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The Formula Conundrum

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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 lactose)
  • A temporary deficiency of lactase, an intestinal enzyme that breaks down lactose, following an intestinal infection.

Doctors recommend against using soy for infants recovering from diarrhea.

infant nutrition firm Mead Johnson announced a new baby formula is about to hit the market. The product features special ingredients: natural components found in breast milk that the company says have been FDA-recognized for use in baby formula. Mead Johnson is a WebMD sponsor.

The ingredients -- called DHA and ARA -- are fatty acids that are important to a baby's developing eyes and brain. Mead Johnson says its product is the first in the U.S. to include them.

Doctors say a mother's breast milk is still the best nutrition for your baby. This product is not meant to replace breast milk, but to come closer to the real thing for women who cannot breastfeed or prefer to feed their babies from a bottle.

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