Lactose intolerance means that the body cannot produce enough lactase. Lactase is the enzyme that is needed to digest lactose, which is the primary sugar in cow’s milk. The undigested lactose remains in the intestine and causes uncomfortable gastrointestinal problems.
Lactose intolerance does not usually appear until the child is grade school age or teenage. Some babies though cannot produce adequate amounts of lactase. Lactose intolerance in babies is sometimes very difficult to diagnose.
What Causes Lactose Intolerance
A baby that is born with lactose intolerance generally occurs when both parents have passed on a gene for lactose intolerance. The baby will have severe diarrhea from birth and be exceedingly irritable and inconsolable and their stomach will be upset. They will not be able to tolerate the lactose in the mother’s milk or in formula that is made from cow’s milk. In this case, the baby will have to be on a lactose free formula.
This could simply be a case of the baby temporarily being unable to produce lactase. It could only last a short while or it may continue throughout the child’s life. Certain medications can cause lower levels of lactase to be produced and this can also cause temporary lactose intolerance.
There are tests that can be performed to find out if a baby is lactose intolerant. Many times these tests are not necessary as the pediatrician can check the levels of acid in the stool. A breath hydrogen test can be ordered to measure the hydrogen in the child’s breath after eating lactose. It is generally easier to just remove lactose from the diet to see if the problems line out. If they do, then the child is lactose intolerant.