Child drinking milk

It’s important to know whether your child has lactose sensitivity. For toddlers above 1 year old, milk is an important part of their diet to ensure proper growth1. Knowing the condition will help you determine how to deal with your toddler’s discomfort. 

Here’s what you need to know:


What is lactose sensitivity?

Lactose sensitivity is when the body cannot properly digest lactose, a sugar that is found in dairy products like milk. This happens when your body lacks lactase, an enzyme that helps break down lactose into 2 sugars that the body needs2. These are commonly known as glucose and galactose. Instead of being broken down in the small intestines, lactose goes to the larger intestines where it turns to acids and gas2

Lactose sensitive children may experience discomfort if they consume milk or dairy products containing lactose4. But because milk also contains other essential nutrients, including calcium, protein, and Vitamins A, B12, and D, having to cut back on milk and milk products may affect your child’s health3.

Symptoms of lactose sensitivity vary in different children2. Some may experience severe effects and cannot consume any lactose at all. For some, it may be mild and it’s enough to limit their intake of dairy products2. It may also vary on how much their lactose intake is. 

 Symptoms of lactose sensitivity include3, 5

  • Gassiness

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Stomach bloating

  • Stomach pains and cramps

  • Feeling unwell

  • Rumbling or “growling” sounds from stomach


What causes lactose sensitivity?

Some genetic conditions lead to lactose sensitivity. These include5:

Lactase nonpersistence - This is when the small intestine makes less lactase as the child grows up. Symptoms may not appear until later childhood or even until adulthood.

Congenital lactase deficiency - An unusual condition wherein the small intestine does not make lactase at all.

Other times, a person may develop temporary lactose sensitivity as a result of having suffered infection in the digestive system6


How do I support my child’s digestion?

Although there is no cure for lactose sensitivity, parents can set down certain measures to support their lactose sensitive child3.

If the child is still able to take some dairy products without too much discomfort, they may be able to go on a low-lactose diet, wherein milk products are lessened but not entirely removed7. In addition, having your child take other foods along with milk, for instance cereal, may help reduce symptoms. 

Switching to milk with lower lactose and containing easy-to-digest proteins may also help with the child's digestion issues4

But if the child is very sensitive to even small amounts of lactose, they may need to take lactose-free versions of cheese, milk, and even ice cream. These include taking milks and cheese made out of milk substitutions, such as soy milk, instead8.

Your doctor may prescribe lactase pills to help stop symptoms when your child consumes milk products7. Liquid lactase supplements may also be recommended by your doctor to be added to milk 24 hours before your child takes it to help reduce symptoms8.

Your child may also need other sources of the nutrients otherwise found in milk. For instance, your child can get more calcium from almonds or dark leafy green vegetables. Your child may also need vitamin supplements8

Refer to your doctor or healthcare professional for advice on how to help your child with lactose sensitivity. And by keeping all these tips in mind, you can be sure to raise a happy and healthy child!



  1. Nutrition Guide for Toddlers (2018). Retrieved on September 9, 2020 from,in%20calcium%20absorption
  2. Lactose Intolerance (2015). Retrieved on September 9, 2020 from
  3. Lactose Intolerance (Last reviewed February 2019). Retrieved on November 18, 2020 from
  4. Lactose Sensitivity in Children (n.d.). Retrieved on November 18, 2020 from
  5. Symptoms & Causes of Lactose Intolerance (February 2018). Retrieved on November 18, 2020 from
  6. 5 Can't-Miss Signs That Your Child Is Lactose Intolerant (February 2020). Retrieved on November 18, 2020 from
  7. Lactose Intolerance (April 2019). Retrieved on November 18, 2020 from 
  8. Lactose Intolerance in Children: Care Instructions (October 2019). Retrieved on November 18, 2020 from