Milk protein intolerance is the body’s inability to correctly process proteins. These proteins then pass into the intestines where they can cause gastrointestinal distress including pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and blood or mucous in the stool. Milk protein intolerance can range from being minor and easily addressed by avoiding dairy, to severe where all products containing any complex proteins must be avoided. My boys had the latter.
Milk protein intolerance is different from lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is the inability to process the milk sugar, lactose, because a person’s body doesn’t produce lactase.
For mothers who are breastfeeding, eliminating dairy products can successfully alleviate a baby’ symptoms if its intolerance isn’t severe since the proteins the mother consumes pass through intact to her milk. In our case even the most minor amount of milk proteins in my diet — ones I didn’t even know were there – caused the boys to scream and cry after feedings.
There are some over the counter formulas that are touted as being hypoallergenic and given to babies who show signs of GI distress, including crying after feedings and blood or mucous in their stools. While these formulas do have partially broken down proteins, they do still contain larger proteins that can affect babies with severe intolerance, like my kids. Luckily there are formulas available (only by prescription) that are broken down to amino acids and short peptides that make the formula easily digestible.
We didn’t realize how severe Jack’s milk protein intolerance was until after he had his feeding tube inserted and we started giving him the amount of formula he was supposed to be getting (prior to the tube, he was not getting enough due to his food refusal). He would wake up screaming in the middle of the night obviously in severe pain. Once we put him on the special formula he had no more problems. With Will, once he showed signs of GI distress three days after birth, we put him on the special formula right away.
We did have Jack allergy tested at six months of age to make sure that it was an intolerance and not an allergy. Both boys were able to tolerate dairy by age 18 months and have consumed milk products ever since with no issues.