Lactose-Intolerant Pregnant Women and Breastfeeding: Understanding the Impact and Managing the Condition

Being a lactose-intolerant pregnant mom does not affect lactation. The hormones will still produce breast milk regardless of the condition. It does not render the baby to develop the same ailment either. Dairy intake is important for moms to replenish calcium that easily depletes during breastfeeding. But the nutrients in milk products are also found in non-dairy food sources like nuts and leafy greens. Thus, moms may only need to make dietary adjustments to increase their calcium intake if she is unable to digest lactose. 

How do foods affect breast milk?

So, you want to breastfeed your infant because it is the highest form of nutrition you could give your baby?

Then comes the question of what you should eat to make breastmilk fattier, more nutritious, or increase its supply. You are also wary of what you should not eat lest it would make your baby sick. 

Lactating moms need to eat more to get the energy required to produce milk. And everything that she eats pumps the needed nutrition to her baby.

Some foods alter the breast milk taste that babies may like or dislike. However, the changes help expose the baby to different tastes to prepare him for solid foods. 

Doctors often recommend vitamin supplements to ensure you and your baby gets the needed dietary requirement. 

And yes, food also leaks allergens into breast milk that may sometimes cause an upset stomach. Babies may also exhibit changes in their behavior in response to food. 

What is lactose?

Lactose is a sugar produced naturally in human and animal milk, sometimes referred to as milk sugar. This unique carbohydrate in breast milk is necessary for producing energy.

A mom and her toddler daughter are doing a "cheers" with their glasses of milk

It’s also responsible for enhancing the absorption of calcium and other minerals in milk. It is composed of galactose and glucose that are split in the body by the enzyme lactase. 

Galactose is important in the immune and neurological processes.

Glucose is the major source of energy for the body and brain. While glucose is found in many foods, galactose is only found in lactose.

You would know that a product contains lactose if the label indicates any of these words:

  • Milk
  • Lactose
  • Curds
  • Whey
  • Milk by-products
  • Nonfat dry milk

Lactose intolerance happens when there is not enough lactase to enable the digestion of lactose. But, it differs from milk protein allergy, which is an immune response to cow’s milk protein. 

How does lactose affect breastfeeding?

Regardless of what the mom eats, she will still produce breastmilk, and the nursing baby will still ingest lactose from it.

Breastmilk naturally contains about 7% lactose which is generally tolerable for babies.

Lactase deficiency or congenital alactasia is a very rare condition. Most cases of lactose intolerance conditions are self-resolving without intervention. 

A mom is breastfeeding her infant son

Over time, consistent exposure to lactose will regulate lactase production and solve lactose intolerance. In fact, lactase production is highest in infancy and diminishes as a person ages.

The condition may start typically when the baby reaches three years old but is rare in neonates. It is more likely that adults are at higher risk as they decrease their ability to digest lactose. 

According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, there is no relationship between lactose intolerance in adult family members and babies.

Therefore, when a lactose-intolerant mother consumes dairy, it is unlikely to hurt her baby. 

Lactose intolerance in breastfeeding mothers

Lactose intake may not hurt your baby but could hurt you instead. It can cause bloating, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and gas.

There is no need to modify breastfeeding, but you can make some changes in your diet to cope with dairy intake. 

Take your calcium from breakfast cereal, nuts, beans, fish, and leafy greens. In addition, you can try low-lacto milk, almond milk, rice milk, or soy milk.

Ice cream, dark chocolates, and hard cheeses like cheddar, Swiss cheese, parmesan, and feta are also well-tolerated. 

Lactase and Lactaid supplements are also available to help breastfeeding moms.

Doctors may prescribe them as digestive enzymes to help the tummy break down lactose. They are helpful if you cannot avoid consuming foods and drinks with the amount of lactose you cannot tolerate. 

But don’t worry; the amount of lactose in your breastmilk is independent of the amount that you consume.

As long as you eat healthily and get enough fluid, your baby will still get the most out of breast milk.

Your little one will still get the needed amino acids from galactose necessary for brain development and proper cognitive functioning. 


Will milk oversupply cause lactose overload?

Possibly. When you have a breastmilk oversupply, your baby may consume a large amount of breastmilk.

The foremilk could have more lactose than hindmilk which passes into the digestive system quicker before it is digested. Babies may develop a short-term digestive disorder from lactose overload.

Is it true that babies can have lactose intolerance when sick?

Children suffering from viral infections like stomach bugs may have a temporary inability to digest lactose.

If you are formula feeding, the pediatrician may temporarily recommend a lacto-free milk substitute until your baby recovers.

Is celiac disease related to lactose intolerance?

Celiac disease is an immune reaction to gluten. It also renders the patient intolerant to lactose. When celiac disease is treated, lactose intolerance will also clear away.


You cannot remove lactose from your breast milk even if you remove dairy from your diet. It does not also affect lactation and how much milk you can produce. Lactose intolerance is often temporary and is rarely a lifelong condition.

If, by chance, a breastfeeding mom develops a permanent condition, there are OTC lactase enzymes that can help.

If you are concerned about the impact of lactose intolerance on your lactation, please talk to a lactation consultant. If you are restricted to a certain diet, it should not hamper your goal of breastfeeding your baby.

Health experts know how to modify your diet so you can still give your baby the optimum nutrition he needs. 

If you’re concerned about lactose intolerance, you can find more information on the topic in these 1happykiddo posts:

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Ann Marie is a licensed nurse in the Philippines. She experienced handling and assisting deliveries of newborns into the world. She also trained in labor rooms and pediatric wards while in nursing school - helping soon-to-be mothers and little kids in the process. Though not a mother by nature but a mother by heart, Ann Marie loves to take care of her younger cousins as well as nephews and nieces during her free time.

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