Let’s put an end to lactose-free formula. Babies just don’t need it
Here are the facts: babies go through a very transient period where their production of lactase (the bowel enzyme necessary for digestion of lactose) is subpar. Beyond this very early and temporary period, babies tolerate lactose just fine. There are a handful of babies in recorded medical history who have been born without lactase. And unless you’ve birthed one of these half-dozen babies, your baby shouldn’t need a lactose-free formula. One exception: viruses may injure the lining of the small bowel to the point where lactase can be temporarily lost. While some pediatricians will recommend going lactose-free during this time period, there’s little evidence that it actually improves a baby’s course of diarrhea. And soy formulas for generations have covered the waterfront just fine – they’re lactose-free.
And while there will always be those who claim that lactose-free formula “saved their baby’s life”, there will also be those who suggest that switching from Similac to Enfamil had the same impact. Infant formula urban legends are complicated and what some parents report is truly hard to reconcile. I can say this as a father and a pediatrician.
As someone who makes a living caring for babies with fragile tummies, I can attest to the fact that presence of lactose-free formula on grocery store shelves serves to confuse parents. And in some cases this confusion fuels the game of formula roulette. While I won’t go so far as to call the marketing of lactose-free formula irresponsible, I will suggest that it should go the way of low-iron formula. It represents a market-driven product that doesn’t serve the needs of its customer, the baby. Further, its empty promise of soothing “colic” serves only to bamboozle desperate parents who think that it might make a difference.
Let’s put an end to lactose-free formula. Babies just don’t need it.