Lactose-free mixtures – what they are, composition, and when to prescribe them

Lactose-free formula is a special kind of baby food, it is a medicine that is prescribed to infants under one year of age when they are diagnosed with lactose intolerance. One option:

These formulas are a type of baby food, along with adapted cow or goat milk formulas, soy-based formulas, etc.

What is lactose-free formulas
From the name it is clear that lactose-free baby formula is those which do not contain the carbohydrate lactose at all, one of the components of milk.

Virtually every baby food manufacturer has a lactose-free formula in their product line, and they usually write “BL” (lactose free) or “LF” (lactose free) on the package.

What is the lactose content of these formulas? A formula is considered lactose-free if it contains no lactose or traces of it, or no more than one-tenth of a gram per liter of finished food.

Trace amounts of lactose can be found in whey protein or albumin-based mixtures. Calcium caseinate-based mixtures do not contain it at all.

There are also mixtures based on hydrolysed casein protein, soy isolate or even a special mixture of amino acids – these are used as a treatment for lactase deficiency, if it results from, for instance, galactosemia.

Composition of lactose-free mixtures
Lactose-free mixtures, the composition of which does not differ much from that of adapted food, are therapeutic and cannot be selected as the baby’s main food.

The main difference in the composition of these formulas is the absence of such a source of carbohydrates as lactose. But as lactose is very important to the growth and development of the child’s organism, it is simply impossible to do without it, so lactose-free formula is usually given to a baby together with any other baby food.

What is the lactose substitute in such mixtures?

This can be soy isolate, hydrolyzed protein, glucose, sucrose and a mixture of special amino acids.

Blends on soy protein do not contain lactose at all, the rest have a small percentage of its residual trace.

At the same time, this food is extremely rich in vitamins and micronutrients, and blends based on goat’s milk, according to parent reviews, are even better absorbed than those based on cow’s milk.

The casein content in such mixtures leaves 40%, except for a couple of types, in which casein is much more than 40%, such mixtures are called casein mixtures.

As a rule, maltodextrin (dextrin-maltose) is the source of carbohydrates instead of lactose in the mixes in question, and the fat complex includes palm oil.

An important component of any baby food is pro- and prebiotics. So there are no prebiotics in lactose-free formula at all, and probiotics are not present everywhere.

Otherwise, the content of useful trace elements, vitamins and minerals in such formulas does not differ from that of adapted formulas.

When is lactose-free formula prescribed?
Two things to know about feeding lactose-free formula:

Parents should not make the decision to switch to this food themselves because they may misinterpret the symptoms of lactase deficiency, because they are so similar to the symptoms of another similar condition, cow’s milk protein allergy.
The formula is prescribed by the doctor after examining the child or taking some tests and diagnosing him with a specific disease. Before prescribing such a formula, any pediatrician will first prescribe drugs with lactase enzyme to the baby. A detailed review of these drugs, their properties and differences are presented here.
So, when is lactose-free formula prescribed?

A pediatrician may prescribe a diet with this food to a baby who has symptoms of primary or secondary lactase deficiency (read more here).

Sometimes this diet is prescribed for children with galactosemia.

Specifically lactose-free infant formula, that is, formula with zero lactose content is “unsuitable” for constant feeding to a baby. It should be mixed in proportion with regular adapted formula, which the baby was fed before the diagnosis of lactase deficiency.

Why can’t a baby be fed only lactose-free formula?

Because lactose, the very component that is poorly absorbed by a baby with lactase deficiency, is very, very important for the development and growth of the child. It MUST BE in the baby’s diet. It is still absorbed in small amounts, so it should not be excluded from the diet altogether. By mixing lactose-free formula with regular formula, you simply reduce the amount of lactose per serving, and there will be exactly as much as your baby’s body is able to process.

It is worth noting that the diet with this formula is always temporary, just like the disease “lactase deficiency” itself (it is very rare, but still happens that it persists for life). Feeding your child with lactose-free formula is intended to relieve the symptoms of the disease, so you should from time to time go back to “normal” food and check if the baby has lost the symptoms of lactase deficiency.

In what proportions to mix lactose-free formula with regular, how long and how strictly to adhere to the diet and when to cancel it – all this should say the pediatrician.

Peculiarities of feeding a baby with lactose-free formula:

If the baby was born prematurely and was diagnosed with lactase deficiency during the first days of life, it is not necessary to feed such a family. Special low-lactose formula with high vitamin content and everything a baby born prematurely needs has already been developed for these babies. Packaging with such food is usually prefixed with “pre-“.
If your baby is breastfed, it is very undesirable to give him lactose-free formula. In this case, to eliminate the symptoms of lactase deficiency, drugs with lactase enzyme are used.
If the baby is an artificial baby, it is acceptable to use low-lactose formula, not lactose-free. Or mix them with regular ones, as we wrote above.
If the baby is already grown up and is on complementary food, then porridge should be cooked or diluted with lactose-free formula, not milk. After 6 months, you can try giving your baby low-lactose products such as cottage cheese, butter and check the reaction of his body. After six months the symptoms of lactase deficiency may disappear.

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