Feeding FAQ: 9-12 months – Other

My ten-month-old baby daughter has developed lactose intolerance after a bout of severe gastro. She has been given a lactose-free formula and I have been advised to keep her off dairy products for a few weeks. Is there anything I can give her yoghurt-wise that would be ok? A friend of mine mentioned fromage frais but I am not sure if that is all right. What about soy yoghurt?

Good thinking! Soy yoghurt is based on soy milk rather than cows’ milk, therefore it will not contain lactose. Lactose is the name given to the type of sugar found in cows’ milk. Usually our bodies process it with an enzyme called lactase, made by our digestive systems, but occasionally problems occur. In your daughter’s case a severe case of gastro has caused slight and temporary damage to the inside of her digestive tract, reducing lactase production. This generally returns to normal about 2 to 4 weeks after the illness gets better.

Because standard baby formula contains lactose, your doctor has prescribed one that is lactose-free. As you mention, your daughter will also need a diet avoiding dairy foods for the next few weeks, though generally people who are lactose-intolerant can still manage a small amount of lactose. For this reason your daughter may still be able to have hard cheese such as cheddar, as most of the lactose from the milk is broken down in the cheese-making process. Butter also contains very low amounts of lactose. However it would be best to check with your daughter’s doctor first before including these foods.

Following a diet that avoids dairy foods means being a vigilant label reader. As well as the obvious suspects (milk, cheese, custard, yoghurt and ice cream), dairy foods can find their way into many other foods. Some to look out for include:

  • Butter – look for a dairy-free margarine
  • Pasta that includes a white or cheese sauce
  • Milk bread, naan bread
  • Chocolate and other confectionary

Be sure to check the labels of packaged foods, such as baby foods or crackers, and look for dairy-free alternatives just for these few weeks. If the following words are on the ingredient list it means there may be milk in a food:

  • Casein and hydrolysed caseinates
  • Whey and hydrolysed whey
  • Lactose
  • Milk solids and non-fat milk solids
  • Butter fat

In the meantime use soy-based substitutes such as soy desserts, yoghurt and possibly cheese in place of dairy custard, yoghurt and cheese, and use the lactose-free formula to make up baby rice or other foods. Fromage frais is definitely milk-based and should be on the ‘avoid’ list with other dairy foods.

Just as important as avoiding dairy foods for the next few weeks, is re-introducing them afterwards, though be sure to check back with your GP or paediatrician if the diarrhoea recurs.