What is Hypoallergenic Formula
If you see the term “hypoallergenic” on the label, this means that it contains a partially hydrolyzed formula, which has been proven to cause fewer allergies in babies than standard formulas. Since, by definition, the term “allergy” implies a sensitivity to a protein, the term “hypoallergenic” means that the protein in the formula has been “hydrolyzed” or “predigested,” broken down into tinier proteins that are less likely to cause allergic reactions.
Is Hypoallergenic Formula Right For My Baby?
Consider these potential problems with hydrolyzed protein formulas.
- The protein problem: In contrast to formulas that advertise “partially hydrolyzed protein,” in these formulas the proteins need to be completely hydrolyzed or broken down into smaller parts in order for the label to carry the term “hypoallergenic.” This requires intense processing that results in a bitter, almost unpalatable flavor, despite the high content of sweeteners. Tasting one of these formulas is enough to make any mother want to re-lactate.
- The carbohydrate problem: The carbohydrate problem: When the protein is hydrolyzed, the lactose is also taken out of the milk, so the manufacturer has to add carbohydrates — usually corn syrup, sucrose, corn starch, or even tapioca. As we described above, substituting other sugars for lactose may not be a good idea. Nor is it necessarily true that a baby with protein allergies will also be lactose intolerant.
- The salt problem: Hypoallergenic formulas are 30 to 90 percent higher in salt.
- The fat problem: The fat blend of Alimentum or Nutramigen is the same as found in each manufacturer’s cow’s-milk-based formulas, Similac and Enfamil, respectively. The primary fats in Pregestamil are medium-chain triglycerides, an intestinal-friendly fat that is used in children with fat malabsorption disorders. MCT’s are a factory-made fat. They do not occur in nature, and they provide no essential fatty acids essential for a baby’s growing brain and body. MCT’s can be used as an energy supplement to boost weight gain in infants growing slowly. Yet, they should not be a baby’s main fat source unless advised by your doctor. Pregestamil should not be given to healthy babies with no proven fat malabsorption disorders, or to infants with impaired liver function.
- The price problem: The infant pays a high nutritional price for these formulas, and parents discover that hypoallergenic formulas are four to five times more expensive than standard formulas.
Our conclusion on hypoallergenic formula: These formulas should not be used without a doctor’s recommendation, and then only if there is a definite medical reason. Don’t switch to one of these formulas just because baby is “fussy” without trying different standard formulas first. If your infant has different dietary restrictions that hypoallergenic baby formula cannot alleviate, we have articles on lactose-free formula and soy formula as well.
Hypoallergenic Formula Brands
There are three main types of hypoallergenic infant formula: Alimentum, Nutramigen, and Pregestamil. All three options contain hydrolyzed casein to provide a source of protein. The formulas differ in their sources of fat and carbs, which all have their pros and cons, depending on your baby’s needs.
For more on comparing different brands and identifying the best hypoallergenic formula for your baby, please visit our chart on comparing formulas.