Is Your Baby’s Poop Telling You They’re Lactose Intolerant?

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If you have a toddler at home, you have most likely become a poop expert by now. There’s no way you can escape checking your baby’s poop during those early newborn and infant stage. Poop becomes a major part of parenthood. And it can be quite startling to come across the different colors, consistencies, and textures of poop. And boy, there are so many! But you can breathe a sigh of relief because even the strange looking ones can be completely normal in babies. However, there are cases when your baby’s stool can be a cause of concern. If your baby is intolerant to lactose found in breast milk or formula, you can find out by checking your baby’s poop. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Lactose Intolerance?

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Babies who are lactose intolerant won’t be able to digest the lactose found in milk and other dairy products. If the baby’s stomach doesn’t produce enough lactase which is the enzyme needed to break down or digest lactose, it leads to lactose intolerance. Babies who are lactose intolerant won’t be able to digest breast milk or formula milk. Lactose is a sugar that is also found in other dairy products such as ice cream, candies, soft cheeses, salad dressings, pancake mixes, and certain bread and baked goods. Because this sugar cannot be digested by your baby’s stomach, it then gets fermented by the bacterial flora found in the gut. This results in some unpleasant symptoms and digestive problems (1).

Is Lactose Intolerance Common In Babies?

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The good news is that lactose intolerance is quite rare in infants. It is generally found in children after they are past their third year of life. Lactose intolerance occurs when the lactase enzyme in the child’s intestines start decreasing as they grow older (2).

However, premature babies can develop intolerance to lactose. This is known as developmental lactase deficiency. It only lasts for a short period after birth. Again, it doesn’t mean that all preemies will be lactose intolerant. A large majority of them will be able to consume breast milk or formula milk.

Babies who are born full-term can develop congenital lactase deficiency, though it is pretty rare in infants. Babies born with this condition won’t be able to break down the lactose found in breast milk or formula. This condition can be inherited from the parent’s genes. Your baby will be affected by this condition only if both the parents pass down the same gene variant to the baby (3).

If you suspect your baby of having lactose intolerance, make sure you get it checked by a doctor right away. Lactose intolerance can cause dehydration and electrolyte losses. This can be life-threatening for babies if it is not recognized and treated quickly.

Look Out For These Signs And Symptoms

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If your baby is lactose intolerant, he/she will have the following symptoms (4):

  • Loose stools and gas
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Stomach bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain and cramps
  • Frequent cold and skin rash

Since your baby cannot exactly tell you if they are experiencing any cramping or pain, checking their poop can help you recognize the condition. Check if their stomach looks swollen and if they appear fussy or crying after nursing or feeding. If their stool appears watery or loose, and they are constantly passing gas after feeding, it’s best to take them to the doctor for correct diagnosis.

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Watery stools don’t necessarily mean that your baby is lactose intolerant, it could indicate a common digestive issue or milk allergy as well. Only the doctor will be able to correctly diagnose the condition by doing certain tests. Pediatricians generally diagnose lactose intolerance in babies by performing a stool test that checks for the presence of acidity or glucose in stools (5).

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If your baby is lactose intolerant, your doctor will advise you to change your baby’s diet and lifestyle. This means avoiding breast milk and formula. However, there’s no reason to worry as there are several hypoallergic and soy formulas that are available in the market today. You can also ask your doctor to prescribe a formula that will meet your baby’s nutritional needs.

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