Does Breast Milk Have Lactose (How Much Lactose is In Human’s Breast Milk)?

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Lactose is an essential sugar that’s naturally present in milk and dairy products. It’s also an enzyme/chemical that enables our bodies to digest milk sugar.

Insufficient lactose in breast milk will cause indigestion.

Undigested milk will find its way to bowel system and can cause diarrhea and pain in guts. This occurrence is known as lactose intolerance.

So does breast milk have lactose? The answer is yes, breast milk have lactose. Infant formula made from cow’s milk also contains lactose, unless the formula is modified to different sugar.

Lactose is the leading sugar presence in breast milk, and it does not originate from your mom’s diet. Lactose is very crucial for normal well-being and growth of human babies:

  • It offers approximately 40% of energy requirement of your baby. 
  • It assists in absorbing calcium.
  • It helps in getting rid of bacterial pathogens in the gut of the baby.
  • It’s very vital in growth of complex central nervous system and brain. 

Lactose is readily available in nature. Lactose is very crucial in baby’s early development of life.

For preterm babies, they are not in a position to produce enough lactose for sometimes.

The level of lactose will increase towards the end of the pregnancy, probably the last trimester.

The actual lactose intolerance will appear when the baby is in grade class or when in teenage years.

It’s possible for symptoms to appear even before that, but it may not be an indication of lactose intolerance.

Lactose overload

  • Most of the breastfeeding babies who grow well, portray signs of lactose intolerance because they are not stable with much water or frothy poops. The indication is probably because they are receiving excess lactose (lactose overload).Babies with this kind of problem, can be assisted by not stopping breastfeeding
  • Breastfeeding can be very uncomfortable but, having them feed on will provide necessary nutrition. It is good to remember breast make lactose. Meaning breast milk will always have lactose.
  • Those babies who are bottle-fed may not digest the lactose fully in the milk they feed on . They will show symptoms of lactose overload, which should not be a worry since it is manageable.

What Causes Lactose Intolerance/Overload?

Lactose overload happens when lactose cannot be digested in the intestines.

It can be due to rapture of some cells that produce intestines enzymes or probably, a lot of milk is passed to the intestines that overwhelm the existing enzymes.

  • Damage of intestine lining: Damage along the intestinal lining can affect the delicate walls of the intestines in producing lactose enzyme. The damage may include bacterial or viral infection and inflammation that is caused by a cow milk allergy.
  • Food that is not fully digested, as well as some vaccines offered to the baby such as rotavirus. Lack of enough lactose allows the passage of  large amount of milk sugar to the large bowels. After reaching the bowel, it undergoes bacterial fermentation to produce a gas, develop discomfort and baby will pass watery green stool.
  • Excess lactose: As mentioned earlier, breast milk with high composition of lactose and low-fat content can be passed through the large bowels very fast without proper digestion. When the content of fat is high, it will slow the movement of lactose in the bowels and thus allows more time for proper digestion. If proper digestion is not achieved, it will cause a wild gas, stomach discomfort, and watery and green poop.
  • Infant Maturity: Some of those babies born prematurely, might not be able to produce sufficient lactose until after sometimes.This condition is referred to us developmental lactose deficiency.
  • Genetic Composition: It’s in a very rare occasion that a baby is born with lactose intolerance or overload. It is passed genetically from parents to the baby. The baby will develop severe diarrhea after birth and will not be in a position to have lactose tolerance from the breast milk or cow’s formula. With this problem, you will need to give your baby special lactose-free baby formula.

What are the symptoms of Lactose Intolerance? 

  • Watery stool
  • Abdominal pains 
  • Colic like gas
  • No loss or gain of weight
  • Red diaper rash that is inflamed, which may occur due to alteration of acid balance in stools, which may cause scalding of your baby bottom.

Vomiting isn’t caused by lactose intolerance.

Can Lactose Intolerance be treated?

Lactose is a condition that is untreatable . You can manage by doing some few things to help your baby.This is how how you can manage it:

  • Shorten the Breastfeeding intervals: Breastfeeding well is highly recommended. Feeding your baby with formula that is lactose-free is suggested at times, but, in most cases, it cannot assist your baby to feel comfortable and settled.
  • Make sure that during breastfeeding, the baby feeds on one breast until it is finished before switching to another breast, this helps a lot. The levels of fat normally increase when breastfeeding, and become closer as your baby’s feeding intervals are shortened. 
  • If you shorten the time of feeding or having a fixed feeding schedule, it will most likely lower the amount of fat in the milk. As mentioned before, less fat content increases the amount of time the breast milk stays in the stomach, which makes the  lactose to pass via the stomach, and lower bowel without proper digestion.
  • Continue breastfeeding: The recommended way to handle lactose intolerance is by improving the baby’s latch. You need to know when your baby fails to swallow milk, know how to apply compressions before switching to the other breast. If the baby is responding, well then lactose intolerance is subdued. Learn to breastfeed instead of introducing formula or supplements. 
  • Be more flexible: You might be having breastfeeding plans in place for your baby, if using block feeding plan (Using one breast per feed). It is advisable that you make it more flexible. Your baby can be comfortable on one breast in the morning, but this will not necessarily mean that the baby stays on that breast only until the evening, where he/she will need both breasts.
  • Be mindful of what’s in your diet: Although we mentioned earlier that there is no connection between the mother’s diet and lactose intolerance, it is worth noting that, insufficient fat in your diet can cause lactose overdose or intolerance, which can turn out to be very worse for your baby. This suggests that you need to change your diet. Also, if your baby has cow milk allergy which comes from mothers diet via breast milk, it will cause some inflammatory irritation to gastrointestinal tract which will, in turn, develop into lactose intolerance symptoms. This means you need to eliminate consumption of dairy products.
  • Read labels. Lactose intolerance is a condition which cannot be treated, but can be managed by some few things to your baby.
  • It is recommended that you avoid feeding your baby with dairy products and other foods that have lactose.These food may include pancakes, cookies, cereals, instant nodules, margarine, salads, or lunch beef. You are supposed to check the product labels before purchasing.
  • The standardization laws require that; each product be labelled with ingredients and composition, which will ease your work.
  • Watch how your baby reacts: Lactose intolerant babies digest less lactose in breast milk, while others are very sensitive to little amount. Just learn your baby’s reaction to lactose. If your baby takes products like cheese, it will not effect him/her  because of its low lactose levels. Yogurt is very much easier to digest because of the presence of bacteria that produce lactose. Learning all these will help you to choose what is best for your baby.
  • Meet all nutritional requirements of your baby: You may opt to avoid feeding with all dairy products as your baby grows. It is highly recommended to make sure that you introduce another diet that is rich in calcium, which assists in bone and teeth development of your baby. Non-dairy products that contain calcium are green vegetables, soy milk, juices that are fortified, broccoli, oranges, canned salmon bread that is fortified.

Other important nutritional components are Vitamins A and D, Phosphorous, and riboflavin.

They are very helpful in enhancing the immune system and development of strong bones and teeth. Products that do not contain lactose are readily available in most food stores. 

These products are rich in nutritional value, that is equivalent to that of dairy products with no lactose.

If in case you are not in a position to meet your baby’s nutritional requirements, consult your doctor, probably, if supplements are necessary.

Is milk allergy and milk intolerance same?

  • When you talk of allergy, you are simply referring to immunity response, but lactose intolerance is a condition that has to do with the digestive system. 
  • The two might have same symptoms. For instance, If your baby has abdominal discomfort or diarrhea after milk products intake, that could suggest an allergy or Lactose intolerance. If the baby starts developing face and mouth swelling or dry itchy rash after consuming the milk products. It might probably be an allergy and not lactose intolerance.
  • Milk allergy is when the immune system of the baby fights back the milk protein presence, in cow’s milk as it is considered a foreign substance. The body releases histamine and adrenaline, which will act as defence, as a result, the baby develops allergic symptoms.