Have you every wondered if your cranky baby was showing the symptoms of a baby formula allergy?
I mean, you hear about formula allergies all the time.
It’d be nice to know if his fussiness could be fixed with a simple formula switch.
Wouldn’t it be loverly if he could just TELL you he’s allergic?
If he could raise his little chin, look straight into your caring eyes and say (like Stewie):
Every time you make me drink that white stuff, I feel like ants are crawling all over my body and I want to vomit my insides all over your blouse.
And that would lead you to say, in your best Mary Poppins accent:
That sounds like the symptoms of a formula allergy! Let’s switch to something else, shall we?
Nothing’s ever that easy, is it?
Since that will never happen *dry those tears, missie!* it’s up to you to figure out the whole formula-allergy-thing by yourself. (With my help, of course.)
I have three goals here.
I’ve listed them. (Listing things makes me happy.)
- I want to help you understand the differences between a milk allergy and lactose intolerance.
- I want to share the symptoms of each so you can impress your doctor and help your infant.
- I want to point you in the direction of a few good formulas you should start experimenting with.
Your Baby is Not Lactose Intolerant (Probably)
When it comes to baby formula allergies, most parents jump to the assumption that their baby is lactose intolerant.
It’s very rare for a baby to be lactose intolerant.
Lactose intolerance is not the same as a milk allergy.
A milk allergy is an immune response.
The body thinks it sees an “invader” and attacks it. In lactose intolerance, the body simply cannot absorb the protein, and so rejects it. (It’s a subtle, yet important, distinction.)
There are only a handful of conditions that would set up a baby to be lactose intolerant.
- The infant was born prematurely and hasn’t yet developed the lactase enzyme he needs (but will given enough time).
- One or both of the parents are lactose intolerant. (It’s a genetic condition.)
- The baby had severe diarrhea, which lowered her body’s ability to make lactase for a week or two.
- The infant is on certain medications (talk to your pediatrician).
- The baby was diagnosed with a digestive disorder like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease. (Do those run in the family? Talk to your doctor.)
If your baby matches one or more of those situations and is exhibiting the milk baby formula allergy symptoms below, you’ll need to discuss moving to a hypoallergenic formula (also used for colic) with your doctor.
For great “do NOT do this” guidance on transitioning between formulas, check out my blog post entitled The Bad Parent’s Guide to Switching Formula.
The Baby Formula Allergy Symptoms
There are 11 symptoms of a baby formula allergy you can keep an eye out for.
The first 5 are signs of a slight formula allergy, and can usually be overcome by choosing a more “sensitive” baby formula.
The last 6 are indicators that your infant has a more serious formula allergy problem.
5 Signs of an Allergy Needing a Sensitive Formula
- Dry, itchy, flaky patches of skin (eczema) often behind the knees or in the crooks of elbows.
- Hives (red blotchy spots)
- Swollen lips or mouth (call 911 if you see troubled breathing)
- A red ring around the anus that doesn’t seem to respond to diaper rash remedies
- Straining to pass gas, very fussy and irritable after eating.
If your baby has any of these symptoms, try switching to one of these more sensitive formulas.
6 Signs of an Allergy Requiring a Hypoallergenic Formula
Here are symptoms of a more serious baby formula allergy. These symptoms can be very similar to colic, so these colic-friendly formulas are your best defense.
Always discuss this switch with your doctor, as several of these symptoms could also be indicators of other things. (Plus, the hypoallergenics are pretty gosh darn expensive.)
- uncontrollable crying (for hours)
- severe diarrhea (average of 2-4 times a day – call your doctor to prevent dehydration, which is extremely dangerous!)
- bloody stools
- a failure to thrive, not gaining weight (should double birth weight by 6 months)
- excessive spitting up and difficulty swallowing (consider these formulas designed for acid reflux)
- wheezing (with ear to chest, can hear a rattling sound when breathing)
Again, if you’re picking up on these formula allergy symptoms, give your doctor a call and consider trying one of these hypoallergenic (lactose-free) baby formulas.
What about soy? Babies with a milk allergy are usually allergic to soy as well. Still, if you want to give soy a try, check out Should I Switch to a Soy Formula?
If your baby had one of the first 5 symptoms of a baby formula allergy, these are the formulas I would start experimenting with.
I recommend starting with Good Start (it’s the gentlest of the “gentles”), and then going from there.
Good Start Gentle
Unlike the other formulas listed here, who only partially breakdown the proteins, this baby allergy formula breaks down ALL of the proteins. It also contains DHA, ARA, and a special blends of antioxidants, vitamins, and prebiotics to support the immune system and aid in digestion.
You can purchase it in powdered form, premixed bottles, and concentrated in plastic jugs.
This specially formulated…um…formula is based on cow’s milk, but the proteins are already partially broken down, making it easier for your baby to digest without getting all gassy and uncomfortable. It has only 20% of the usual amount of lactose.
It has all the same nutritional gains of the regular Enfamil brands: DHA, ARA, prebiotics, and other immune-boosting goodies. You can find it in powder form, in premixed and ready-to-attach-a-nipple bottles, and in cans.
- The standard size can is $1.08 an oz.
- The big kahuna 4-pack is $1.06 an oz. (Saving $0.16 a bottle)
Similac Sensitive is also similar to the Similac standard formula, Advance. The only difference is that this formula breaks those proteins down a little to help keep small tummies from overworking.
It is not, however, intended for infants diagnosed with galactosemia, a rare but serious disorder you can read about here.
You can purchase Similac Sensitive in powder cans, premixed, or concentrated.
- The standard size can is $1.35 per oz.
- The big kahuna 6-pack is $0.93 per oz. (Saving $3.36 a bottle)
Bright Beginnings Gentle
Bright Beginnings is a cost-effective formula that has only 25% of the usual lactose than their standard baby formula.
It only comes in powdered cannisters, and is for infants 0-12 months old.
- The standard size is $0.83 per oz.
Parent’s Choice Formulas
Parent’s Choice is the formula-of-choice for Walmart and Sam’s Club. They have two kinds of “sensitive” baby formulas to choose from.
In the “Sensitive” version, the proteins are partially broken down, making it have 75% less lactose than the standard formula.
In the “Gentle” version, the proteins are not broken down, but they are low lactose. (If this confuses you, peek at their website.)
Both are good options to try, if you’re feeling especially strapped for cash. You can find them exclusively at Walmart, Sam’s Club, or their online stores.
The Proof is in the
Pudding Lack of Fussing
As the mother of a child with allergies, but who was too inexperienced to realize it, I’d love to hear what your experience was with any of these allergy formulas!
Which ones have worked well for your baby?