Lactose Intolerance vs Milk Allergy: Understanding the Key Differences and Identifying Symptoms in Babies

As a new parent, you may have heard the terms lactose intolerance and baby milk allergy. While they may sound similar, they are actually two very different conditions that can affect your baby’s health. In this article, we will explore the differences between lactose intolerance and baby milk allergy, including their symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Lactose Intolerance

What is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the body cannot properly digest lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency in lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose into simpler sugars that can be absorbed by the body. Without enough lactase, undigested lactose remains in the intestine, causing symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

Symptoms of lactose intolerance may vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. Some common symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation

Causes of Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Genetics: Some people are born with a genetic predisposition to lactose intolerance.
  • Age: Lactase production tends to decrease as we age, which can lead to lactose intolerance in some people.
  • Illness or injury: Damage to the small intestine can cause lactose intolerance, as can certain illnesses such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease.
  • Medications: Some medications can cause lactose intolerance, including antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs.

Diagnosis of Lactose Intolerance

If you suspect that you or your child may have lactose intolerance, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider. A diagnosis of lactose intolerance can usually be made through a combination of medical history, physical exam, and diagnostic tests, such as a lactose tolerance test or a hydrogen breath test.

Treatment of Lactose Intolerance

While there is no cure for lactose intolerance, there are several ways to manage the symptoms. Some tips for managing lactose intolerance include:

  • Avoiding dairy products or choosing lactose-free alternatives
  • Taking lactase supplements before consuming dairy products
  • Gradually introducing small amounts of dairy products to build up tolerance

What is Baby Milk Allergy?

Baby milk allergy, also known as cow’s milk allergy, is a condition in which the immune system reacts to the proteins found in cow’s milk. Baby milk allergy is the most common food allergy in infants and young children, affecting approximately 2-3% of babies in the United States.

Symptoms of Baby Milk Allergy

The symptoms of baby milk allergy can vary from mild to severe and can appear anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours after consuming milk or milk products. The symptoms may include:

  • Skin rash or hives
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps or colic
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Poor weight gain or growth

These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so it’s essential to consult a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Causes of Baby Milk Allergy

Baby milk allergy is caused by an overreaction of the immune system to proteins found in milk, most commonly the protein casein or the sugar lactose. It’s not entirely clear why some babies develop allergies to milk proteins, while others don’t. However, it’s more likely to occur in families with a history of allergies or in babies who were born prematurely.

Diagnosis of Baby Milk Allergy

Diagnosing baby milk allergy can be tricky since the symptoms can be similar to other conditions. A healthcare provider will usually begin with a physical exam and take a medical history, including any family history of allergies. They may also perform tests such as skin prick tests or blood tests to measure the levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies.

In some cases, an elimination diet may be recommended, where the baby’s diet is altered to remove milk products, and then reintroduced to determine if the symptoms return. It’s important not to attempt an elimination diet without consulting a healthcare provider, as it can lead to nutritional deficiencies if not done correctly.

Treatment of Baby Milk Allergy

The primary treatment for baby milk allergy is to eliminate milk and milk products from the baby’s diet. Breastfeeding mothers may need to avoid milk products themselves, as milk proteins can pass into breast milk. Formula-fed babies may need to switch to a hypoallergenic formula that doesn’t contain cow’s milk protein.

In some cases, a healthcare provider may recommend an amino acid-based formula, which is made up of individual amino acids and doesn’t contain any milk proteins. In severe cases, where the baby has difficulty breathing or swallowing, hospitalization may be necessary.

Soy Milk for Baby Milk Allergy

Soy milk is a popular alternative for babies with milk allergies, as it’s lactose-free and doesn’t contain cow’s milk protein. However, it’s essential to note that soy protein can also cause allergies in some babies, so it’s important to consult a healthcare provider before introducing soy milk.

Soy Milk For Baby Milk Allergy

Plant based Lactose-free Baby Formula

Enfamil ProSobee is a lactose-free formula that is helpful for babies with lactose intolerance problems. The product has received positive feedback from customers who have used it. According to one customer, the formula is a good option for lactose-free formula and helped with her son’s digestive and gas issues. Another customer commented that the formula is great and priced well, and their picky eater baby likes it.

However, there is a negative review from a customer whose baby had an allergic reaction to the product, causing choking, sneezing, and spitting up. This highlights the importance of checking with a pediatrician before introducing new formulas to babies.

One customer mentioned that the product is convenient for travel or use when water is not available since it is ready to feed and does not require water to be added. Another customer found it easy to use and perfect for supplementing breastfeeding while sore nipples healed.

Overall, Enfamil ProSobee seems to be a good lactose-free formula for babies, and it has worked well for many parents.

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Q: Can a baby be allergic to breast milk?

A: While it’s rare, some babies can be allergic to proteins found in breast milk. However, it’s more common for babies to be allergic to cow’s milk protein, which can pass into breast milk.

Q: Can a baby develop a milk allergy later in life?

A: While it’s possible, it’s more common for milk allergy to develop in infancy or early childhood.

Q. Can a baby grow out of a milk allergy?

Yes, many babies do outgrow milk allergy by the time they are three to five years old. However, it is important to consult a doctor before reintroducing milk into the child’s diet.

Q. How long does it take for a baby to recover from a milk allergy?

The recovery period varies from one baby to another. Some babies may recover in a few weeks, while others may take several months. It is essential to follow the treatment plan prescribed by the doctor and avoid any triggers.

Q. Can I breastfeed my baby if they have a milk allergy?

It depends on the severity of the allergy. Some babies may still be able to breastfeed if their allergy is mild. However, in severe cases, the doctor may advise the mother to avoid milk and dairy products completely.

Q. Is soy milk a good alternative for babies with a milk allergy?

Soy milk is a good alternative for babies with a milk allergy, as it contains similar nutrients to cow’s milk. However, it is essential to choose a soy milk that is specifically formulated for infants and consult a doctor before introducing it to the baby’s diet.

Q. Are there any long-term effects of a milk allergy?

In most cases, a milk allergy does not cause any long-term effects. However, if left untreated or undiagnosed, it can lead to malnourishment, delayed growth, and development. It is important to seek medical attention if your baby experiences any symptoms of a milk allergy.


In conclusion, it is crucial to understand the difference between lactose intolerance and baby milk allergy to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, while milk allergy is an immune system response to proteins in milk. Baby milk allergy can cause a range of symptoms, including eczema, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you suspect that your baby has a milk allergy, it is essential to seek medical attention and follow the prescribed treatment plan. Soy milk can be a good alternative for babies with a milk allergy, but it is important to consult a doctor before introducing it to the baby’s diet. With proper diagnosis and treatment, babies with milk allergy can lead a healthy and happy life.


  1. Lactose Intolerance vs. Milk Allergy. (2021, February 25). Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
  2. Milk Allergy. (2022, January 31). Mayo Clinic.
  3. Milk Allergy. (2021, March 30). American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.


About Isabella Marie

I'm Isabella Marie, a baby nutritionist expert and health physician. As a mother myself, I understand the importance of raising healthy babies. That's why I share my knowledge and experience through my blog on mom and baby health. My blog covers everything from breastfeeding tips to healthy meal ideas and common baby health issues. What sets me apart is my personalized approach to baby health and nutrition. I take the time to understand each family's unique needs and provide tailored advice and support. With me by their side, parents can feel confident and empowered in raising their little ones.

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