Lactose Intolerance in Infants

Updated on September 15, 2008
A.R. asks from Madison, WI
21 answers

Does anyone have an infant who is lactose intolerant? If so, what are the symptoms? I have a 6 month old boy who is primarily breastfed with formula supplemented. I have always wondered if he was lactose intolerant for a few reasons: was a really fussy baby for about 4 1/2 months, spit up a lot (dx'd as reflux), lots of gas pains and stomach discomfort. But, in my eyes things seemed to get better in the past month. Then today my son had his first day of daycare and when i picked him up, the provider asked if I've asked my doctor about lactose intolerance because of the above symptoms. She has another infant at daycare who is lactose intolerant and my son reminded her of him. Having this outside perspective has got me thinking again. I'll talk to my doctor at his upcoming 6 month check up but thought I'd ask other moms who have had similar experiences in the meantime.

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answers from Lincoln on

As an infant my son was that way. We had to put him on soy formula and give him gas drops before each feeding...
mylecon (sp?) drops is what we used. It made a big difference. His spitting up continued uintil he was a year old. He is now on milk and have NO dairy problems at all.

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answers from Minneapolis on

My son had the same symptoms as yours. I finally went to a naturopath who tested my son for everything from dairy and wheat to parasites and bacterias, so that I could know for sure what was causing the problem. It turned out that he and I both had an issue with dairy. So I cut out all dairy and she gave me an enzyme to help me digest any small amounts of dairy I might have. After that my son no longer vomited after eating. I exclusively breastfeed, so I don't have any advice on the formula situation. My guy is now 14 months old and when he turned 11 mos I started introducing goat's milk, per the recommendaton of the naturopath as most people can digest it. He tolerated it well and loves it. I do still nurse him a few times per day, and if I have had dairy, he vomits almost immediately after eating. Good luck with your decision.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I was also told by my doctor that in the first year, the dairy sensitivity tha babies show is to the cow proteins, not the lactose (thus, lactaid and such don't help at all.) It's also not uncommon for babies who are sensitive to dairy proteins to also be sensitive when you eat beef (it's all just more cow protein, after all.) The only way to tell is for you to eliminate (or seriously curb) the dairy/beef in your diet, and see what happens. I've been able to keep my tablespoom half-and-half in my tea in the morning, and I haven't cut out butter . . . but other than that, I avoid cow products pretty scrupulously. After about a week, I noticed a significant difference in my son (less gas, less GI distress, better sleep, etc.) Of course, these symptoms are also bound to improve as they get older, so the next step is to "challenge" the sensitivity: after things have smoothed out, then eat some dairy and see what happens. If symptoms get worse, then that's the problem. If they don't get worse, could be that he outgrew it, could be that dairy wasn't the problem. Usually kids outgrow this cow product sensitivity and it is not particularly a predictor of future allergies. If you feel like he's growing well and eating well and generally pretty happy (the symptoms are not interfering with his life) then you probably don't need to worry at all. Good luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

I learned from our doctor that in infants an intolerance of milk protein is more common than actual lactose intolerance. In the 1st several years of life the amount of lactase in our bodies significantly reduces, so as a child gets older you could see lactose intolerance develop. But there are some people who are genetically born with it. My son developed it as an infant every time he had an illness that caused diahhrea. After age 2, it became more obvious that he had a permanent degree of lactose intolerance. His main symptoms were diahhrea. We give him Lactaid and things are usually fine.

My son's digestive system was pretty irritable, especially the first 3 months. There really was no change from breastmilk to formula, so don't let the "Breast is best" crowd intimidate you. You do what you have to do to feed your baby, and breastfeeding is not a perfect science however hard you may try. Those who have had success or only minor struggles have NO idea.

One possibility is to try some different formulas. There is controversy over soy right now, so I would consider that carefully. But I've known boys who have had to be on it and they are FINE! There are also formulas that are free of lactose, as well as others that are more easily digestible. It may be worth it to try them. I would follow your doctor's suggestions first though.

Good luck, I know you just want to do the best thing for your child.



answers from Minneapolis on

I wish I could talk to you in person.

My child showed blatant signs of lactose intolerance and even allergy at this age too. He had long bouts of crying when given diary-based infant formula (about 20 minutes after he ate - first the spit up then the crying). He also suffered watery, loose stools. Turns out he is not just lactose intolerant, but allergic to cow's milk (ie the protein casein).

DO NOT SWITCH TO SOY! Soy will compound your child's issues as it is an anti-nutrient (meaning it draws nutrients from the body in the process of digestion) and is well-known to suppress thyroid function. Be very careful .... I gave my son soy formula due to diary intolerance (really it was an allergy I just did not know it at the time) and he has absolutely suffered for it. It suppressed his thyroid (I have the blood tests to prove it -sadly) at a critical time for speech and language development. He has been undergoing therapy since July 2007 and is finally now understandable some of the time (used to be only 10% of the time).
I don't know what a good substitution is for human breastmilk if an infant cannot tolerate dairy. Soy is not the answer.
I have done much reading on food allergies and intolerance and would be happy to share my reading list with you.

If you can, keep breastfeeding/pumping but ONLY if you cut ALL dairy - including CORN SYRUP and its derivatives as it is the same chemical structure as DAIRY sugar and will harm you the same way. You must be "clean" of dairy and its derivatives in order for your child to be safe from the proteins / sugars. Human breastmilk is mostly sugar drawn obviously from what you eat -
Best regards!



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi Alison-

My son who will be 2 in Nov. is intolerant to all dairy and soy and is allergic to bananas. He started having problems within 1 wk of being born- mostly gassy, hard stomach, crying etc. I also nursed, so I was constantly changing what I ate to figure out why he was in pain....It was such a guessing game!

When I started introducing foods he started getting ear infections immediately after I introduced yogurt. The ear infections did not stop until I stopped all dairy and soy. I ended up going to a chiropractor that "tested" his reaction to a bunch of foods. He mostly found the dairy and soy to be the problem. I would recommend trying something like that. It seems completely crazy, but my son was scheduled to have tubes put in, I cancelled, changed his diet, and he has not had an ear infection for 10 months...

Good luck. It is not that uncommon- so I am sure you will get many responses.

Oh- I now drink and feed my son Rice Milk- it is low in fat so I try to make that up elsewhere.




answers from Wausau on

My son is lactose intolerant- he had the exact symptoms you described. He was also dx'd as reflux, but medications did nothing for him.

You do not need to wait to talk to the doc to figure out if he has LI or not. All you need to do is eliminate all dairy from your own diet (since he is breastfed) and also from his diet - you can use rice milk or soy milk (though soy is not being recommended for males infants anymore); and there may be non-milk-based formulas out there- I never went that route.

Cut the dairy out as completely as you can for at least 2 to 3 weeks (it takes 2 weeks for the last of the dairy to leave the body). When I did this, I saw results beginning almost immediately, and improving steadily for about a month. It was amazing. Suddenly he could sleep without gas pain waking him up!

I waited until he was a year and a half old to listen to my instincts and go dairy-free. How I wish I had done it earlier!!!

If you see improvement with a dairy-free diet, you can prepare for toddlerhood by looking into dairy-free alternatives, such as rice and soy milk, almond milk (after you are sure there are no nut allergies), soy yogurt, lactose-free cow's milk (Lactaid, DairyEase etc), Breyers makes a lactose-free ice-cream. If you are worried about calcium, check the labels on cereal boxes- many are fortified. Orange juices are often fortified too. Minute Maid has a calcium-fortified copncentrate, and Wal-mart's store brand Great Value makes a sugar-free drink mix (Orange Early Rise) that is calcium-fortified.

In addition, some people tolerate more dairy better than others. Yogurt is supposed to be well-tolerated by many people with lactose Intolerance. My son does not do well with yogurt, but he does well with sharp cheddar cheese. You will need to experiment to see what he can handle as he gets older.

For the best source of information I have seen yet on Lactose Intolerance as far as practical advice and info, check out Steve Carper's page
he has several lists that are very helpful in determining what to try first, as well as some alternatives.

Let me know how it goes if you have time.



answers from Minneapolis on

Breastmilk contains 7% Lactose. We reduced our child having breastmilk at some point and regular formula and went to a non-lactose baby drink like Similac. Our child had gas and some stomach pains. One of her parents has lactose intolerance and knowing what it was like being a child with it even with a father her was a MD I sympthasize with any young child who has it also. I highly recommend trying non-lactose formulas there are 2-3 of them out there. If the child responds better in even a few days up to a week and then a week or two later start up the lactose type milk and or breastmilk and see if the discomfirt comes back. That is the simplest and often first way one tells what is bothering a person in a diet.
(except for of course allergic reactions to peanuts and things like that)
You could even ask the Dr. or his nurse over the phone and tell them your plan and see what they recommend as most of the care is done by the parents anyway. There is also lactose reducing drops for milk you might ask a pharmacist about storing breastmilk and reducing its lactose! Very Detailed information by a Nurse:



answers from Rapid City on

My granddaughter had a lot of gas problems and spitting up.
I remember when we were in Walmart and I was carrying her after feeding her her bottle. She spit up enough that she soaked me completely on one side. We were heading to the doctor for a check up and as soon as he heard that, he told us that she was probably allergic to milk. Switching to soy took care of all the gas and spitting up problems.



answers from Minneapolis on

My daughter had really dry itchy skin (not bad enough to treat, but needed LOTS of lotion, was pretty gassy and had frequent "loose" stools. Never bad enough to be worried about diahrea, but never firm. It took us a LONG time to figure it out, so good for you for checking early. Now that she is 4, we have figured out that we can give her lactaid if we need to and we know what to avoid. It's hard when they are little, though. Try avoiding dairy yourself (while nursing) and use non-dairy formula to see what happens. Can't hurt... Good luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

Contrary to popular belief, lactose intolerance in babies is very rare. Its something that occurs in adults and children who are past the age of weaning (around 3). Breastmilk is very high in lactose. Its much more likely that he would have a sensitivity to the protein in cow's milk. The first thing I would try is getting a hydrolyzed formula, like Nutramigen, and try supplementing with that. Also cut dairy out of your diet. Unfortunately I think gas and stomach discomfort are things that all babies experience to some degree, but reflux is usually caused by cow's milk sensitivity.



answers from Minneapolis on

We too started out alternating breastfeeding and formula with my oldest. But it wasn't until after hundreds of dollars spent on $20 cans of Nutramigen each week and endless dosages of reflux medications, hours of crying, bad diapers, and rashes and outbreaks, I learned the hard way...Stay Away From Formulas!! My oldest didn't get better until we dumped the terribly expensive and shockingly "nasty" formulas.

We thought he had lactose intolerance or an allergy, but after the doctor just switched us to regular whole milk, the symptoms etc. stopped immediately!

There are many studies coming out that they are linked to infants developing allergies, obesity, and gastro-intestinal issues. Many formulas have alot of additives in them, that if you knew they were there you would never feed the stuff to your child.

Breastfeeding up to a full year (in infants first year or longer) IS THE best way to go. If you can no longer breastfeed, talk with your doctor about the possibility of starting to feed your child actual milk which is better than formula and nutritionally fine if you give your child a supplement and they are now eating solids. Be sure to tell them you suspect he has intolerance or an allergy to milk and why. They can then help you determine if he actually does have an allergy/intolerance.

If he does, there are many other natural alternatives you could explore including goats milk, and soy (which also has some controversy surrounding it).

Read the following articles:


answers from Minneapolis on

Its very uncommon for newborns and babies to be lactose intolerant. If your child was truly lactose intolerant, he would be very sick and losing weight.

Like others have said, sounds like the problem is dairy PROTEIN. This is incredibly common, cows milk is not made for humans, especially human babies. THier bodies aren't meant to digest it in any form, which is why formula fed babies experience constipation, gas, and reflux. The protein is very hard to digest, and its in formula, and it will transfer through to your milk.

My advice is to cut out all formula, none will do him any good. Your milk is what is best for him. You need to cut dairy out of your diet, and it will take 1-2wks for it to fully leave your system. Be diligint, keep a food dairy. Some things probably won't bother him, like if you eat yogurt or cheese. THe proteins in these foods are so broken down the yare almost nonexistent because they are so processed. However milk and othe rforms of dairy will have this affect on him. Keep a food journal, and when you are dairy free and he is formula free for a couple weeks, you'll see his symptoms gone. Then slowly add back in some foods like cheese, yogurt, and baked foods that contain dairy. See if eh has a reaction.

Also watch what solids you feed him. Often jarred foods like Gerber contain milk products in their mixed foods, and also rice cereal, though claims to bre low on the allergen list, many babies react to it. Homemade baby food is best, you control what goes into his food, and its super simple to make, and so much cheaper, an WAY healthier. is a good resource for homemade baby food. My boys never ate jarred food.

ANyway, talk to your doctor, but come to your doctor educated so you aren't steered to give your child medications that are unecessary. I think alot of babies are on reflux meds for no reason.


answers from Milwaukee on

My daughter was lactose intolerant and I switched her to a non-lactose formula (got the parent's choice at Walmart). I did try to rid my diet of lactose but anything that had the slightest lactose in it (muffin, ceral bar and so on) made my daughter sick so I switched to a formula.

My daughter was always a big eater but after each meal she would spit up everything. She was fussy if she kept the breastmilk down. My ped told me that some infant's stomach needs extra time to develop so it is more of an intolerant not an allergy. After a year on lactose free formula my daughter is now on 2% milk.

Best of luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

My daughter had the above symptoms. The cut dairy out of my diet for 3 weeks and noticed to difference. My daughter got a lot better around 3 months of age. My advice would be to omit dairy from your diet and switch to a lactose free formula for a few weeks and see if you notice a difference.



answers from Minneapolis on

I am going through the same thing. My 3-mo-old daughter is on Zantac for acid reflux, and so was my son. But my son drinks milk now and is fine, so he must not be lactose intolerant. So I figure she probably isn't either. I'll be curious to hear more responses to your problem. Good luck!



answers from Rochester on

My son too has problems with milk products. I nursed until he was 6 months (we had numerous supply issues) and then had to use formula. We had to use Similac Sensitive. The generic sensitive nor the Enfamil worked for him. Now that he's over 12mths we have to use Lactaid and stay clear of dairy.
All of his symptoms sound exactly like what your son is doing. He would be fussy, have stomach discomfort and threw up any time he was given dairy. I would ask your doctor. Also, the formula company was great about helping me decide which products to try based on his symptoms. They even sent me samples so I didn't waste my money on the wrong product.
Good luck.



answers from Duluth on

its very possible that he is lactose intolerant. technically, cows milk is NOT created for humans to drink.

a lot of research is starting to show that animal proteins and fats are actually more harmful than good. i think it is the inuit tribes have the highest intake of calcium in the world, all from animal sources, and they have the highest rate of osteoperosis in the world.

nowhere in the world can you find a serious deficiency of calcium. but the milk industry doesnt want us to know that!

so even though i have no experience with lactose intolerance myself, i do want to encourage you to know that its actually more healthy to use soy or other forms of milk. and for your child, its nice cuz they dont really know anything else.
in my family we went down to skim milk, and at some point im going to start trying to mix in soy milks to get used to them slowly. the information that i have learend about animal meats and dairy is really good information, and even though it seems at face value that you need to be a vegan to be healthy, its more about just being aware that eating meat every night and drinking tons of milk just isnt that great for us. so just being aware of that and using less animal products (or just way smaller servings) and more fruits and vegetables and grains is good for our all around health! :D

another thing that is good to know for your formula fed baby is that babies usually need a bit of water to go with their formula diets. its not dangerous as some authors would have you believe (yes, any person baby or adult can overdose on water resulting in death, but thats extremely high amounts of water) its healthy and needed for formula fed babies because of the concentration of formula.

also when you start on solids, ... or anytime i guess, constipation is very common in formula fed babies. constipation is not necessarily the lack of stool, it is hard, solid, difficult to pass stool. if baby cries or has to really strain to go, its too hard. stool should always be squishy and soft even in adults.... so in order to "fix" this, a little milled flax on any type of food goes a long way to helping out! what it is is fiber, which does not get digested, but absorbs water in order to keep stool softer! :D its amazing. works like a charm! :D my son was constipated for the first time EVER, he would try to push then acted like it really hurt. i gave him some flax on his yogurt, he went within a half hour and it was nice and soft and easy to pass! :D hes 21 months old. (and was breastfed until he was 19 months.. so he has that going for him)

this was probably OVERinformation for you, but i just wanted to let you know all this fun stuff ive been learning about food and stuff.
i hope it helps.
and again, dont feel afraid to just use soy milk, almond milk, or rice milk. however, milk is not ever needed when you have a nice healthy diet of fruits and vegetables (which are not hard to get kids to eat! :D my son loves it all, he doesnt prefer carrots, but he will eat them in subs... LOL or wraps... or macaroni and cheese... lol. its not that i HIDE them, there are chunks in the food and he asks what they are. i guess its just fun so he eats them.
more information thats more than you asked for.
im just excited about food! :D



answers from Sioux Falls on


We have a 2 year old that is lactose intolerant. We changed her formula at 2 months to Alimentum. She was diagnosed with acid reflux and sent on to a ped gasto Dr. They did lots of tests for allergies but always came back negative. Whenever she's had dairy she gets terrible tummy aches, gas & constipation. We learned to rub a certain area in her tummy that makes her "toot like crazy" and give her some relief. We avoid dairy products but there are times when she gets then inadvertently---like in McDonald's chicken nuggets. Sometimes it's hidden in products with names we don't recognize. She drinks enriched rice milk instead of regular milk and what a difference that has made in our life. Good Luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

Your son's symptoms sound like my oldest boy. He would projectile vomit after almost every bottle and had terrible, painful gas. I switched to Enfamil Lactose Free formula after 7 weeks and everything got better almost immediately. When he was old enough to start solids, we would give him a Lactaid pill with anything containing lactose. (I e-mailed the company about dosage and they said to just experiment with it to find out the smallest dosage he would need. You cannot overdose- there are no bad side effects to taking too much Lactaid.) He outgrew it by his second birthday.
My second boy only got breast milk and didn't start having problems until we switched to whole milk after his first birthday. He's not nearly as bad, but we do give him a Lactaid with his milk, just to make sure.



answers from Fargo on


My son is also lactose intollerant. He is now 3 years old. When he was an infant & we went to formula, he would get the same symptoms-gas, bloating, constipation, & spit up after every burp and sometimes it was quite a bit of formula that came back out. We switched to Enfamil lactose free formula & the problem went away after about 12 hours. It was amazing.
Some might say that it isn't lactose intollerance but I disagree. When I told our pediatrician about what was going on, that was the first thing she said. We were also told that it was something that could be temporary. However, my son also had trouble with baby foods that had cheese in them. We also recently "tested" him to see if he was fine. he ate ice cream & then had a lot of problems.
If there is a bright side, I am also lactose intollerant so I know what is ok for him to eat and what isn't. Some foods that he can have that you might think would be a problem are yogurt, frozen yogurt, and cottage cheese, and there are a lot more varieties of milk out there that are okay when it comes to the point when you will give him milk.
Good luck to you!

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