This article was written by Noelle Martin, MScFN, Registered Dietitian.
Is My Baby Lactose Intolerant? Your Breastmilk Questions Answered
As mothers we often feel guilty that we are to blame for anything that occurs negatively with our children. We wonder if we could have done something differently before pregnancy, in pregnancy, or after they were born. But the truth is that some things are out of our control. This is the case with a lactose intolerant infant. The great news is that there are great strategies for moms who wish to breastfeed and have a lactose intolerant baby. Let’s go over a few important points in this area.
Does Breast Milk Have Lactose?
The main carbohydrate in breast milk is lactose.
Can a mom breastfeed an infant that is lactose intolerant?
Yes! A mom can breastfeed a lactose intolerant baby by removing the lactose containing food and beverages from their diet.
Is there anything a mom can do to prevent lactose intolerance in infants?
No. There are a few reasons behind lactose intolerance in infants and none of these can be traced back to anything a mother has done. It could be due to a premature gut, congenital occurrence, genetic condition, or secondary to a gastro virus or illness. Whatever the reason, it must be managed effectively.
Does maintaining a “Lactose Free” requires a breastfeeding mom to give up all cow’s milk product?
No, “Lactose Free” requires a mom to give up all lactose. This does not mean all cow’s milk products. Let’s look closer at this.
Cow’s milk contains a sugar called lactose which is the combination of glucose and galactose. Lactose intolerance occurs when one’s body does not have the enzyme lactase to break the bond apart between glucose and galactose. If we add this enzyme to food products, then we have glucose and galactose already freed in the presence of all other nutrients still available. This is the case with lactose free cow’s milk alternatives. In these products the enzyme lactase is added to the milk or milk product allowing for lactose to break apart into glucose and galactose. This leaves a slightly sweeter taste in the food, but no alteration in nutritional composition. All the same levels exist of protein, fat, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and D, and all other vitamins and minerals usually present too. So a mom is left with a product that meets her nutritional needs while not bringing any distress to her infant. There is a wide array of lactose free milks, yogurt, cheeses, cottage cheese, sour cream, and ice cream available throughout markets in North America.
Over time a mom may try to add a small portion of lactose containing foods to her diet to see if her infant reacts okay. If infant appears to be okay, then they have likely “grown out” of their intolerance. If they have gas, bloating, irritability, reflux, and/or loose stools, then returning to a lactose free diet would be advised.
Other Sources of Lactose
It is also important to note that lactose may exist in hidden places. Milk may be found in bread and other baked goods, salad dressings, and other condiments. These trace amounts may be tolerated by some infants but not others and it is best to use caution.