Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and dairy products. Lactase, a type of digestive hormone is needed to break down lactose in the milk into simple compounds. In most mammals, secretion of lactase ceases when the baby starts weaning. However, in humans, the lining of the gut continues producing lactase throughout the life. In a small section of the global population, absence of lactase or poor lactase secretion in the small intestine impairs digestion of lactose in milk. Inability to digest lactose causes lactose intolerance.
Causes of lactose intolerance in babies
Lactose intolerance in babies is a rare condition. Genetic disposition of the baby is believed to be responsible for this condition. Lactose intolerance occurs largely in babies of Asian, African and Mediterranean origins. Primary lactose intolerance characterized by absence of lactase secretion from birth is an extremely rare condition. Most cases of lactose intolerance in babies are secondary lactose intolerance, which occur during weaning. Babies might experience some deficiency in lactase secretion. Fortunately, little dip in lactase production does not prevent the child from digesting mother’s milk. Lactose present in human milk is not influenced by mother’s intake of milk and milk products. Only 7 percent of the mother’s milk is comprised of lactose. Whatever, little amount of lactase is secreted by the lining of the baby’s gut will be enough for digestion of the lactose in mother’s milk. If the child suffers from gastroenteritis, the secretion of lactase in the small intestine might be impaired for a short period, causing temporary lactose intolerance. Temporary lactose intolerance could develop in premature infants. The immature gut of the newborn could not produce adequate lactase for quiet sometime. Lactose intolerance heals naturally after the infant’s gut becomes mature enough to produce enough lactase necessary for digesting mother’s milk. Severe diarrhea can temporary impair milk digestion in babies.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance in babies
The symptoms of lactose intolerance develop within two hours after drinking milk. The child would experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, flatulence and bloating.
Lactose intolerance remedies
Children with lactose intolerance are usually given specially formulated lactose-free formula milk. To reduce the risk of lactose intolerance, cow’s milk should not be given to children before they are 12 months old.