Can My Baby Be Lactose Intolerant To Breast Milk?

Lactose is a sugar found in milk of mammals. It is the main source of carbohydrates for babies. Lactose is broken down by a specific enzyme named lactase, which is secreted in the gut. Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the ability to break down lactose is lost due to insufficient enzyme lactase. A breastfed baby can also be lactose intolerant. The symptoms of lactose intolerance in the breastfed baby are fussiness, irritability, gas, greenish frothy watery stools and frequent crying. Some Babies develop lactose intolerance soon after birth, especially premature babies. The condition goes in a few days or few weeks by itself in most cases.

Can My Baby Be Lactose Intolerant To Breast Milk?

Breast milk is the best source of nourishment for babies against any formula milk. Many babies cannot tolerate lactose present even in breast milk. The digestive enzyme lactase is secreted in the small intestine to break down lactose. In premature babies, sufficient amount of lactase is not produced and they cannot tolerate lactose in breast milk or cow’s milk. The lactose is not absorbed properly in the small intestine. It is digested in the large intestine by the bacteria leading to digestive symptoms in the babies. This also results in malabsorption of the nutrients and dehydration leading to difficulties in weight gain.

However, lactose intolerance in babies is quite rare. The concentration of lactose in the breast milk is not dependent on the lactose-containing diet of the mother. There is no variation in the amount of the lactose in the breast milk from the beginning to the end in a breastfeed.

The symptoms of lactose intolerance vary from baby to baby depending upon the causes and amount of enzyme lactase produced in the body. Symptoms generally appear in few minutes to few hours after the feed. The Symptoms Of Lactose Intolerance In Babies Are-

  • Flatulence and passing gas all the time
  • Fussy, crying and irritable baby
  • Difficulties to gain weight
  • Dehydration
  • Frothy, runny and bloody stool
  • Vomiting
  • Diaper rash
  • Milk rash on the face of the baby.

The Causes Of Lactose Intolerance In Babies Are-

Hereditary lactose intolerance- some babies are born with a genetic defect that lactase enzyme is not formed in their gut. These babies cannot tolerate milk from the first milk feeds itself and symptoms can be fatal for them.

Primary lactose intolerance- those babies who are born with less lactase enzyme and this amount goes lesser with the age. They have primary lactose intolerance. These babies are given small quantities of milk and milk alternatives to meet their daily requirements.

Secondary lactose intolerance- damage caused by the illness to the small intestine can also result in the insufficient production of the lactase enzyme. This condition is known as secondary lactose intolerance. The illnesses that can trigger lactose intolerance are gastroenteritis, celiac disease, parasitic infection, food allergies or intolerance caused due to chemicals entering in the breast milk, or any bowel surgery. The secondary lactose intolerance is temporary. Sooner the gut heals, faster the lactose intolerance goes. The symptoms settle down in 3 to 4 weeks.

Therefore, babies can be lactose intolerant even for breast milk especially in the first three months of their life. Many premature babies have less secretion of lactase enzyme in their gut making them lactose intolerant. However, this condition goes as they grew up. Lactose intolerance can lead to malnourishment and dehydration that may result in slower weight gain than normal.


Lactose intolerance is basically a condition characterized by the inability to digest lactose found in milk. This condition is rare and can be managed efficiently. It goes by itself in the period of a few days to few weeks depending upon the underlying cause.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 31, 2018

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