The Formula Conundrum
The Right Stuff
The Case for Hypoallergenics
Hypoallergenic formula is easier for babies to digest because
the cow's milk protein in it has been predigested, or broken into smaller
pieces. One of the most compelling reasons to feed your baby hypoallergenic
formula (other than to confirm a cow's milk allergy) is a strong family history
of food or environmental allergies, including hay fever and eczema, says
A child's risk of a food allergy in the first year increases to
about 10% if one parent has allergies and about 20% if both parents do.
Hypoallergenic formula is two to three times more costly than regular formula,
however, so Cochran advises against it unless both parents have allergies. The
"big three" hypoallergenic formulas are Nutramigen, Pregestimil, and
Unlike hypoallergenic brands, Carnation Good Start is only
partially broken down (hydrolyzed). It isn't an option if a baby has a known
allergy, according to Cochran, but partially hydrolyzed formulas may be
worthwhile for babies at somewhat higher risk, such as those with one allergic
"Studies show that in kids who are at risk, if you put them
on Carnation Good Start, you can decrease the risk of their developing food
allergies," Cochran says. If the infant has a confirmed food allergy, stick
with a hypoallergenic brand.
The most common sign that your baby has an allergy to cow's
milk protein is blood in the stool, which is caused by milk protein-induced
colitis. Switching to a hypoallergenic formula should clear up most of the
bleeding in five to seven days. Eczema and respiratory problems also may be
signs of milk protein intolerance.
When and Why to Try Soy
Suzette Bilotti, a first-time mother from Kenosha, Wis.,
switched her son, Nico, to a soy formula at 9 weeks to help quell problems with
gas and spitting up (called gastroesophageal reflux). "A couple of my
girlfriends who fed all their kids soy said it made a world of difference, and
they told me that may be the reason he's so fussy," says Bilotti.
The truth is, there's little evidence to support that theory.
"The data show that very few of these babies actually have true intolerance
to proteins, though some do," says Cochran. In addition, only about 1-3% of
all infant reflux problems are related to food allergies.
A better, nonmedical reason to use soy formula is because you
want to raise your child vegetarian. For a full-term infant, soy protein-based
formula, which contains no animal products, is a perfectly acceptable
alternative. "Soy formula is nutritionally complete," says Cochran,
"so I have no reservations about using it."
Since soy doesn't contain lactose -- the sugar found in milk --
it's also a good choice for infants with lactose intolerance, although this
condition is rare among babies. The AAP also recommends soy protein-based
formulas when a baby has:
- Problems metabolizing galactose (one of two sugars that make up
- A temporary deficiency of lactase, an intestinal enzyme that breaks down
lactose, following an intestinal infection.