I am lactose intolerant. Could this be passed onto my baby - could she be allergic to my breast milk?
As you may know, there are two types of lactose intolerance, primary and secondary.
Primary is hereditary and extremely rare. It is primary lactose intolerance
when you (or your baby) lack the ability to produce the enzyme which digests
lactase, the sugar found in milk. A baby who has primary lactose intolerance
won’t gain weight, may show signs of dehydration and malnourishment at
the time of birth. The condition may be recognised soon after birth.
Secondary lactose intolerance is more common, but not in babies. It is caused
when there is damage to the gut in the section where lactase is produced. The
damage can be caused by a number of conditions ranging from a bout of gastroenteritis
to a food intolerance or allergy.
For breastfed babies, the proteins can be passed to your baby through your
breast milk, from dairy products you have eaten, or from cows' milk, or formula
based on cows' milk which has been given to your baby. It can also be caused
by coeliac disease (intolerance to the gluten in wheat products). Secondary
lactose intolerance is considered more of a temporary condition as it disappears
once the gut has healed.
There is also an inherited form of lactose intolerance, which is known as ‘Acquired
Lactose Intolerance’, however, it rarely affects a child before the age
of 4 years (often not developing until late adolescence) and it usually only
occurs in people from countries were milk is not given following infancy.
If your baby is displaying symptoms such as rashes, diarrhoea, vomiting or
stomach cramps, then consult your healthcare provider. If you are breastfeeding
and your baby is actually diagnosed with lactose intolerance by experts, which
is rare, you may have to discontinue breastfeeding since breast milk contains
lactose. However do not stop breastfeeding without a full medical diagnosis
as there may be other temporary conditions going on such as baby colic. It may
be helpful to seek the on going support of your Health Visitor or GP if your
baby is diagnosed with this condition.