I’ve been asked to become a Similac StrongMoms Ambassador to share formula tips with parents. In fact, they sponsored this post and provided me with some of the research. My opinions (like all moms should choose whatever works for their family, whether it’s breastfeeding OR formula) are completely my own.
Have you felt the tug-of-war of hypoallergenic formulas?
On the one hand, you’ve heard other parents talk about how magical they are: turning miserable monster-babies into giggles and smiles.
On the other hand, you aren’t Donald Trump. Money doesn’t grows on bankruptcy trees.
You’ve got a limited amount of funds available.
This common problem leaves you with two questions:
- Does my baby really need a hypoallergenic? And if he does…
- Will those hypoallergenics really work?
Buckle up, my friend.
Because we’re about to figure that out.
Double Check What You’re
This Tummy Trouble Tool is really helpful to double check you’re current choice.
Using 8 simple questions, it helps narrow your formula issues down to point you in the direction of a good fit. While doing so, it also troubleshoots ideas on to handle any intestinal rebellion that might be going on.
Seriously, it’s awesome. I lied my way through three kids, just to see what it said, and was surprised with how much information it shared.
I was expecting a few boring bullet points, and instead it gave me a personalized article that I had to scroll down to read. Your point, Tummy Trouble Tool…
Did I mention it’s free? Check it out.
Be Familiar with these
7 “Switching Signs”
Here are seven signs that a hypoallergenic BF(ormula)F may be in your future…
1. If your baby is struggling with acid reflux. A pre-thickened (and less expensive!) reflux formula can help many babies…but hypoallergenics are also being shown to be a great help for reflux-weary parents.
2. If there is blood in his stool. You should ALWAYS contact the doctor when you see blood in the diaper. That said, sometimes with milk allergies there may be microscopic bleeding in the diaper you can’t see and only testing will show. (See Step Three below…)
3. If you see snot-poo. Mucus production is a common sign of an allergy issue in the intestines. This thick stringy mucus will often bridge the folds of the diaper. (Isn’t parenting FUN??!!)
4. If your baby acts like pooping is a full-body sport he hates. Inflammation in the intestines can lead to spasm and cramping, which is really uncomfortable. Having a bowel movement can cause babies to cry and pull their knees up during a poop – acting as if they are about to pass a planet, only to reveal soft serve chocolate ice cream.
5. If he has almost constant diarrhea. It’s the bowel’s way of going on strike. Sometimes this can show up as small squirts – like baby-sized racing stripes in the diaper throughout the day. (On the other hand, sometimes babies already on hypoallergenic formulas can look like they have diarrhea – always check with your doctor on this one.)
6. If she is plagued by eczema. (My nemesis.) Eczema (or tiny red raised dots everywhere) can be caused by many things, not just a milk allergy issue – but it’s worth listing. Most babies see marked skin improvements after 2-4 weeks of being on the hypoallergenic.
7. If he constantly sounds like he’s congested. This is also a sign of reflux, so if your baby seems to have a chronic stuffy nose and wheezing, talk to your doctor about reflux and/or a milk allergy. (Wheezing in particular is something that should trigger a doc-call.)
Talk to the Expert
(Which Sadly Isn’t Me…)
The last (and most important) thing I would recommend is to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
I’ve said it a thousand times on this website, but it definitely bears repeating…
When in doubt, give Doc a shout.
He may want to run a few tests, so when you call in to get an appointment be sure to ask and see if he needs a stool sample.
That means you’ll save the most recent dirty diaper in a plastic bag and bring it with you as an early Christmas present to the Lab Technician. *Happy Holidays!*
Why are These Formulas so
What makes these hypoallergenic formulas so expensive?
Simple: expertise = expensive. They require more expertise to make.
To help you visualize the difference, let’s compare these to another expertise-required, infamously-expensive product: a pearl necklace.
In our example, that pearl necklace represents milk proteins (casein or whey, doesn’t matter) .
Babies struggling with the 7 signs above don’t handle long protein-pearl necklaces very well.
This is where “hypoallergenics” come into save the day like Christian Bale swooping in and taking over the new Batman movie. (Sorry, Ben Affleck.)
The keyword here is partially hydrolyzed. It means the milk proteins have been heated with water to break down those necklaces into extremely small pearl protein chains.
Chains that are small enough to slip through the iron-bars of your baby’s cell walls without triggering an Allergy Alarm.
- In the US they’re sold as Alimentum or Nutramigen.
- In the UK you can find them listed under Nutramigen and Pepti.
Remember, use the phrase “partially hydrolyzed” to distinguish a hypoallergenic formula from a regular formula.
Just so you know… “partially hydrolyzed” is not the same as “partially hydrogenated”. (I’m anticipating some comments here.) Click here to learn the difference.
In about 20% of the “protein sensitive” cases, the child’s system still won’t accept those 3-4 protein-pearl strings.
So these formulas have to go one step further, breaking those necklaces completely and passing them across one by one.
At this point they are no longer proteins, but are instead amino acids, which (if we can all remember from 8th grade biology) are – all together now! – the building blocks of proteins.
Naturally, these are the most expensive formulas of all – because they are a lot harder to make than the standard formulas like Similac Advance.
- In the US, look for the brands PureAmino, Neocate, and Elecare.
- In the UK, look for the brands Neocate and Nutramigen AA (“AA” stands for Amino Acid).
The key phrase you’re looking for in the hyper-hypoallergenics is “amino acids”.
(With Answers Because I Like You)
Should I try soy formula first?
Many times babies who struggle with milk protein will have the same struggles with soy. Still, it’s something you could try.
Is there a cheaper alternative?
If your baby is ticking off all 7 of those signs above, I would go straight to a hypoallergenic. However, if your baby is only hitting a few of those you may want to try a very low-lactose formula like Similac Total Comfort or Good Start Soothe.
These formulas have shorter protein-pearl strands than the standard “Sensitive” formulas. Not as short as a hypoallergenic, of course, but it’s a less-expensive option you could try, if his symptoms aren’t too severe.
Can I just switch formulas abruptly?
If your parenting sanity is not in crisis mode, I would recommend introducing the hypoallergenic formula slowly over a period of 2-3 days to prevent upsetting the tummy. Here’s how.
That said if you are at “95% chance of Parental Breakdown” than go ahead and switch. This is crisis management dude. Gotta risk it.
These formulas STINK. Did something die in there?
Surprisingly, no. You can thank that stench to Mr. Partially Hydrolyzed. It’s an after-product. (Which sounds really really gross in that sentence…)
Most babies don’t mind the taste. (Don’t try it. Save yourself.) However, if your baby has swished the formula around the bottle like a wine expert and seems to find it all too bourgeois, ask your doctor if you can add a drop of pure vanilla extract to the bottle.
How have other parents handled this parenting challenge?
Let me roll out the virtual red carpet and ask them.
- How did you know your baby needed a hypoallergenic formula?
- What did you end up using?
- Does it seem to help? (Aka – is it worth the extra money?)
Help another suffering parent out and share your experience in the comments.
Meet Heather Taylor
Heather is the Chief Encouragement Officer here at Incredible Infant and has been writing and encouraging parents online since 2007. She's certified in baby sleep coaching (yes, that's a real thing), has served as an Expert Parenting Panelist for numerous events, and has been a featured writer on blogs like DaveRamsey.com, SimpleKids.net, My Kid's Adventures, Cafe Mom, and others. If it's 2am and you're desperate to read SOMETHING, click here for all her darkest secrets, including why she really shouldn't be allowed to blog.