Dairy Intolerance in Little Ones: A Detailed Guide for New Zealand Parents

As New Zealand parents, we often worry about the health and well-being of our little ones. One common concern is dairy intolerance, which can affect infants and young children. This comprehensive guide, presented by BabySteps, is here to help you understand, identify, and manage dairy intolerance in your little one, ensuring they grow up happy and healthy.

Understanding Dairy Intolerance

What is Dairy Intolerance?

Dairy intolerance, prevalent among New Zealand's little ones, is a condition where their bodies struggle to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk drinks and other dairy products. This condition should not be confused with a dairy allergy, which is an immune response to dairy proteins[1].

Causes of Dairy Intolerance

The primary cause of dairy intolerance is the lack of sufficient lactase, an enzyme needed to break down lactose. In some little ones, this enzyme is not produced in adequate amounts, leading to intolerance[2].

dairy food displayed on a table, featuring a variety of products like milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt, these food may be the Causes of Dairy Intolerance

Symptoms of Dairy Intolerance in Little Ones

Digestive Symptoms

The most noticeable symptoms of dairy intolerance are digestive problems. These can include bloating, gas, diarrhea, and sometimes constipation after consuming milk drinks or dairy products[3].

Skin and Respiratory Symptoms

Some little ones might also show skin reactions like eczema or respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose or cough, which are often overlooked and attributed to other causes[4].

Behavioral Indicators

Behavioral changes, like increased irritability or fussiness, especially after consuming dairy, can also be a sign of dairy intolerance in little ones[4].

Diagnosing Dairy Intolerance

Professional Assessment

If you suspect dairy intolerance, a healthcare professional can conduct tests and provide a diagnosis, guiding you in managing the condition[5].

Home Observation

Keeping a food diary and observing your little one’s reactions to dairy can be an effective way to track potential intolerance[5].

mother feed goat milk for Dairy Intolerance baby

Managing Dairy Intolerance

Dietary Adjustments

Eliminating or reducing dairy from your little one's diet is often recommended. It's essential to read labels carefully, as dairy is present in many processed foods[6].

Alternative Nutritional Sources

There are several nutritious dairy-free alternatives available in New Zealand. Your healthcare provider can suggest appropriate substitutes to ensure your little one's dietary needs are met[6].

Monitoring and Adapting

Regular monitoring of your child’s response to dietary changes is crucial. Some children may outgrow dairy intolerance, while others may continue to have it[6].

a baby drinking dairy-free milk from a baby's milk bottle

Long-Term Considerations

Potential for Outgrowing Dairy Intolerance

Many little ones eventually outgrow dairy intolerance, but this varies. Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider can help assess this[7]

Ongoing Management Strategies

For those who don’t outgrow it, long-term dietary management is essential. Staying informed about dairy-free diets and their nutritional adequacy is important for your little one's health[7].


Navigating dairy intolerance in little ones can be challenging, but with the right knowledge and approach, you can effectively manage this condition. BabySteps is dedicated to supporting New Zealand parents through this journey, ensuring the best for your little ones.


  • Ministry of Health NZ. (2022). Food Allergies and Intolerances. Retrieved from https://www.health.govt.nz/.
  • KidsHealth NZ. (2023). Lactose Intolerance in Children. Retrieved from https://www.kidshealth.org.nz/.
  • Allergy New Zealand. (2021). Food Allergy and Intolerance. Retrieved from https://www.allergy.org.nz/.
  • The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners. (2020). Child Health. Retrieved from [https://www.rnzc