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Dairy Intolerance in Babies

Q: How do you know if a baby has a dairy milk or product intolerance? How long does it take for dairy to work its way out of the system?

A: Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency in lactase, which is the enzyme which helps our bodies break down lactose, the sugar found in milk. Lactase levels are usually high in most infants and babies because milk is usually the first food source to which children are exposed. However, it is possible for a baby to be lactose intolerant.

One of the ways to tell if your baby is intolerant to lactose is by their behavior after consuming dairy products. Usually, children with an intolerance will become agitated, fussy, and may even exhibit physical symptoms such as diarrhea or stomach cramps which may cause your baby to become even more agitated. Usually, lactose intolerance is observed in premature infants as they may not have had the time to develop the lactase enzyme. Additionally, some ethnicities including Asian and African American are more likely to exhibit lactose intolerance than those of a northern European background.

Your child’s pediatrician will be able to determine whether or not your child is lactose intolerant, either by just observing behavior after dairy product consumption, or by performing some simple tests.

The amount of time it takes dairy to work its way out of one’s system will depend on the individual. For some, it may be a few days, while for others it might be two or more weeks. Additionally, the length of time that one can expect to feel the symptoms of lactose intolerance is also dependent on the individual. In some cases, the discomfort can disappear within a few hours, while in other cases your baby may show signs of the discomfort for a few days. In any case, if your child exhibits excessive vomiting and signs of stomach aches for more than a day, speak to your pediatrician.

Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored content from Bumrungrad International Hospital, originally part of the bi-monthly Ask a Doctor column. It is solely intended as general information that may be useful for parents. 

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