Some babies temporarily do not tolerate the natural milk sugar 'lactose' which is found in breastmilk and ordinary infant formula (made from cow's milk, and also in goat's and sheep's milk). Lactose intolerance in infants is usually a short-term problem. It occurs most often following a bad bout of gastroenteritis (stomach bug) and can last for up to 2-4 months. Lactose should only be avoided if the symptoms cause significant distress to the baby (e.g. crying, pain, nappy rash etc.)
Lactose-free infant formulas are available such as SMA LF, Aptamil Lactose Free or Enfamil 0-Lac. These taste similar to ordinary formulas and are available from pharmacies to buy. Until the age of 1, it is important your baby drinks at least 600ml (20 ounces) a day of a lactose-free formula to receive sufficient nutrients, especially calcium.
General advice for introducing solids (although this will not be dairy free specific, more detailed information is available at: (https://www.nhs.uk/start4life/baby/first-foods/)
Can I give other drinks?
The main drink for your baby needs to be breastmilk and/or lactose-free formula. If other drinks are needed, cooled boiled water is the best drink to give. Baby juices are not necessary and they would encourage your baby to have a sweet tooth. Tea should not be given to babies and small children as it reduces iron absorption from your child's diet.
Milk substitutes to be used in cooking
If your baby is having a Lactose Free Formula, these can be used in cooking. The lacto-free brand milk and products can also be used. Alternatively soya, oat, hemp or nut milks can be used in cooking (as long as they are calcium enriched and not used as main drink until 1 year of age). Please note rice milk is not recommended for babies and children under 5 years.
Lactose and cheese
Lactose is found in soft cheeses, e.g. cream cheese and cheese spreads, mozzarella, feta, etc. However, due to the maturing process of hard cheese, most of the lactose has been removed. Therefore, hard cheeses such as cheddar and Edam are usually tolerated on a lactose-free diet.
Check labels - all milk-containing products must now clearly state 'milk' in the ingredient panel on the label. Most supermarkets will provide a list of milk free foods.
*consistency given appropriate to age
How long does my baby need a lactose-free diet?
Most babies grow out of lactose intolerance once their gut has recovered. To test this, try giving small amounts of dairy products e.g. ordinary yogurt or food made from cow's milk. If your baby has loose nappies and is unsettled, stop lactose-containing foods and try again in 1-2 weeks. It will take a bit of time for your baby to regain his/her ability to digest lactose, so increase the amount gradually.
If your child is still lactose intolerant at 1 year of age, please ask your Health Visitor/GP to refer her/him to a registered Dietitian.
What about Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is needed by the body to absorb calcium and the best source is from the action of sunlight on the skin, however young children should not be exposed to the sun for long. Vitamin D is only found in a few foods so a supplement is recommended for everyone.
Note: micrograms (mcg) can also be written as µg.