Signs of milk intolerance in babies usually display themselves about 30 to 60 minutes after a feeding. It begins with stomach pain and is followed by grimacing and inconsolable crying. Often, the baby will begin writhing because of the discomfort. These symptoms typically occur only after the feeding process, but general fussiness most likely will persist throughout the day.
Milk intolerance in babies develops from the inability to properly digest the lactose found in both human milk and animal milk, with the overproduction of gas causing the pain. This is not, however, a milk allergy, which is an allergic reaction to the protein in cow's milk. The symptoms of a milk allergy are different and are limited to the skin and respiratory systems. The indications of milk intolerance, on the other hand, usually are seen in the abdominal region.
Lactose intolerant infants will usually exhibit symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain and diarrhea. Most often, there will be a red ring around the anus from the undigested lactic acid that has formed. An excess of gas follows. Some babies might also experience eczema, colic and vomiting as well.
The diarrhea caused by milk intolerance has a different appearance from the normal soft, yellow stool. It tends to be quite dark and very runny, occurring often throughout the day. This, coupled with vomiting, has a tendency to cause the baby to become dehydrated after losing so much fluid. Parents can consult physicians about preventing dehydration in babies.
It is also possible for milk intolerance in babies to trigger an outbreak of eczema. Eczema can be distinguished in the beginning by tiny white bumps that cover a small portion of the baby and are surrounded by a darker red area. More severe eczema will cause the skin to become red and scaly, capable of covering a much larger area of the baby's body. This can lead to itchiness and discomfort for the infant, prompting an effort to scratch the area.
Milk intolerance in babies is rare, and it becomes more common as a person ages. Infants who have recently experienced a spell of diarrhea-inducing viral infection might temporarily experience dairy intolerance. Doctors usually advise against the introduction of dairy products soon after such an infection. Infants who are born prematurely also might have a milk intolerance.