Ask a Baby Blogger: Can I Still Breastfeed if my Baby is Lactose Intolerant

Yesterday, I answered a reader’s question about whether or not it was possible to be unable to digest breast milk due to lactose intolerance. We discussed the difference between primary lactose intolerance and secondary lactose intolerance. While primary lactose intolerance is extremely rare and is a genetic disorder, secondary lactose intolerance is always caused by damage to the gut. It is a temporary condition as long as the gut is allowed to heal.

What causes secondary lactose intolerance?

Anything that damages the gut, where lactase is produced, can cause secondary lactose intolerance. The condition need not be permanent however, as long as the gut is allowed to heal. Examples of things that might cause secondary lactose intolerance are: an infection in the stomach or intestines, surgery, coeliac disease (allergic to gluten), or sensitivity to cow’s milk protein that is present in the mother’s milk.

Note that being allergic to cow’s milk protein is NOT lactose intolerance. A cow’s milk allergy is caused by being allergic to casein. Lactose intolerance is caused by being unable to produce lactase. However, they are often confused probably because regardless of which issue you have–it means you can’t have milk. However, humans don’t produce casein. Casein can be present in mom’s milk when she drinks or eats dairy.

Can I Still Breastfeed My Baby?

As long as your baby is growing well, there is no reason you can’t breastfeed your baby. In fact, the best chance your baby has to fully heal in his gut, is for you to breastfeed. You may well want to consider an elimination diet, to see if baby’s temporary symptoms improve. The first food you should start with is of course dairy.

In some cases, it may be preferable to reduce the symptoms by reducing the amount of lactose in a baby’s diet. This is indicated when the baby is not gaining weight. What is often advised is to stop breastfeeding, however, there is no good research to show that this is necessary. Alternating feedings between a hypoallergenic based formula and breastfeeding is probably the most preferable course of action.

However, one thing to consider and try first, is again, eliminating dairy out of the mother’s diet. If a baby is sensitive to casein, using regular formula will not help. In this case, baby needs soy or hypoallergenic formula.

For serious infections or surgery, the gut can take as long as four weeks to heal. For more minor causes of gut damage, healing (and therefore a lack of symptoms) can occur in as little as one week.

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Valorie Delp shares recipes and kitchen tips in the food blog, solves breastfeeding problems, shares parenting tips, and current research in the baby blog, and insight, resources and ideas in the homeschooling blog. To read more articles by Valorie Delp, click here.

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Lactose Intolerance, Reflux and Breastfeeding

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Valorie has almost 9 years of experience in nursing and helping other moms solve their breastfeeding dilemmas. If you have a question, you can check Valorie’s breastfeeding index, or you can leave a note in the forums, or you can PM me.

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