Picture this: Your baby just woke up from a 20-minute nap and is crying loudly for food. If you quickly grab a can of formula instead of breastfeeding, does that make you a bad mom? That question is at the center of a heated debate surrounding newborn care and mom-shaming. Mothers are often judged for choosing formula over breast milk, especially if they’re using formulas for infants with food allergies. They’re even made to feel as if they’re failing their children by not providing the “liquid gold” their bodies are expected to naturally create. Chrissy Teigen spoke about the phenomenon on Twitter, encouraging people to “normalize formula.” “Normalize breastfeeding is such a huge, wonderful thing,” she tweeted. “But I absolutely felt way more shame having to use formula because of lack of milk from depression and what not.”
But is formula actually harmful to your child? “Mother’s milk is always encouraged, but if the volume is not enough or if there is no mother’s milk available, infant formula is a safe and nutritious alternative,” says Christina Valentine, M.D., M.S., R.D., F.A.A.P., neonatologist, dietitian, and medical director at RB Health. “U.S. infant formulas have complete nutrition for your baby.”
Valentine acknowledges that breast milk does have “benefits that infant formula doesn’t yet replicate,” which explains why the World Health Organization and many others say “babies should be fed exclusively with breast milk for the first six months of their life.” However, that doesn’t mean that you should swear off formula all together. “Modern formulas have a number of important ingredients like prebiotics to support the immune system, and fatty acids DHA and ARA for brain and eye development, which are helpful to your baby’s health and development,” Valentine explains.
And what if your child has food allergies? Valentine suggests looking for “U.S.-manufactured formulas that follow FDA guidance for adequacy and safety.” And don’t forget to consult your baby’s doctor. “Ask about formulas that are inspired by breast milk and have balanced nutrition as well as expert-recommended amounts of DHA and ARA, two important omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that support your baby’s brain and eye development,” says Valentine.
Read on for the 13 best formulas for infants with food allergies.
This one comes highly recommended by the medical community and Valentine echoes that sentiment, saying “Enfamil is the only leading formula brand to provide this global expert-recommended amount of DHA in all its formulas.” The Enfamil Sensitive preparation includes easy-to-digest proteins for infants with lactose sensitivity.
Valentine recommends exploring the whole “portfolio of solutions formulas for fussy babies or infants with upset tummies” at Enfamil. Enfamil Gentlease is formulated to calm gassy and upset stomachs within a day’s time.
Of course, your child’s specific allergy will dictate which formula is the best option. Valentine notes that, “cow’s milk allergy is a common childhood food allergy,” and for that, she recommends Nutramigen or “an extensively hydrolyzed casein formula.”
For infants with food allergies including colic symptoms, this Similac formula promises to reduce excessive crying within 24 hours. It has a predigested milk protein that’s broken down into tiny pieces, which is ideal for protein sensitivity.
This plant-based alternative works well for infants with an intolerance to dairy, soy, or tree nuts. Plus, it’s an organic option that will appeal to families looking to stick to a vegetarian diet.
If you’re dealing with excessive crying due to your baby’s fussiness and gas, try this formula for easy-to-digest comfort proteins that will settle that tiny stomach. Gerber’s soothing powder contains a carbohydrate blend with 30% lactose to help ease digestion.
For babies with sensitivities to cow milk, Mama Bear powder breaks down the protein so it’s easier to digest. This gentle formula helps to reduce gas, indigestion, and crying after feeding, while also helping your baby sleep more soundly.
Along with the broken-down whey protein that most hypoallergenic formulas offer, this option features B. lactis, a probiotic that improves the health of your baby’s digestive system and mimics those found in breast milk.
Kabrita offers a goat milk formula which the brand positions to be more digestible than cow milk for infants with protein sensitivity. The gentle feeding option is also free of glyphosate, a herbicide widely used on crops to kill weeds.
Since food allergies might accompany other ailments, this Pregestimil formula serves multiple purposes in regard to your baby’s health. First, it’s hypoallergenic which is ideal for little ones with lactose intolerance. The formula also contains 55% of the fat from MCT oil which is easily digested by infants with GI problems, including irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, colorectal cancer, and pancreatitis.
If you prefer an organic alternative, try Earth’s Best, which is formulated using organic milk from cows which are fed grain and hay without fertilizers or pesticides. This powder includes a reduced amount of lactose to cater to babies with a lower tolerance, preventing digestive issues like gas, vomiting, and indigestion.
Like most hypoallergenic options, the Happy Baby powder is formulated for babies with milk allergies, with organic lactose reduced by 75% to prevent gas and fussiness. But it also incorporates dual probiotics to help build up your baby’s digestive health, alongside a ton of essential vitamins and minerals including iron, calcium, and folic acid.
For babies that have trouble digesting regular and hydrolyzed protein, try an amino acid–based formula like EleCare. With amino acids as the protein source, the powder is ideal for infants with severe allergies, improving symptoms including inflammation and acid reflux. Some reviewers recommend adding ½ a teaspoon per ounce of rice to thicken the formula.