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Lactose intolerance?

by Kerryn on September 15th, 2010

At my 6 week check up the paediatrician that we saw said that he thought Georgie was lactose intolerant. He based this on the fact that she was having green frothy poos, had a terrible nappy rash and had lost weight. He recommended trying out a lactase enzyme to help her break down the lactose in my milk and told me to replace two breast milk feeds a day with a lactose free formula.  I was devastated.  I had really been hoping to breastfeed, but I had been diagnosed with lactose intolerance as a baby so it didn’t come as a big surprise.

I wasn’t comfortable with his diagnosis though, since prior to her 6 week appointment Georgie had been gaining weight beautifully.  Also her poos had only recently turned green and frothy.  So I did what I always do in these situations – I googled everything I could think of around the topic.  I came up with some very interesting information.  It appears that a lactose overload is often misdiagnosed as lactose intolerance.  One way of overloading your baby with lactose is to feed too little on one side before swapping to the other side; giving your baby too much foremilk. Foremilk has less fat in comparison to hindmilk and so passes through your baby’s system faster.  This doesn’t let all the lactose get digested and can overload their system with lactose, producing the same symptoms as lactose intolerance. I had always only fed from one side per feed, but a few moms had asked me why I wasn’t offering both boobs. So I thought I must be doing something wrong and had recently started giving Georgie the second boob once she had taken a natural pause in feeding (usually after 10 mins or so).

After reading this I felt hopeful that perhaps she wasn’t lactose intolerant after all.  I phoned my sister-in-law, who very fortunately for us is a paediatrician, she said based on how well Georgie had been growing and the fact that her poos had only recently become frothy that she thought lactose overload could be a likely cause.  She suggested that I go back to feeding from one side only per feed and wait and see for a few days.  The following day I took Georgie to our clinic to get her weighed.  We had always weighed her at this clinic and so I figured that it would give us the most consistent reading.  Well according to the clinic’s scale she had gained from the previous week!

After switching back to a single side per feed her poos went back to normal (which in her case were very frequent and runny, but yellow).  All this went to show me that when it comes to your baby you need to go with your gut and not to let other people’s advice cause you to second guess yourself.  Also don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion.  I didn’t even think to question the paed during our visit.  I completely took for granted that when he said she was lactose intolerant there were no other possibilities.  I’m also so glad that I had my sister-in-law to call for advice, as otherwise I may have moved Georgie onto formula and lost the option of breastfeeding.

Here are some useful links that I found about lactose overload:

From → Breastfeeding

  • Gauri Ma

    Oh, I totally agree. Follow your gut, first and foremost. So glad you worked it out, for both of your sakes.

    Also, you probably know very few babies are intolerant to breastmilk per se, but quite a few are intolerant to casein (the protein from cows milk) which makes its way into your breastmilk. So some mums benefit from going dairy free while they are breastfeeding… but if you are lactose intolerant, I guess you were already there!

    … And snap, almost the same happened to me: