Lactase is an enzyme produced in the small intestine which aids in the digestion of lactose. The deficiency of this enzyme results in lactose intolerance. If a baby is born with lactose intolerance, then the baby will not be able to digest even the mother’s milk. This can lead to a number of problems like colic, low body weight, malnutrition, watery and sometimes explosive stools, and excoriation in the perianal area. Doctors’ advice mothers to stop breastfeeding in the event of baby showing signs of being lactose intolerant.
In case of primary lactose intolerance, the baby has a structural problem where the body does not secrete the enzyme to digest lactose so the baby is given soya milk, rice milk, coconut milk and hydrolyzed milk which are lactose free. Primary lactose intolerance is rare.
Secondary lactose intolerance is a condition when the small intestine does not make enough lactase. The intestine is lined by brush borders cells which help in the digestion of lactose. If the baby has gastroenteritis or loose motions, the lining of the intestine is rubbed out as well. In this case the baby is said to have secondary lactose intolerance. It is advised to avoid breast milk for a while and then re-introduce after a two days or after the symptoms are healed.
Some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance are:
- Lower abdominal cramps and severe pain
- Watery and running stools: diarrhea
- Nausea and vomiting
These symptoms are usually observed within an hour or two after feed. If your baby is lactose intolerant make sure that the food you are giving him is lactose free. Milk and any milk products; bread and baked products; milk chocolates; breakfast cereals and cereal bars etc contain lactose. Consult your pediatrician or nutritionist for a diet chart and treatment procedure if the symptoms remain after two days and you find your baby fatigued and less active.