If you drink cow's milk or eat dairy products that contain cow's milk
breast-feeding, the milk protein and sugars are passed
on to your baby. Protein and sugars from cow's milk are also ingredients in
most formulas. Some babies are sensitive to these proteins and sugars.
Cow's milk protein sensitivity
Normally, milk protein poses no problems to a baby's health or
digestive system. But a small number of babies have reactions to a protein
found in cow's milk. Signs of cow's milk protein sensitivity or intolerance
A formula-fed baby with suspected cow's milk protein intolerance
usually will be switched to a soy-based formula. But some babies have an
intolerance to both milk protein and soy. These babies may need a hypoallergenic formula
(such as Alimentum or Nutramigen), which is much more expensive than
regular or soy formula.
If you are breast-feeding and your baby shows signs of milk protein
intolerance, try removing all milk and dairy products (such as cheese, yogurt,
and butter) from your diet for a week or two. If your baby's symptoms improve,
continue to avoid the foods and talk to your doctor. Gradually,
try adding one dairy product at a time back to your diet, depending on how it
affects your baby.
Cow's milk sugar intolerance (lactase deficiency)
Some formula-fed babies develop problems similar to
lactose intolerance in older children and adults.
These babies do not produce enough of the lactase enzyme, which is needed to
break down and digest the sugar in milk. In babies, this is a temporary
problem. It does not mean that the child will be lactose intolerant as an
Symptoms of lactase deficiency in infants include:
A bloated stomach.
Babies who are exclusively breast-fed do not develop a milk sugar
intolerance. Breast milk contains lactase. So even if the baby has low levels
of the enzyme, the amount of lactase contained in breast milk is enough to
break down the milk sugars for proper digestion.
Medicines for lactose intolerance (such as Lactaid) will not help
and should not be given to babies. Soy-based or hypoallergenic formulas that
are lactose-free usually are given to replace regular formulas. Your doctor can help guide you about when to gradually try reintroducing
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.