If you are a parent looking for the best formula for your lactose intolerant baby, this page will guide you on all the best options. If you are in a hurry, Similac Isomil is the top on our list of nine best formulas for babies that do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase to fully break down the sugar (lactose) found in most dairy products.
What is lactose intolerance?
Lactose is a type of sugar naturally present in human breast milk, cow’s milk, goat milk, and most commercially produced formulas.
Lactose intolerance results when a baby cannot fully digest the lactose in their milk or formula because they lack a gut enzyme called lactase. Luckily, lactose intolerance is often temporal for babies and young children and symptoms resolve within a few weeks as their gut starts producing more lactase.
Symptoms of Lactose intolerance:
- Gas – This is the main symptom but you should consider formulas that reduces constipation and gas.
- Cramping pain
- Bulky, frothy and watery poop
- Fussiness and Colic
If your child has lactose intolerance or shows some of the above symptoms, your first step should be to visit your pediatrician. He should be able to offer you the guidance you need and a treatment plan that will help your child.
To help deal with lactose intolerance, formula companies have engineered some of their products with lactose completely substituted with a plant-based sugar such as corn syrup, or the lactose is reduced.
If a baby is completely unable to breastfeed because they have severe lactose intolerance, a lactose-free formula can be a lifesaver.
In this review, we will be discussing the different formula options available in the market that can help lactose intolerant babies. Read through and compare, and hopefully, you might find a suitable option for your child. Also, we recommend that you consult with your doctor before starting your baby on any formula.
What is the best formula for lactose intolerant babies?
I started this research with a list of over 30 formulas from over 10 different brands and after thorough analysis and comparison, the best formula for lactose intolerant babies is Similac Isomil. This formula is gluten-free and is made using soy and is one of the most used brands in hospitals. We have a detailed review below but you can get this formula on Amazon here. You can also read the formula info on Similac’s website here.
9 Best Formula for Lactose Intolerant Babies in 2022:
- #1. Similac Isomil
- #2. Gerber Good Start Soy Plant-Based Protein for Toddlers
- #3. Similac Pro-Sensitive Non-GMO Infant Formula With Iron
- #4. Gerber Good Start Soy Non-GMO Infant and Toddler Formula
- #5. Enfamil Prosobee Soy Sensitive Tummy Baby Formula
- #6. Nutricia neocate LCP Amino Acid Based Infant Formula
- #7. Earth’s Best Low Lactose Organic Formula
- #8. Baby’s Only Organic LactoRelief Formula
- #9. Enfamil Nutramigen With Enflora LGG Hypoallergenic Infant Formula
Reviews of Best Lactose-Free Formula
Similac Isomil is a soy-based formula, which means it does not contain any lactose and is our best formula for lactose intolerance. It is marketed as Similac’s choice for lactose intolerant babies, and those who have allergies associated with cow milk. It uses soy protein concentrate, which is easy for babies to digest, and from reviews, several parents have attested to that.
This formula is designed to offer complete nutrition infants and babies need to grow. Being a plant-based formula it uses corn syrup as a source of carbohydrate and a sweetener. It also has similarities with breast milk because it contains Omega-3 DHA and other essential nutrients like folic acid vitamin D3, inositol, and more. DHA is a key fatty acid responsible for brain and eye development.
You will also like to know that the ingredients are non-GMO and gluten-free. This lactose-free infant formula is suitable for newborns and babies.
- It is reasonably priced
- Has a pleasant flavor
This next product is much like our first product in terms of composition. We are talking about Gerber Good Start Soy. It is also a plant-based formula sourced mainly from non-GMO soy and is also great lactose intolerance formula.
While Similac Isomil used corn syrup, the Gerber formula uses corn maltodextrin, which is also sugar but the sugar content is less. It is a good choice for parents who are watchful of the calories their babies are taking. Corn syrup has been viewed as unhealthy because of being high sugar content.
Gerber Good Start is great for lactose intolerance because it is naturally lactose-free, and as a bonus, it is also gentle to digest because the proteins are from soy.
It also contains Omega-3 DHA, which is critical for brain and eye development if you remember from our previous review. Additionally, it contains essential vitamins and minerals necessary for growth processes like Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12 folic acid, iron, and more.
Take note, though, that this formula is for babies and toddlers aged from 9 months to 24 months.
Similac has several formula choices for babies with lactose intolerance. If you remember, Similac Isomil was lactose-free which we recommend if your child has severe lactose intolerance.
Similac Pro-Sensitive will also help, but it’s best for those babies with milk intolerance. This is because it contains reduced lactose combined with corn syrup to meet nutritional needs.
This is one of the richest formulas on this list with various nutrients that mimic breast milk. It contains 2’FL HMO, a prebiotic also found in breast milk, which feeds the good bacteria in the gut and supports the baby’s developing immune system. It also contains what Similac calls Optigro; their exclusive blend of DHA, Lutein, and Vitamin E. DHA helps with brain and eye development, lutein help with cognitive development, and vitamin E helps with cells development. Those three ingredients are natural constituents of breast milk also.
Similac Pro-Sensitive is suitable for babies aged 0 to 12 months and can help relieve lactose intolerance symptoms like fussiness and gas. However, it is not recommended for use if your baby has galactosemia.
- Contains 2Fl HMO prebiotics
- It is iron-fortified
- Not from cows that are treated with artificial growth hormones
- It is foamy
Our next lactose-sensitive formula is from Gerber and is similar to the Gerber Good Start Soy for toddlers we featured earlier. However, this variation is for infants and toddlers aged 0 to 12 months.
It is a soy-based formula that contains no lactose or milk components. Thus, it is ideal for lactose intolerant babies and those with milk allergies.
It uses corn maltodextrin as a carbohydrate, which we said is low in sugar and soy proteins, which are easy to digest by tiny tummies.
To enhance growth, this formula also contains DHA for brain and eye development, and essential vitamins and minerals such as Calcium, and Vitamin D for strong bones and teeth.
- Easy to digest
- Suitable for vegetarians
- Suitable for babies with milk allergies
- Container designed for hygienic handling and retaining formula freshness
- The scoop is too wide which causes some spilling when pouring into bottles
The next brand on our list is Enfamil, specifically their ProSobee soy formula. As you can tell from the name, this is a plant-based formula sourced from soy. This formula is great for babies suffering from lactose intolerance and those with milk allergies. As you can expect from the Enfamil brand, it contains choice nutrients like DHA, Choline, and a blend of various vitamins for immunity and development. DHA and Choline are essential nutrients naturally present in breast milk. The former supports brain development, and the latter helps with memory and immunity.
The formula is also easy for tiny tummies to digest because the proteins are from soy. All these factors combined, make the formula gentle and suitable for reducing gas, fussiness, and colic, which results from milk-based formulas sometimes.
You can use Enfamil ProSobee for babies from 0 to 12 months of age.
- Available in ready-to-use form
- Easy to dissolve
- Contains corn syrup solids which are high in sugar
- Some parents say it causes constipation
- Some people do not like the flavor
Our next product is a hypoallergenic formula, which means the baby is not likely to have any sort of reaction from it. It is from Nutricia, and its formulas are special medical food designed to help children with cow milk allergies (CMA), multiple food allergies (MFA), and other gastrointestinal conditions.
Nutricia neocate LCP formula is dairy-free, hence, beneficial for babies and children with lactose intolerance. It is also soy-free therefore also ideal for those with soy allergies. It is formulated from amino acids that are gentle for all babies to digest.
Instead of lactose, the formula uses dried glucose syrup as a sweetener and carbohydrate. The formula is at par with other formulas because it contains DHA/ ARA fatty acids but at a level only comparable to breast milk, to help with brain and eye development. And it also has contains various essential vitamins and minerals necessary for growth processes.
Nutricia neonate LCP is suitable for babies aged 0 to 12 months but is designed for special medical cases. We recommend first seeking your doctor’s advice before feeding your child with it.
- Hypoallergenic formula
- Designed for all babies including preemies
- Easy to digest
- It is expensive
- It might be difficult to find in the market
Earth’s Best formulas have been favorites of many families because they are organic. Most people view organic foods as healthy because they do not contain potentially harmful growth hormones, pesticides, fertilizers, etc.
Their Low Lactose Organic Formula is suitable for babies that have mild lactose intolerance, and it can help reduce associated gas, fussiness and colic.
It is a milk-based formula that supplies the complete nutrition your baby needs. For carbohydrates, it uses reduced lactose and more corn syrup solids. The proteins come from whey protein concentrates, which is easy for tiny tummies to digest.
The Earth’s Best formula also contains the essential nutrients that are also naturally present in breast milk like DHA&ARA fatty acids for brain and eye development, prebiotics to help with digestion and support immunity, and Lutein, which helps with eye development. And it is fortified with iron, among other minerals and vitamins.
- USDA certified organic
- Reduced lactose
- Contains prebiotics
- It is expensive
- It might cause constipation
- It is foamy
If you have loved our previous formula, we introduce you to yet another organic formula, but this time it is for toddlers. This lactose-free toddler formula has been rated highly 4.6/5 by over 3,700 parents.
The organic formula from Baby’s only is a milk-based formula designed to offer toddlers that suffer from lactose intolerance some relief. The lactose in the milk is reduced and replaced with organic brown rice syrup to meet the nutritional needs of the carbohydrate.
This formula is designed to offer complete nutrition just like breast milk. It includes proteins from milk protein concentrate and essential nutrients and minerals like iron, Choline, and Lutein, which are great for eye and brain development.
When it comes to DHA and ARA, Baby’s Only sources theirs from organic eggs, which does not require the use of hexane. If you are not aware, most formula brands source these fatty acids from algae using hexane and it has become a huge safety concern among parents.
- USDA certified organic
- Reduced lactose
- Hexane free DHA extraction
- A perfect alternative for those who want to avoid soy formulas
- Can be mixed with other foods and cereals
- Has a pleasant flavor
- There is isn’t an infant formula
We close this review with another hypoallergenic formula, but this one is from Enfamil. Nutramigen with Enflora LGG hypoallergenic formula is designed for babies that suffer colic due to cow’s milk allergies. According to Enfamil if you switch to this formula, your baby’s symptoms improve within 48 hours.
The formula is lactose-free, which makes it ideal also for babies with lactose sensitivity or intolerance. In place of lactose, it contains corn syrup solids, which are a source of carbohydrates. For protein, the Enfamil Nutramigen formula uses hydrolyzed proteins. Hydrolyzed proteins are easier for babies to digest than complete proteins because they are already broken into smaller sizes. They are also better absorbed.
As if that’s not enough goodness, this formula has LGG probiotic. This probiotic helps with digestion, immunity, and has been shown to prevent allergies in the future.
It also contains DHA and ARA fatty acids for brain and eye development and a combination of essential vitamins and minerals.
Although we have just reviewed the Enfamil Nutramigen with en flora LGG hypoallergenic formula for infants aged 0 to 12 months, they also have a variation for toddlers aged from 9 to 36 months.
- Available in ready-to-use form
- Has LGG probiotic
- Has easy to digest hydrolyzed proteins
- It is expensive
- Some people do not like the flavor
Lactose Intolerance Formula Guide
Treating lactose overload in babies
In the early weeks after birth, mothers may make more milk than the baby needs, before adjusting to match the feeding needs. Lactose overload often happens when a baby consumes a large amount of breast milk during periods when the mom has an oversupply. This milk (foremilk) usually has low fat and moves fast out of the stomach before all the lactose is digested (more fat would help it slow down). The milk at the end of breastfeeding (hindmilk) usually has more fat.
The undigested lactose goes to the large intestines (lower bowel) where it draws water and is digested by the bacteria to produce gas and acidic stools, which cause nappy rash. Other symptoms include diarrhea, explosive frothy stools, foul-smelling stool, bloating, cramping, and crying. The baby might also gain a large amount of weight, which is not the case with lactose intolerance.
Even formula-fed babies can have lactose overload if they are fed large amounts of milk from a high flow nipple.
Luckily, you can be able to treat lactose overload easily by implementing some of the following steps:
- When nursing, make sure one breast is empty before switching to the other.
- In severe cases of oversupply, feed from one breast only for a four-hour block before switching to the other breast and repeatedly feed from that breast for the next four hours. This way, the baby feeds on lower amounts with higher-fat milk, which will slow down the passage through the gut.
- If formula feeding, calculate how much formula the baby needs, and then space the feeds with a 3 to 4 hour gap.
- You can also opt for low-lactose formulas as a temporary measure.
Baby temporary lactose intolerance/ Developmental lactase deficiency
Temporary lactose intolerance happens when an infant is born before its small intestines are fully developed. It is more common in preemies born before 34 weeks gestation. The condition mostly lasts only for a short time after birth, and the babies can still consume formula containing low lactose and breast milk.
The condition can also happen if a child’s digestive system is affected by infections and conditions that damage the stomach and small intestine lining such as gastroenteritis, food intolerances, and allergies, parasitic infestation like giardiasis, Coeliac disease, or following bowel surgery. In this case, the lactose intolerance lasts a short time and improves after a few weeks so long as the gut is healing.
Can lactose-free formula cause constipation?
In the past, constipation has not been associated with milk intolerance, but recent research studies have shown that lactose intolerance might indeed cause constipation. So, a lactose-free formula might still cause constipation because of the proteins.
Nutramigen for lactose intolerance
If your child is suffering from lactose intolerance, Nutramigen with Enflora LGG by Enfamil may be the perfect solution. It is a hypoallergenic formula specially formulated for all baby’s digestive issues, from food allergies, colic, and even lactose intolerance.
The formulation is designed easy for all babies to digest. For allergies and colic symptoms, the milk proteins are hydrolyzed into small, easy-to-digest pieces. In the case of lactose intolerance, this formula is lactose-free, so switching to this formula, you can expect to see improvement after just a few feeds, as some happy parents have mentioned in the reviews.
Not only that, but they will also have better digestion thanks to the probiotic LGG, which has been shown by studies to help with allergies and also support digestive health. This probiotic has also been shown to help prevent developing allergies like asthma, eczema, urticarial, and rhino-conjunctivitis.
And it is nutritionally complete by providing all the nutrients your growing baby needs, including DHA.
Moms who have tried it with their babies have nothing but praise for how it helped relieve their babies’ symptoms and that it mixes easily and does not cause constipation. The only complaint is that it is expensive, but most feel it’s worth it.
Test for lactose intolerance
There are two main methods used to diagnose lactose intolerance:
Hydrogen breath test: it tests the amount of hydrogen gas in a child’s breath. Children with lactose intolerance have higher levels of hydrogen in their breath.
Elimination Diet: this involves removing lactose-containing foods from the child’s diet to see if symptoms improve. If symptoms come back after the food is reintroduced, you can be sure that lactose intolerance is the cause.
Lactose chemical formula: C12H22O11
Signs of milk allergy in breast-fed babies
Milk allergies are the body’s immune system reacting negatively to the protein in milk. It can happen for both formula-fed and breastfed babies. In the case of formula, the baby reacts to the cow milk proteins it contains, while breastfed babies react to the milk proteins passed from the mother’s diet. In both cases, the body sees the cow milk proteins as foreign invading substances. It releases histamines and other chemicals as soldiers fight off the “invaders”, causing allergic symptoms. Below are symptoms of milk allergies in babies:
- Frequent spit ups
- Abdominal pain that causes irritability and excessive crying like colic after feeding
- Blood in stool
- A scaly skin rash (eczema)
- Swelling of the mouth and throat
- Coughing or wheezing
- Watery eyes and stuffy nose
- Difficult breathing or a bluish skin color
Lactose-free formula side effects
The lactose-free formula usually has lactase (an enzyme) added to break down the milk sugars for easier absorption. But since it still has milk proteins, a child with milk allergies could have symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and other severe symptoms such as swelling of the lips, mouth, and throat, hives, itchy dry skin, trouble breathing, and anaphylaxis. If your child is having a severe reaction, take them to the emergency immediately.
Lactose intolerant baby poop
When a baby has lactose intolerance, they may sometimes have green, frothy stools, which could be bulky as well. They may also have diarrhea.
Lactose intolerance is when a body is unable to break down lactose. Lactose is a type of sugar naturally found in the breast milk of all mammals and some formulas. This sugar is broken down by lactase (an enzyme) into glucose and galactose, which are easily absorbed into the bloodstream for energy and development. If a baby does not produce enough lactase (in the first few weeks after birth and preemies), that is when lactose intolerance happens.
Kate Nash is a mother of two and a child mobility expert with a great passion for educating parents about car seat safety. She writes a lot about the changing car seat safety laws in different states and the safety rating of different infant and convertible car seats based on NHTSA and CR safety ratings. She is knowledgeable on all car seats, travel systems, and strollers available in North America. She is a recognized baby gear expert and can be reached on her email, firstname.lastname@example.org.