How do you know your baby is lactose intolerant? Lactose intolerance, like peanut allergies, is a relatively new health phenomenon. The topic first came to public light with the airing of Lactaid commercials a number of years ago. But, it is easier for adults to describe symptoms (these will be covered in a separate article) to their doctors and have their doctor or nutritionist diagnose for them. But, how can you tell if your baby may be lactose intolerant?
There is a difference between lactose intolerance and a milk allergy and the symptoms are equally different. There are also different levels of lactose intolerance. Some people can tolerate small to moderate amounts of milk or dairy products, others can't have dairy at all. For the purposes of this article we will concentrate on the signs to look for in your baby that could indicate lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance simply means that a baby cannot digest the lactose present in milk (breast milk contains about 7% lactose according to www.babycareadvice.com). Mothers who are lactose intolerant may also have babies who are lactose intolerant and, since there is lactose in breast milk, there is a chance that your baby won't be able to tolerate your breast milk. Many infant formulas also contain milk ingredients and, hence, lactose.
The most commons signs to look for that might indicate lactose intolerance in your baby include lots of gas, bubbles, burps, and flatulence following feeding. Lactose intolerance in adults can lead to indigestion, bloating and gas...it is likewise with babies. Some babies deal better with the gas than others.
To narrow down what might be affecting your baby try the process of elimination. Select a bottle that eliminates air bubbles from being swallowed along with the formula. Adiri Nursers are simple to use and effective, but Avent, Dr. Brown's and Playtex all have their own methods. Once gas from swallowing air during feeding is addressed, the only gas then will be from the actual formula that you're using. If this type of gas still seems to be aggravating your baby, then you might want to start looking for a lactose-free formula.
Another sign to look for is diarrhea-like stool. Babies are on an all-liquid diet, so it's going to be runny. Yes, it will. But, with lactose intolerance, babies will not only be extra runny, but will also smell. That smell is what the lactose creates in the stomach where it can't be digested, similar to what happens to adults when they drink a lot of pop. If you combine the gas and the diarrhea-like, stinky stool, you might have a case for trying a lactose-free formula.
Please notice that I mention lactose-free formula not soy. Up until recently no one produced a lactose-free formula. The only alternative was for a soy-based formula. However, many recent studies (too many to list here) have shown that use of soy formula, especially with boys, can delay the onset of puberty and other things because of the high levels of estrogen present in the soy formula. Soy is often used to help balance hormone levels in menopausal women or those who have had hysterectomies. And this formula is something you're going to be feeding your baby three or four times a day or more. Use of soy should really be reserved for those with a milk allergy.
If at all possible, look for a lactose-free formula. Enfamil and Similac have both produced a lactose-free formula in the last few years (I expect Nestle Good Start will also, soon). These brands are quite readily available, but finding a store that carries the lactose-free variety may prove to be a challenge. The good news is that they don't cost all that much more than normal formula...although the bad news is they don't usually offer sales on it like they do the "normal" formulas.
Once you switch to a lactose-free formula you should notice that your baby will have less gas, and bowel movements will actually be solid and will not smell.
As the baby grows and requires cereal, you will also need to start reading labels for a milk-free cereal. Fortunately, Heinz--the makers of Pablum--have been putting out milk-free cereal for generations. And since most stores carry Heinz, this makes mothering a little easier.