Colic in Babies – Telling the Difference Between Milk Allergy and Lactose Intolerance


Parents often point to their baby’s formula in an effort do diagnose colic in babies. While the type of formula may sometimes play a role in colicky symptoms, there is a big difference between a milk allergy and simple lactose intolerance. Understanding the difference between the two can help you when it comes to discussing your infant’s colic with the pediatrician.

Lactose intolerance refers to the inability to digest the sugar found in milk. Very few babies are actually lactose intolerant, and for those that are, treatment is often simply a matter of supplementing the naturally occurring enzymes which are used to break down the milk sugar. Colic in babies with lactose intolerance is typically due to the abdominal cramps and pain associated with the condition. Premature babies are more likely to have lactose intolerance related colic versus full-term babies.

Milk allergies, on the other hand, have nothing to do with the ability to digest milk sugar. Instead, the body has an allergic reaction to the protein in milk, which may be slow onset, or immediate onset, depending upon the severity of the allergy. Babies with milk allergies often have bloody stools, severe abdominal pain, and increased irritability. Other symptoms include hives, rashes, wheezing, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms can mimic many other conditions, and can prove difficult to diagnose in babies. Colic in babies with milk allergies can often be alleviated once the allergy is addressed and milk products are avoided.

Milk allergies are far more dangerous than lactose intolerance, overall. If you are concerned that your baby’s colic is being caused by either of these conditions, you should speak with your child’s pediatrician as soon as possible. A swift diagnosis may mean more peaceful nights for you and your baby.