Lactose Overload - what causes it? an excerpt from Philippa's book - BabyCues

Lactose overload, better labelled as Digestive Overload, is caused by:

  • unbalanced feeding practices - feeding in a way where ingested lactose outweighs natural levels of lactase
  • newborns not receiving their natural requirement of saliva enzyme, amylase.

Lactose is the carbohydrate – sugar – found in all milk an d other foods. Lactase - found in the small intestines - helps to change lactose into the absorable compounds of glucose and galactose, with the benefits of then being absorbed into the bloodstream. Galactose is vital for a newborn's brain development and nerve tissues while gluccose provides their major source of energy and is essential for growth and cell development. Therefore lactose is a must in a newborn's diet. Amylase is an enzyme found in breast milk and saliva that also helps to break down lactose. When newborns swallow minimal amounts of saliva away from food, they struggle to get enough amylase to aid this digestive process.

Lactose overload can begin once colostrum (the first form of breast milk) has changed to the fattier milk or if a baby is overfed with a formula that has lactose. Behaviours indicating overload can happen at any time, with frequency generally lessening when solids are introduced. Because lactose is found in dairy products, lactose overload is often described as dairy overload but these are two different things. Dairy Overload happens from a digestive imbalance of casein, whey and/or fat. 

Digest this fact:
In very rare instances, some newborns experience the serious condition of lactose intolerance, called Galactosemia.  This is an extremely rare genetic condition. The US National Library of Medicine states that, 'Classic Galactosemia occurs in 1 in 30,000 to 60,000 newborns. Galactosemia type II and type III are less common; type II probably affects fewer than 1 in 100,000 newborns and type III appears to be very rare'. Lactose intolerance occurs when your baby naturally produces minimal lactase and therefore cannot break down the lactose.  This, unlike lactose overload, sees a newborn failing to gain weight.  A screening of the stool or a hydrogen breath test through your GP is needed to diagnose this.


This aspect of Digestive Overload has these behaviour's...

  • Irritability, grizzling, inconsolable crying, screaming.
  • Bloating, cramps, excessive gas.
  • Frequent watery, frothy and/or explosive bowel motions. Sometimes green in colour with an offensive odour, seed like deposits and/or of a stringy texture.
  • Wakefulness from discomfort with episodes of longer periods of sleep, but this is often from exhaustion through crying and lack of sleep rather than because they feel comfortable.
  • Frequent searching for something to suck - exhibiting the ‘root reflex’. 
  • Weight gains that are consistently at the upper regions or beyond recommended levels, or, as described by Morris Wessel, your baby will ‘look to otherwise be thriving’.
  • Arching backwards or sideways, writhing, wriggling.
  • Pedalling legs.
  • Gulping their food, seeming very hungry while being restless – sometimes refusing to feed, pulling off the nipple, or when bottle-fed, having flailing arms and legs with much turning of the head because of digestive discomfort.


Baby's health...


Receive a FREE chapter of my book

and join me for some helpful, researched advice, videos, special offers and giveaways.