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11 Sneaky Baby Formula Allergy Symptoms to Watch For

Have you every wondered if the reason your baby was SO CRANKY was because of baby formula allergy symptoms?

Be honest, it would be nice to have a cause behind all the crankiness. What if his fussiness could be fixed with a simple formula switch?

Let’s see if that’s the answer you’ve been praying for.

What You Need to Know About Allergies & Formula

When it comes to a baby formula allergy, most parents jump to the assumption that their baby is lactose intolerant.

WRONG!

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 sugar, 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.)

This 2016 study found up to 7 percent of all babies can struggle with a formula allergy, so it’s a good idea to be aware of what you’re looking for.

This way you’re not switching to a more expensive baby formula for no reason!

How to Tell if Baby is Allergic to Formula

Like most things, there’s a wide spectrum of symptoms and reactions when it comes to a formula allergy.

On one hand, it could be very minor, showing up in the form of a gassy tummy, or eczema behind the knees or elbows. On the other, in more severe formula allergy cases, your child could struggle with colic or have uncontrollable diarrhea.

Below are 11 ways to tell if baby is allergic to formula, split into two categories of mild and severe cases.

5 Symptoms of a Mild Formula Allergy

  1. Dry, itchy, flaky patches of skin (eczema)
  2. Hives (red blotchy spots)
  3. Swollen lips or mouth (call 911 if you see troubled breathing)
  4. A red ring around the anus that doesn’t seem to respond to diaper rash remedies
  5. Straining to pass gas, very fussy and irritable after eating.

These allergy symptoms may be greatly helped by switching to a sensitive baby formula. Talk with your doctor about the sensitive baby formulas later in this article

6 Symptoms of a More Severe Formula Allergy

  1. Uncontrollable crying (for hours)
  2. Severe diarrhea (average of 2-4 times a day – call your doctor to prevent dehydration, which is extremely dangerous!)
  3. bloody stools
  4. a failure to thrive, not gaining weight (should double birth weight by 6 months)
  5. excessive spitting up and difficulty swallowing (you should also consider these formulas designed for acid reflux)
  6. wheezing (with ear to chest, can hear a rattling sound when breathing – if you hear this, call your doctor right away.)

If your child seems to suffer from any of the symptoms listed above, you will want to talk to your doctor about switching to a hypoallergenic formula. I’ve listed several below so you can see what those look like.

Baby Formulas Designed for a Sensitive Stomach

If your baby checked off all the boxes of the mild formula allergy symptoms, here are the top formulas to talk over with your doctor. These may be the answer you’re looking for!

Kabrita Goat’s Milk Formula

My favorite solution for a milk sensitivity (or allergy) is to avoid the main culprit, cow’s milk, and try something with a totally different structure: a formula based on goat’s milk.

Goat’s milk been shown to be easier on tiny tummies to digest, being more like breastmilk in that arena. And although I don’t recommend giving your baby straight up goat’s milk (the protein component can be hard on tiny kidneys), a formula based on goat’s milk is a smart place to start.

You can only get it by ordering directly from their website. Click here to get a free sample of Kabrita’s goat’s milk formula and try before you buy!

You may notice Kabrita says “Toddler Formula”. This is a labeling thing with the FDA. This formula is recommended for babies over 6 months who have started eating solid foods.

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

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. 

Good Start Soothe

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. 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.)

Hypoallergenic Formulas Useful for Severe Formula Allergies

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.  

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. 

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. 

 Extensive HA

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.

The Proof is in the Pudding Lack of Crying

Hopefully, you’ve got a game plan now. You’ve gone through the list of baby formula allergy symptoms and have a formula to start testing out.

What’s next?

Firstly, if you think your baby needs a hypoallergenic formula go ahead and call to your pediatrician. She’ll want to do a physical exam and perhaps even send a stool sample out to the lab.

If you’re in the first camp, pick out the sensitive baby formula you want to start with and begin to transition your baby slowly over to the new formula.

  1. First Day: 75% old formula, 25% new formula
  2. Second Day: 50% old formula, 50% new formula
  3. Third Day: 75% new formula, 25% old formula
  4. Fourth Day: 100% new formula

Going slow can help prevent extra gas bubbles and give your baby’s digestive system a chance to adjust.  Once you’ve moved over 100% to the new formula, go through the baby formula allergy symptoms listed above again. Are they improving? If so, happy dance! If not, give your doctor another call and perhaps start treating each symptom (like eczema) separately.

The important thing is to keep moving! Keep working to find answers. You will find them eventually! (That’s the good thing about time. It’s a great healer!)

How About Some Citations?

Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy. GIKids.org
Incidence of Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy. BJGP.org (medical journal)
Lactose Intolerance. GIKids.org
Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema). MayClinic.org
Ausnutria Hyproca Study Says Goat Milk Infant Formula Digestion Closer to Human Milk. DairyReporter.com

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468 thoughts on “11 Sneaky Baby Formula Allergy Symptoms to Watch For

  1. Hello, Tracy!

    There is definitely something going on here, and since we are not doctors here at Incredible Infant, I would advise you take him back to your pediatrician for more tests to see if he/she can get to the root of what is happening here. It may be a food allergy, but it may be something else as well. It’s best to get a professional’s opinion/diagnosis before you begin spending money on more expensive formulas etc . .. Pediatricians are trained to help parents with these kinds of infant issues, and I would urge you to seek their advise. It’s wonderful that you are so aware and in tune with your son’s health and wanting to help. You may want to consider talking to your doctor about starting some probiotic drops that may give his little system an added boost to help with these issues. Best of luck, Tracy. You are a good mom.

  2. My son has an allergic reaction to something and we are on an elimination diet for many months now and can’t seem to find it.  He has swelling in his throat (on meds for that) and a rash all over his arms and legs.  The rash is worse on his upper arms and upper legs.  Mostly on the tops not the underneath.  There are alot of pimple-like bumps as well, most of those are skin colored.  We’ve been told the entire rash is just keratosis pilaris.  But I’ve known people with that and it’s no where close to this bad and I’d swear this is food related.  When we had him on 3 foods only it went away.  Sorry for the long story, but I’m hoping you might have heard of this before from an ingredient in formula?  The very first time we saw it, was when he started on Alimentum ready to feed formula.  Tapioca?  Safflower oil?  DHA/ARA?  Thanks!

  3. My 9 month old (born very premature) was breastfed for the first 6 months, then started supplementing with Similac Advance. I didn’t notice much difference. Now he is almost completely formula fed with some solid foods. We went away on vacation and I’m pretty sure we bought the exact same formula but in a can. We almost instantly saw a difference in my son- his stool was firm and no longer loose and watery (which we had assumed was his norm) and he started being able to tolerate being on his belly and rolling over. Now we returned home and back to the same formula but in a plastic container and his diapers have returned to their previous consistency and he no longer want to be on his belly/roll over. I know there can’t possibly be a connection and it must just be a coincidence but it’s weird how quickly the changes happened on both ends. I’m not sure what to make of it.

  4. Congratulations, new mommy! If your instincts are telling you it’s the formula, and you think you better try switching, make sure that you do it slowly to give her little body time to adjust. This article should help. You might also consider giving her some probiotics to help her little digestive tract if you want to try and stay with the soy formula. Good luck! You’re doing a great job so far.

  5. New mommy to a 15 week old. I’ve been feeding her Similac Soy since birth and she was good for a while. Recently in the last two weeks she’s been spitting up more and constipated. We thought she could be teething and tried to work in that but now I think it’s the formula. I really don’t want to do cows milk… I’m vegan… But it looks like I have no choice but to switch for Gerber good start and start trying things out. She’s been a fussy baby since day 1 and we thought it was colic but now I’m thinking it’s been the formula all this time. What should I do???? I’m at my wits ends and would like any suggestions please. Thanks!

  6. Hi.

    My little one is three weeks old. We had him on the Similac Advanced, but when he would eat he would start crying and squeal like he was in pain. This would be while he was eating, but not after. Still, we switched to Similac Sensitive. This is only the second day he has been on it- but I was wondering how long it normally takes to start seeing a difference. He also seems like he’s straining to poop. Lastly he spit up a good amount after one feeding last night, which he has never done before.

    Any suggestions?

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