Infant Formula and Lactose Intolerance


A lot of things can cause your infant to become fussy during mealtimes, and lactose intolerance is one of them. It is important to know the difference between simple lactose intolerance and infant milk allergies to prevent a serious health complication. Once you are sure that your child is simply intolerant of lactose, then you can start the search for an infant formula brand that will meet their nutritional needs. Many European infant formula brands are created with lactose intolerance in mind.

What Is Lactose?

Lactose is a form of carbohydrate, and it also happens to be a sugar. It is commonly found in many kid favorites such as ice cream, cheese, mil, and even frozen yogurt. Lactose can also be found in dry cereals, preserved foods, and even bread. Chances are your baby has yet to fall in love with the aforementioned items, but lactose also happens to be the main component of infant formulas and breast milk.

The small intestine is tasked with breaking down lactose. One broken down, lactose is converted into glucose and galactose which the body absorbs. If the lactase enzyme is not functioning, or if there is too little lactase enzyme in the intestine, the body won’t be able to break down any lactose consumed. When this happens, the unused lactose in the body creates a disturbance which is what we refer to as lactose intolerance. 

Lactose Intolerance VS Milk Allergy

There is a big difference between a milk allergy and lactose intolerance. Both share many of the same symptoms, however, they are vastly different afflictions. When an infant suffers from lactose intolerance, it only affects their digestive system. A milk allergy, on the other hand, triggers a response from the immune system. One will result in a fussy baby, while the other can cause a serious reaction such as anaphylaxis.

The first year of life is critical for an infant. Their digestive system is still developing and is unable to tolerate complex food or drinks. Most milk allergies will develop during this time though lactose intolerance can develop at any time in a person’s life. 

How Do I Know If My Infant Suffers From Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance presents with different symptoms depending on the amount of lactose consumed. If the amount was very little, chances would be the symptoms will be mild. Sometimes the effects of lactose intolerance are immediate, while at other times it may take hours to see any symptoms. This is one reason it may be difficult for some parents to identify lactose intolerance as the cause of their infant's distress. 

Some common signs to look out for that may indicate your infant suffers from lactose intolerance are:

  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea with gas
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Flatulence
  • Loose stools 

Consider removing food or formula that contains lactose for two weeks to see if their symptoms go away. Add lactose back in slowly to see if the same problems return. If they do, chances are your child is lactose intolerant and will need a special infant formula and a restricted diet. Infants can also be tested for lactose intolerance with a hydrogen breath test at the doctors’ office. If your child has recently contracted or recovered from a viral infection, they may be suffering from temporary lactose intolerance. 

Can Infants Be Lactose Intolerant?

Lactose intolerance does not usually affect children under the age of three. Every child is born with a small about of lactase already present in the intestine which decreases as they age. Pre-term infants are more prone to lactose intolerance, which is specifically called developmental lactase deficiency. In most cases, this will resolve within a few days or weeks of birth. Very rarely, lactase deficiency presents as a congenital disease in which the child is completely unable to digest lactose of any form. 

Infant Formula For Infants That Are Lactose Intolerant

If you have a child who suffers from lactose intolerance, you may be wondering what types of infant formula to buy. Several European infant formulas are lactose-free and made with the nutritional needs of lactose-intolerant infants' in mind. Plenty of soy-based infant formulas have added calcium the infants will usually get from breast milk or cow milk. Some brands offer lactose-free formulas that are based on cow milk or goat milk but have the lactose removed. 

HiPP’s HA Combiotik Infant Formula

HiPP’s HA Combiotik and Pre HiPP HA Combiotik has been created for infants who are allergic to cow milk but can also be given to infants who suffer from lactose intolerance. The formula is hypoallergenic the lactose proteins are broken down even further for easier digestion. This particular infant formula also contains probiotics to support healthy gut development and promote the growth of healthy bacteria. 

Holle Goat Milk Infant Formula

Holle Goat milk is an organic and very pure formula. Goat milk also contains lactose, but the casein and lactalbumin proteins are lower in concentration. This allows the formula to be digested more easily by infants who are suffering from lactose intolerance. Many infants who are unable to tolerate breast milk or cow milk are often able to consume goat milk-based formulas with little or no sensitivity. If your infant still presents with symptoms of lactose intolerance, it may be a good idea to try a soy-based formula instead. 

Soy Milk & Almond Milk Infant Formula

There is a wide assortment if milk substitutes on the market for infants who suffer from lactose intolerance as well as those who are allergic to milk. Oat milk, rice milk, and even hemp milk are all popular choices. For smaller children and infants, infant formulas derived from soy are the best option. They offer a rich concentration of protein and calcium, both of which are critical for infant development. Soy-based European infant formulas also have other added nutrients such as probiotics, prebiotics, DHA, iron, vitamin D, and more.

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