There is no doubt that mother’s milk is the optimal form of feeding for infants. In cases where the mother cannot or does not want to breastfeed, however, parents can be overwhelmed by the wide selection of infant formula available. Should they spend more for specialized infant formula?
A new study shows that healthy infants have a similar tolerance for regular formulas as for those made with hydrolyzed proteins, which confirms that most parents don’t need to make expensive “hypoallergenic” formulas their first choice. Hypoallergenic preparations contain cow’s milk proteins, just like regular infant formulas. The difference between the two is that, in hypoallergenic formulas, the proteins are broken down into smaller amino acid sequences, which makes them less likely to trigger allergic responses than intact cow’s milk proteins.
A study was conducted on 335 healthy full-term infants who had no family history of milk allergies. In order to assess their tolerance for various infant formulas, they were randomly assigned either a standard formula or hypoallergenic formula for 60 days. The researchers observed that the number of doctor-diagnosed formula intolerances (problems such as diarrhea, gas, constipation and vomiting) was similar in the group that was given a hypoallergenic formula as in the group that was given a standard formula.
In addition, regardless of the type of formula assigned, parents were more likely than doctors to think their baby was suffering from digestive upset and therefore want to change formulas. The findings are consistent with those of past studies concluding that many parents mistake normal infant behaviour (spitting up, excessive crying and irritability) for signs of formula intolerance. Before deciding on their own to switch infant formulas due to presumed intolerance, parents should therefore always consult their physician.
Hydrolyzed-protein formulas are recommended, however, for infants who aren’t being breast-fed and who are at high risk for allergies, in other words if several family members are allergic to milk. If you think your baby is not tolerating regular infant formula very well, don’t make a medical decision on your own – take an appointment and speak to your family physician!