Breastmilk is best for your baby for the first 6 months but for mothers who cannot breastfeed or opt to provide formula there is a huge choice. There are many formula milks available from the supermarket shelves or via prescription. It is difficult to know which one to try. Especially, if your baby is suffering with colic or reflux symptoms. Here I shed some light on the variety of milks for colic.
If your baby is uncomfortable and distressed but otherwise healthy, there are formula milk which are marketed towards colic and constipation, such as ‘Comfort Milk’. This type of milk is produced by various formula milk manufacturers and readily available from supermarkets and chemists.
Comfort milk is reduced in lactose. Lactose is the sugars present in milk that can be difficult for babies to digest due to an inhibition of their lactase enzymes. The formula is partly hydrolysed which means that the cows milk proteins are broken down so it is easier for your baby to digest.
If you suspect your baby’s colic is due to either a sensitivity to cows milk protein or a mild lactose intolerance, then comfort milk maybe a formula to try. For further information about lactose intolerance see the article here. https://colicsos.com/lactose-intolerance-everything-you-need-to-know/
Anti-reflux formula is marketed towards parents of babies suffering with reflux symptoms such as frequent regurgitation (bringing milk back up).
This milk is a thickened formula, using carob bean gum or potato stratch. The thickened formula is helpful for reflux babies due to it being a ‘stay down’ milk. Due to it’s thickened consistency it is less likely to wash back up the oesophagus.
A 2016 research study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4737686/ found that anti-reflux milk is effective for babies suffering with simple reflux which are those babies that are often referred to as ‘happy spitters’. This is where babies are regurgitating their milk without any other reflux symptoms such as pain, distress, etc.
If your baby is suffering with constipation, then a thickened formula may not be the best choice of milk. As the formula is thickened, it can take the stomach longer to digest. If your baby has a slower digestion (very common due immaturity of the digestive system) then it can cause more gas, discomfort and contribute to constipation.
Lactose Free Milk
Lactose free milk is available for babies who are showing signs of lactose intolerance. This is usually prescribed by your GP. As babies can occasionally suffer with lactose intolerance (usually on a temporary basis) this formula is free from the lactose sugars. However it is made with whey (one of the cows milk proteins) so it is not suitable for babies with a sensitivity or allergy to cows milk protein.
Lactose is essential for a baby’s brain development so a lactose free milk should not be used for an extensive period of time if it is not necessary.
Formula for Allergies
Dairy free formula is a complicated one as many formulas prescribed by GPs still contain cows milk protein but it has been extensively hydrolysed. This makes it easier for babies to digest the protein. Formulas such as Similiac, Aptamil Pepti and Nutramigen all still contain milk proteins but they are broken down. If your baby is struggling with a sensitivity to cows milk proteins then the above milks maybe helpful. For further information on CMPA and the symptoms then you can read more here. https://colicsos.com/milk-allergy-in-babies/
If your baby has CMPA and does not respond to the extensively hydrolysed formulas mentioned above, then a formula made from amino acids is more likely to be the better option for your baby. Here is a link to the research about the amino acid formulas; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5084628/.
The manufacturers of amnio acid based formula include Neocate and SMA Alfamino.
Goat milk based formula
Goat milk formula is being anecdotally recommended by families who have switched their baby to goat milk based formula and seen an improvement in their baby’s colic symptoms.
This may have something to do with the fact that there is no added whey in the formula and it also has a lower lactose content.
It is important to understand that goat milk formula still contains casein and lactose and it is not suitable for babies who have been diagnosed with cow’s milk protein allergies.
Soy formula is also available and parents maybe tempted to try soy for their baby. However it is not recommended for babies as scientific research has found that that it can alter reproductive cells. For further information about this please see the following article www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180312150509.htm.
Although further research is required in this area, there are better alternative formulas available. Further more, soy has a very similar protein to cows milk so for many, those who have a sensitivity to cows milk will also suffer a sensitivity to soy.
Trial & Error
It can be difficult to know which milk to try and it really can be a case of trial and error until you find a formula which works for your baby. However with a little more understanding of how each specialist formula works, hopefully it makes the complicated world of formula a little less confusing.