In the diet of babies and small children (mother), milk is the most important nutrient supplier. It is important to note that most of the products made for infant nutrition are made from cow’s milk.
Some children can not tolerate the lactose contained in the milk. In this context, experts speak of lactose intolerance or lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance: What is it?
The term lactose intolerance describes the intolerance of milk sugar (scientific: lactose). Usually, the milk sugar absorbed through the food is split into glucose and galactose using the lactase enzyme and is therefore usable for the human organism.
People who suffer from lactose intolerance either produce this protein either not at all or too little so that their organs can not utilize the milk sugar. It remains undigested in the intestine and is converted thereby special bacteria into lactic acid and various gases.
An inborn lactose intolerance is quite rare. About one to three percent of all babies are affected. Normally, the child’s small intestine begins to produce lactase in the mother’s body, so that the small organism can optimally utilize mother’s milk immediately after birth.
Congenital and transient lactose intolerance
Congenital milk sugar intolerance is due to a genetic defect. Doctors also speak of alactasia. The intestines of the affected infants can not produce a functional lactase. This form of lactose intolerance neither passes nor is it curable. It remains the whole life. Even the smallest amounts of lactose are sufficient to cause the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
However, there are also healthy babies who are only temporarily suffering from lactose intolerance. Most of these occur only a few days after birth and disappear within the first months of life, at the latest when the intestinal tract is still mature.
Typical symptoms of lactose intolerance
- inconsolable crying after breastfeeding or vial
- persistent, partial dramatic diarrhea
- loud noises in the belly
- Abdominal pain, strong colic
If the symptoms are not recognized in time and treated appropriately, there is a risk of malnutrition with insufficient weight gain and dehydration.
Attention! Infants suffering from a congenital lactose intolerance are also unable to tolerate mother’s milk. This is already expressed during the first days of life by violent diarrhea. Now fast action is required. In the worst case, the non-split milk sugar can enter the bloodstream of the baby and cause severe poisoning .
If parents observe the mentioned symptoms with their baby, without being able to assign them to another illness, they should go immediately to a pediatrician!
Even if the doctor has various scientific tests available, the diagnosis of milk-sugar intolerance in babies is comparatively difficult. Most of the examination procedures take several hours, during which the patient must normally remain sober.
This is not practical for small children. For this reason, physicians recommend that babies and young children take the first step to completely eliminate lactose-containing foods for approximately two to four weeks. As a substitute, there are special lactose-free infant formulas. In parallel with the dietary change, a special genetic test is then carried out, with the aid of which the congenital milk sugar intolerance can be clearly demonstrated.
Nutrition of affected babies and toddlers
The treating physician prescribes a lactose-free special diet adapted to the particular age of the baby . Examples of this are Humana SL powder, Milupa Aptamil SL milk-free powder or potter Lactopriv powder. These products are predominantly based on high-quality soy proteins and are completely lactose-free.
In the introduction of complementary foods , the parents must pay careful attention to the ingredients, especially when preparing food. Not only pure milk pulp contains lactose, but often also cookies, yoghurt or sweet mash varieties. However, grain products, vegetables, meat and fruit can be fed without problems.
Some suppliers also have special lactose-free milk slurries. In the case of uncertainties, it is always advisable to consult the physician.
How is the calcium supply ensured?
For the bone structure and the development of healthy teeth, babies and children need a lot of calcium. Therefore it is important that children with lactose intolerance get enough lactose-free dairy products. There are special milk powder preparations containing all necessary minerals and vitamins.
With the baby foodstuff , the affected children can eat a portion of the necessary calcium over other foods, such as carrots, green vegetables and fruit. Also still mineral water with a particularly high calcium content is recommended.
Note: Lactose-free milk and products made from it have the same calcium content as products from “normal” milk.
Not to be confused: lactose intolerance and cow’s milk allergy
Often, the term lactose intolerance is used in one breath with the term cow’s milk allergy or, even the one used as a synonym for the other. This is wrong.
While the lactase enzyme lacks the lactase enzyme and therefore the milk sugar is not tolerated in all dairy products, a cow’s milk allergy is the reaction to certain milk proteins (mostly beta-lactoglobulin and casein) in cow’s milk. Mothers milk suckling babies with cow’s milk energy very well.
Cows’ milk energy is one of the most common food allergies in infants and toddlers. Typical symptoms are gastrointestinal problems that are associated with violent colic and skin rash.