When a toddler does not produce the enzyme lactase, he is said to be lactose intolerant. This enzyme produced in the cell lining of the small intestine breaks down the sugar (lactose) contained in dairy products like milk, cheese and ice cream.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance
The effects of lactose intolerance are often painful especially for little children. After a child consumes dairy products, if she is lactose intolerant, one or more of the following symptoms will be observed.
- Excess gas
- Stomach cramps
Because of the pain, caused by stomach cramps, lactose intolerant toddlers can cry endlessly or intermittently until the symptoms disappear. Observe your toddler for sudden cries that can rouse her from her sleep or interrupt her activity when she is awake. Make a food journal and write down everything that your toddler eats, what time she eats and what symptoms follow after. If you suspect that your toddler is lactose intolerant, bring her to the pediatrician immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Feeding a lactose intolerant child
- Feed your toddler lactose free foods. Soy and rice products are fed to lactose intolerant toddlers. There are a number of soy milk and lactose-free milk available in the market. These lactose free products are fortified with calcium to make up for the calcium found in regular milk.
- Examine food labels. Always check the ingredients of food products that you plan to feed your toddler. Don’t feed your toddler any food product containing the following as the main ingredient: milk, milk solids, dried milk, milk powder, lactose, milk by-product, curds and whey. Some foods like breads, cakes, and biscuits may contain tolerable amounts of lactose.
- Give only small amounts of dairy. If you plan to feed your toddler dairy products, choose products with less lactose like cheese and yogurt. Combine these with non-dairy foods such as bread, crackers or pasta. Only feed her a small amount so as not to trigger the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
- Provide other foods rich in calcium. Calcium is important for growth and good bone health. Dairy products are normally the main source of calcium for toddlers. But, they are not the only source. Green leafy vegetables (as well as other types of veggies), fruits, certain types of fish (like salmon and sardines), beans and calcium fortified cereals are possible alternatives to dairy products.
- Research on lactose free foods. Talk to a nutritionist, a registered dietician or your pediatrician for advice. Ask for a list of different foods that any lactose intolerant toddler can handle. Make a meal plan for your toddler with the right combination of lactose-free foods.
- Have the right medicine on hand. Your pediatrician will prescribe medication to address the symptoms of your toddler child’s condition. Mylicon and Gas-X are brand names of simethicone containing medication prescribed to relieve pain caused by gas.
Be patient with your toddler if she has been diagnosed as being lactose
intolerant. Expect her to be irritable at times when the symptoms of
lactose intolerance are present.
Toddlers who are lactose intolerant experience gas, bloating, stomach
cramping and diarrhea. These symptoms usually appear an hour after
ingesting dairy products. Make sure to follow your pediatrician’s advice
on how to manage your toddler’s lactose intolerance. Don’t forget to
ask your pediatrician if your toddler will benefit from calcium
supplements. Proper dietary management is the key to helping your
toddler beat lactose intolerance.