Formula 411 for Food Allergy Families

Posted 8.15.08 | Nutrition Specialist

When my wife and I were expecting our first child, a lot of questions went through our minds, such as “My God, what have we done!”

Just kidding, we knew from the first kick Vincent would be awesome.

But we did ask ourselves a lot of big questions, including just how many ways are there to manufacture a sippy cup? And how do two people choose one from the entire wall of sippy cups at Babies R Us? What exact temperature should the bath water be? And how many IQ points is the kid going to lose if we paint the nursery the wrong color?

When you find out your baby has a food allergy, there’s a whole new set of questions. And just what exactly do you feed the little guy or gal is at the top of the list.

If you’re a breastfeeding mother, you’ll need to work with your healthcare team to identify everything the baby is allergic to and remove all those foods from your diet. If the baby relies on formula for some or all of his diet, you’ll need to make a formula change. But what do you change to?

Here’s the 411 on the different types of formula and what you should know about them if you’re a food allergy family.

Cow’s milk formula
This is most of the formula you’ll find in the grocery story aisle. It’s based on cow’s milk and fine for most healthy babies. But milk allergy is the most common food allergy among babies. So that milk, which contains full protein chains, is bad news for a food allergy baby.

Soy formula
This formula is based on soy instead of cow’s milk so it is dairy-free, but it is still not recommended for a food allergy baby, since as many as 70% of babies with a milk allergy also have a soy allergy.

Hydrolysate formula
Instead of the full protein chains in cow’s milk formula, hydrolysate formulas have protein chains that are broken into smaller pieces. This makes the formula easier for some food allergy babies to digest, but it doesn’t help everyone.

Amino acid-based formula
This formula doesn’t contain any protein chains at all. Instead it contains the individual amino acids that make up a protein. Essentially, it is baby’s nutrition in its simplest form and the absolute easiest thing for a milk allergy baby (or any baby with gastrointestinal issues) to digest. Using an amino acid-based formula like Neocate typically clears up a milk allergy baby’s gastrointestinal symptoms in 3-5 days and any skin rash associated with the food allergy within 2 weeks.

This is the basic rundown. If you have any further questions, feel free to post a comment below.

Be well,
Dr. Y

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About Us

Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.