Soy Formulas May Not Prevent Infant Allergies
Breast Milk Is Best for High-Risk Infants, Experts Say
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Soy-based formulas contain the proteins found in soybeans rather than those found in cow's milk. The two formulas contain almost identical vitamins and minerals, and their nutritional values are similar.
There are three major hypoallergenic formulas:
- Whey-based hydrolysate formulas. The whey in cow's milk protein is broken down or "predigested," making it less allergenic than the protein in regular formulas.
Casein hydrolysate formulas have smaller protein products.
- Amino acid-based infant formulas, which contain protein in its simplest form, may be recommended if an infant doesn't improve after a switch to the hydrolysate formulas.
Among the other recommendations:
- High-risk mothers-to-be should not eat peanuts or foods containing peanuts during pregnancy. While the evidence linking maternal peanut consumption to infant allergies is not conclusive, the group singled out peanuts as the food most likely to cause problems, and it suggested that lactating mothers avoid them as well.
- Delay the introduction of solid foods for six months, and delay the introduction of potential problem foods for as long as possible. The AAP recommends delaying the introduction of cow's milk until 12 months of age, eggs until 24 months, and nuts and fish until age 3.
- Protein hydrolysate formulas should be used in bottle-fed, high-risk infants.
Pediatric allergy expert Mary Fasano, MD, says she recommends hydrolysate formulas for bottle-fed, high-risk infants, even though they have not been proven to prevent allergies or delay their onset. Fasano is an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Iowa and a spokeswoman for the AAP.
"The strongest evidence for protection is clearly for breastfeeding, so that will always be my first recommendation," she says. "There just is not a lot of good, strong evidence to show that hydrolysate formulas prevent allergies."