Health care providers usually encourage pregnant women to drink milk because it is a good source of calcium, which is essential for the baby’s growth. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need between 1200 and 1500 mg of calcium each day. The baby needs enough calcium in order to build healthy bones and teeth. If the baby’s calcium needs are unmet, it will result to diminished maternal bone density.

However, some women are not able to tolerate milk because they are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose or the sugar found in milk. With the aid of the enzyme lactase, lactose is further broken down into glucose and galactose. Lactose intolerance occurs when there is a deficiency of lactase and when symptoms occur that correlate to the said condition.

Around 30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant and it is most common among African Americans, Native Americans, and Asians. Premature babies born between the 28th and 32nd week of gestation, are at higher risk because lactase levels only develop during the third trimester of pregnancy. The symptoms of lactose intolerance may vary in severity. Common symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, cramps, gas and bloating. They usually begin 30 minutes to 2 hours after ingesting foods containing lactose. The discomforts of lactose intolerance may hinder a woman from consuming milk, but there are ways to get the needed calcium in the body.

Instead of drinking a glass of milk in one sitting, try to drink small ounces of milk at intervals. Two to four ounces of milk for each interval may be less likely to cause symptoms. It is also advisable to drink milk during meal times to slow down the digestive process. This will reduce the chance of symptoms to occur. Consuming other non-dairy foods that are high in calcium may also be helpful in meeting the recommended calcium requirement. Foods that contain calcium include broccoli, salmon, oranges, almonds, soy-milk and sardines. It may also be helpful if you choose breads and juices that are calcium-fortified. Women who cannot drink milk may be surprised that they can tolerate hard cheeses like cheddar and Swiss. This is because the processing of cheese changes its lactose content. Some women may also be able to tolerate eating yogurt. Although it has high lactose content, the bacterial cultures used in making it produces some of the enzyme lactase, which is necessary for proper digestion.

Aside from choosing calcium rich foods, it is also necessary to have enough Vitamin D in the body because without it, calcium can not enter the bones. Sources of Vitamin D include eggs and liver. Sunlight is also a good source of Vitamin D. It is uncommon for pregnant women to think that they are not getting enough calcium from their diet. Consult your health care provider in order to determine whether dietary supplements are necessary. Pregnancy entails that a woman should pay attention to the nutrients that she is taking in. After all, the baby’s growth and development would largely depend on the nutrients that they get while inside their mother’s womb.