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Breast Feeding

How common is lactose intolerance in infants?

10/27/2006

Question:

My baby is 8 weeks old, breastfeeding exclusively, and cries a lot! He hs no symptoms of acid reflux (other than the crying) but I think he`s definitely having stomach or intestinal pain because he feels so much better after pooping.

Yesterday I ate ice cream and today the baby had green poop (kind of mucous-y) with a little speck of red blood n it. I had previously been avoiding dairy for several days and think I had noticed an improvement. I am not personally lactose-intolerant -- do you think he is?

Answer:

Newborn babies rarely have lactose intolerance, the milk sugar that many adults cannot tolerate.

What newborns have is cow milk protein intolerance or allergy.

When mothers ingest cow milk protein, it is quickly transferred into the blood steam and transported to the breast.

Many babies have a digestive tract that is either not mature enough yet, or that react to the protein with increased mucous production and sometimes begin to bleed. When there is blood in the stool, it is more likely and allergy. The best treatment is to avoid all dairy products completely, even reading labels for casein, whey, milk solids, etc.

It takes 3 to 5 weeks for the offending protein to be washed out of the breast tissue.

This precaution should last for at least one year, when some babies outgrow the allergy.

Others may continue to have problems with cow milk protein all or much of their lives.

This is difficult to predict. Family histories are important here.

For more information:

Go to the Breast Feeding health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Jeanne L Ballard, MD, FAAP, FABM Jeanne L Ballard, MD, FAAP, FABM
Professor Emeritus, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati