Lactose-free baby food

Baby eating food

by Emily Thorpe |

If your baby has lactose intolerance, navigating what food they can eat when it comes to weaning can feel like a minefield, especially if you want to buy shop-bought food.

What does lactose intolerant mean?

"Lactose intolerance (LI) is an intolerance to the sugar found in dairy, and affects 65-70 per cent of the global adult population," explains registered dietitian at Plant Based Health Professionals, Lisa Simon. "Most of us have a post-weaning fall in lactase activity, the enzyme that helps us to digest the milk sugar. This is called lactase non-persistence and symbolises that we no longer have a biological need for milk. LI is different to dairy allergy as the latter is an allergic response to the protein found in dairy."

What are the symptoms of a baby who is lactose intolerant?

Symptoms include bloating, abdominal cramps, flatulence, and diarrhoea. A number of additional problems have also been associated with LI, including failure to thrive in children.

How to handle a lactose intolerant diet

"There are two ways to approach LI. Dairy can either be removed completely or lactose-free alternatives can be chosen, meaning that dairy can still be consumed as the lactose has been removed," explains Lisa. "If dairy is removed entirely, there are many benefits, especially if soya (as long as there is no soya allergy) is chosen as a replacement to dairy milk. This is because introducing soya at a young age has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer later in life due to the phytoestrogens and can help promote bone health."

"There is no risk to giving soya to male babies, despite the many false claims that it interferes with hormone production. These claims are not backed up by the evidence-base," says Lisa.

Will my baby get enough nutrition?

"If dairy is removed from the diet, there are a number of key nutrients that need special focus," explains Lisa.

"These include calcium, protein, B12, iodine and vitamin D. All of these nutrients can be found in fortified plant milks and the absorption of calcium is the same as from dairy. Not all plant milks are fortified with iodine so the nutritional label should be checked. Lower protein milks such as oat and almond are not suitable for babies as they are too low in protein; soya is the best choice. There are many other foods that contain these nutrients when babies are ready to be weaned if the parents has made the decision to either keep dairy out of the diet or to raise their child on a vegan diet."

For more information on feeding your baby in the first year, check out the Plant Based Health factsheet.

Will my baby grow out of their lactose intolerance?

"Unlike cow’s milk protein allergy, it is unlikely a baby will grow out of LI," Lisa says. "Foods containing lactose can be challenged in a set way and this is best done under the supervision of a paediatric dietitian. Small amounts of lactose may be tolerated, for example, hard cheese contains less lactose than milk so small quantities may not result in symptoms. However, gastrointestinal symptoms are likely to occur if larger quantities are eaten."

Lactose-free baby food

To help you out, we've rounded up some of the best lactose-free baby food available to buy.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this page, we never allow this to influence product selections.

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