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):
Mumsie dearest, 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:
Really, dahling? 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.
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?
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.)
5 Signs of an Allergy
Needing a Sensitive Formula
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.
- 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.
Similac Pro Sensitive
Similac Pro 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 currently the only baby formula on that market that has HMO’s, a very special protein found in breastmilk to boost immunity. You can learn more about this revolutionary ingredient in this article here.
Enfamil Gentlease is a 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.
Good Start Gentle & Soothe
Unlike the other formulas listed here, who only partially breakdown the proteins, Good Start Gentle breaks down ALL of the proteins. This baby allergy formula 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.
Good Start Soothe uses the probiotic L. Reuteri. In studies, this particular probiotic was shown to reduce crying time by 50% in colicky babies. As if that probiotic wasn’t enough to leave you flirting and batting your eye-lashes, it also uses a special carbohydrate blend to ease fussiness and gas, that’s only 30% lactose. it’s made with 100% whey, it slips through the digestive system a lot easier than many other regular formulas.
Parent’s Choice Formulas
Parent’s Choice is the formula-of-choice for Walmart and Sam’s Club. They have two types of gentled formula:
- In Parent’s Choice Gentle, the proteins are not broken down, but they are low lactose.
- In Parent’s Choice Sensitivity, the proteins are partially broken down, making it have 75% less lactose than the standard formula. (If you suspect lactose intolerance, this is what I’d choose.)
Pricing & Ratings for Sensitive Baby Formulas
Once you’ve identified the formula that is working well with your baby, I would encourage you to purchase your formula in bulk and use Subscribe and Save on Amazon to save even more per-cannister. Subscribe & Save gives you free shipping and discounts on a wide variety of grocery items. (Plus it’s nice to not run out of formula at two in the morning…)
6 Signs of an Allergy
Requiring a Hypoallergenic Formula
Here are symptoms of a more serious baby formula allergy. 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 (you should also consider these formulas designed for acid reflux)
- wheezing (with ear to chest, can hear a rattling sound when breathing – if you hear this, call your doctor right away.)
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.
There are two kinds of hypoallergenic formulas: hypoallergenic formula and hyper-hypoallergenic formulas. You can learn more about that distinction here. In this article, I’m going to just highlight the basic hypoallergenics. They are more commonly used, and less expensive than the hyper-hypo types.
Nutramigen with Enflora LGG
Nutramigen is in the Enfamil family of formulas. It’s based on dairy milk, but the particles are so teeny tiny that the body ignores them. (It’s lactose-free.) Enfamil likes to brag that it can bring colic symptoms under control under 48 hours. I’ll let you be the judge on that one. (But do tell in the comments!)
The “Enflora LGG” refers to a probiotic that will help keep the lining of the intestines healthy. It has also been shown to promote skin health in infants who struggle with allergic rashes and eczema. You can use it for newborns all the way through 18 months. It comes in powder or ready-to-drink liquid.
Alimentium Expert Care
Alimentum Expert Care is made by Similac. The dairy-protein particles are so teeny-tiny that most babies ignore them, which is why it’s so effective with allergy-suffering babies. Infants who struggle with colic or have severe skin rashes due to a protein sensitivity may find final relief with this allergy. You can find it in the powder or premixed form.
Extensive HA is the Gerber branded hypoallergenic formula. Babies with cow’s milk protein allergy have been shown to have decreased levels of bifidobacteria in their gut, so this formula also includes the probiotic L. Reuteri, to help settle upset tiny tummies.
Pregestimil is another hypoallergenic formula made by Enfamil. 55% of it’s fat content comes from a special blend of fats (called MCT), specifically designed to help colicky and reflux babies who have trouble digesting fats. I would definitely check with your doctor before using this formula, though, since it’s so specialized.
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? Which ones were a disaster?
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