All About Hypoallergenic Formulas

Do both cow's milk-based formula and soy-based formula make your baby sick? A third option of formula could give her the nutrition she needs, without the tummy ache.
Alexandra Grablewski

What are hypoallergenic formulas?

These types of formulas, which are called protein hydrolysate formulas, have protein that's been broken down partially or extensively into tinier proteins than the ones in cow's milk and soy-based formulas. "Because these proteins are not intact there's no allergic response," says Aliza Solomon, D.O., a pediatric gastroenterologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.

When should a parent consider purchasing a hypoallergenic formula?

A pediatrician might recommend that you try a hypoallergenic formula if your child is allergic to both cow's milk and soy (the base in conventional formulas) or has a sensitivity to these ingredients, says Jennifer Shu, M.D., a Parents advisor and author of Bringing Your Newborn Home.

What hypoallergenic formulas are available?

Enfamil Gentlease and Similac Sensitive are partially hydrolyzed, which means the milk proteins in these formulas have been partially broken down. Similac Alimentum and Enfamil Nutramigen both have extensively broken down proteins for babies with the greatest sensitivity to cow's milk and soy.

What are the benefits of hypoallergenic formula?

Hypoallergenic formulas will help at least 90 percent of babies who have allergies to cow's milk and soy, which can cause symptoms such as hives, a runny nose, and intestinal problems, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Are there any drawbacks?

These formulas are more expensive than conventional formulas. They can smell or taste different from the conventional formulas, so some babies don't like them, says Dr. Shu. But neither issue should deter you from giving your baby hypoallergenic formula. "If she can't tolerate the other formula she's not getting any nutrition at all, and she's probably in a lot of pain."

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