are often used interchangeably.
Lactose itself is the sugar found in dairy products. Lactose intolerance is a digestive problem that can cause discomfort such as bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and gas. Because of a deficiency of an enzyme in the body called lactase, people who are lactose intolerant are unable to digest this milk sugar. The best treatment is avoiding dairy products and choosing lactose free products. For some, lactose intolerance lasts a lifetime while others may outgrow it. Lactose intolerance is not very common in babies and typically shows up in children after the age of 3.
While lactose intolerance is rare in babies and tots, some
little ones with dairy sensitivities may actually have an intolerance to the
milk proteins whey and casein (versus the milk sugar with lactose intolerance.)
A milk allergy or intolerance could potentially cause a wide
range of symptoms from a rash, hives, itching and swelling to a more
life-threatening reaction such as anaphylaxis. A cow’s milk allergy is the most
common food allergy in infants and young children with approximately 2.5
percent of children younger than three being allergic to milk. Fortunately,
most children will eventually outgrow this as they get older and their
digestive systems mature.
Babies who have a milk allergy may be experiencing frequent
loose stools that may possibly contain blood or mucus, frequent spitting up,
vomiting, and discomfort. Your pediatrician may ask for a stool sample to check
for blood, as sometimes the blood is not visible to the eye. Breastfeeding moms
must eliminate dairy in their diet since the milk proteins pass through
breastmilk, while formula feeding moms will likely need to switch to a
When eliminating dairy in your own diet or trying to figure
out what foods to offer your tot, reading labels is critical. The following
words will indicate the presence of milk in the product:
You may wonder how you or your child’s nutritional status
may be impacted when foregoing dairy products. Fortunately, there are many
foods that can supply the important nutrients that dairy provides, such as
protein, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. There are also many non-dairy
substitutes on the market, such as soy yogurt or coconut milk so you can still
cook and bake dairy free with ease. All whole fruits, vegetables, legumes,
nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, fish, grains and eggs are dairy free. When it comes
to meeting your and your baby’s nutritional needs, choose a variety of these
non-dairy containing foods.
“About Milk Allergy” Kids Health <http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/milk-allergy.html> date accessed 31 July 2018
“Milk Allergy” Food Allergy Research and Education <https://www.foodallergy.org/allergens/milk-allergy> date accessed 31 July 2018
“Lactose Intolerance In Infants and Children: Parents’ FAQ” HealthyChildren.org <https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Lactose-Intolerance-in-Children.aspx> date accessed 1 August 2018