Milk Allergy or Lactose Intolerance?

Updated on September 16, 2009
N.S. asks from Tucson, AZ
9 answers

Hi moms! Our oldest daughter was allergic to the milk protein (casein) for the first 3 years of her life before suddenly growing out of it. Our middle son has totally different symptoms. In order to avoid an issue, he had only soy based formula as an infant and we only give him almond milk now and avoid ALL milk products. Our daughter had behavioral issues that we could see right away it was casein issues.
But with our son, he just gets diarrhea and no other symptoms. No tummy aches, no red tush, etc. So for him, it could be a lactose thing.
But for our 4.5 month old, how do we know if it is lactose or casein? He seems to get really fussy with milk based formula. He also spits up more (but not a ton). We have not tried lactofree formula, but have him on soy based. I tested him last week on milk based and he still gets fussy, poop is less formed (but not diarrhea), and spit up. But could it be a lactose issue and not a casein issue? I'm not sure how to tell the different with infants. Is it a matter of trying a lactose free formula? Or is there a symptom list somewhere?
Any guidance would be much appreciated. Oh, and for our middle child, we never tried lactose free stuff as I am afraid of the diarrhea if it is casein.

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answers from Phoenix on

Hello N.,

This website breaks down all of the different milk problems people can have and what the symptms and differences are between them all.

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answers from Tucson on

Our little girl (now 7 months) started having the diarrhea and spit-up issues after we switched to formula from breast milk around 10 weeks old. We initially thought it was casein allergy, too. We went to the allergist and he suggested it was not an allergy OR lactose intolerance but merely "lactose sensitivity". We have had her on Alimentum (hypo-allergenic formula) and the symptoms are completely cleared up (and did within 24 hours). Allergist is pretty sure she will outgrow it as her digestive system matures. I also had this sensitivity as an infant but was fine with regular cow's milk by 15-18 months of age.



answers from Phoenix on

Have you discussed this with your doctor ?? What does he/she say ?



answers from Phoenix on

It is extremely rare of a child to be born lactose intolerant, so most likely it is a milk intollerance. Most everyone is born with the ability to digest lactose (the sugar in milk). As we age, many people lose that ability and start to become lactose intolerant. There is a distinction between a milk allergy and a milk intollerance. It usually is determined by how quickly the sypmtoms occur and how long they last after ingesting a food.

I am allergic to milk. I swell up and can not breath when I have even the smallest amount of milk or cow product. This did not happen until I was 19 years old. Three out of 4 of my children are intollerant to milk. My 5 year old doesn't complain of a stomache ache, but gets horrible gas and loose stool. My 2 year old gets those symptoms but also complains of a stomache ache. My youngest (1 year) cries, fusses, pulls up his legs, can't sleep, gets a rash, has diarrhea...However, my 3 year old daughter handles milk products just fine. She was allergic to soy as a baby but outgrew that sensitivity.

At this point, I would keep him away from any milk products. Try again at a year old, then 18 months, again at 2 years, etc.

It is very possible that symptoms will change over time. It may start out as a stomache issue and turn to a respiratory or skin issue.

As you can see, I have lots of experience from the trenches on this, so if you have questions, feel free to send me a message.

Best Wishes!



answers from Phoenix on

My daughter had a milk allergy and an intolerance to soy. She since tolerates all foods fine but as an infant she didn't. We had her on a hypoallergenic formula and she did great with that. I would try Nutramigen or Alimentum and see what happens. Your doctors office should be able to give you a sample so you can try it without buying it.



answers from Flagstaff on

Two things. An allergy does act differently, usually hives, feeling exhausted, etc. Lactose intolerance on the other hand is a genetic defect. There is a change in the amino acid beta-galactalose. Basically they cannot have milk because it gives them a very bad tummy ache, vomiting, diarrea. I believe your daughter has the allergy-hence she is growing out of it. Your son might have the intolerance because his body cannot process it. As far as the baby-I don't know. If he keeps on having runny stools then switch him.



answers from Phoenix on

My son was born lactose intolerant and due to the fact that the Drs. said its so rare babies are born with it the poor kid was misdiagnosed for 2 years. It doesn't sounds like a serious issue "Lactose Intolerance" but it made my son miserable. He was fussy and pooped, always diarrhea 10 times at the least a day, and the spit up... what he did could not be called spit up, projectile vomit is more like it after every meal. After 2 years of his DR. telling us he would outgrow it we took our son to the Childrens hospital and saw a Peds GI and got treated there. Best thing I have ever done, wich I would have gone with my gut feeling sooooo much sooner and spared him all the poops and throwing up, reflux...... oh I could go on.
Good luck!



answers from Albuquerque on

Hi N. - I figured out that my exclusively breast-fed son has a sensitivity to milk protein (and also corn, but that is a different story) when he was about 3 months old. His symptoms were very much like what you described. As soon as I eliminated milk from my diet, he really improved. Then when I cut out corn, he has been fine ever since. Now if he does get an accidental exposure, he doesn't get gassy or have diarhea, but it does have major behavioral effects. He is now 2 and the last exposure was just before he turned 2. So, I guess my point is that a casein allergy could potentially have different effects, even within the same individual but at different ages. We knew he it was not lactose because he is totally fine with breastmilk as long as I don't eat dairy or corn.

Anyway, you have received a lot of good advice that is less anecdotal than what I have said here, but I hope it helps.




answers from Phoenix on

Hi N.,
I have been "allergic to milk/lactose intolerant" since I was an infant. I had colic and it was awful, my mom had me drinking only goat milk because of that. When I was in elementary school I had a rash on the insides of my elbows and behind my knees if I drank milk, so I didn't. When I got older and started researching it for myself I tried pastuerized and raw goat milk, it tasted good and I didn't have any negative responses to it but what I really wanted was REAL milk! I found out about a local, organic, raw dairy farm in my area and decided to try it. I haven't looked back! Apparently I don't have a milk allergy, nor am I lactose intolerant. My body simply can't handle processed milk. As soon as it is homogeonized (and the good bacteria AND the bad bacteria are killed) my body cannot digest the milk enzymes. I even discovered that I could handle another local, organic dairy farms milk that was pasteurized to just within safety standards. ALL of that to say, your children may not even be allergic to milk, though it's entirely possible. (I have a problem with Casein too) My recommendation? Be careful but check out goat milk (available anywhere milk is sold) or if you're comfortable with it, try raw milk. Contrary to public opinion, it CAN be safe. I go to but you can find other farms in Az at
Hope this helps!

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