Does your baby need a hypoallergenic formula? Your Questions Answered

3 min


Some babies are born with food allergies and intolerances. Others can develop them throughout their life. For breastfed babies, a mother may avoid eating the allergens and the baby will continue to breastfeed safely. Yet some infants do not improve symptoms. Or the mothers are unable to tolerate a restricted diet. This is where the hypoallergenic formula comes to the rescue.

If you have a baby diagnosed with a food allergy or you suspect an allergy, you surely have many questions about the baby hypoallergenic formula. We will try to answer your questions today.

Is there a difference between a food allergy and food intolerance?

Yes, there is a difference. Let’s define the two terms. Food allergy is an overzealous immune response that happens when your baby’s immune system attacks a food, thinking that the food is the invader.

Trying to defend the body, your baby’s immune system will produce histamine, causing a variety of symptoms like swelling, itchiness, and even gastrointestinal discomfort.

Here is a fun fact: 90% of food allergies in children are produced by just six foods, or you can call them food groups. Those are eggs, milk, peanuts, soy, wheat, and tree nuts.

Intolerance, on the other hand, is something that happens when the body lacks one or more digestive enzymes needed to break down a particular food. This will cause irritation in the digestive system and symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

What is the hypoallergenic baby formula?

There are many different baby formulas that are hypoallergenic. They are designed for babies who cannot tolerate cow’s milk-based formulas.

The term “hypoallergenic” simply means that the formula contains protein that has been broken down into very small proteins. Because they are tiny, they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction.

Depending on the allergy, the formula will have tiny proteins in order for the baby to tolerate the standard formula. Here is an example. A baby with a very severe allergy will not be able to tolerate any protein particles. This baby will need an elemental formula, which contains only amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.

The American Academy of Pediatrics sets the standard for hypoallergenic formula. It must be:

  • Studied in a clinical trial
  • Studied in children with cow’s milk allergy
  • Tolerated by at least 90% of the patients

Only then it can be approved.

What babies need hypoallergenic formula?

Going back to the American Academy of Pediatricians, it recommends that hypoallergenic formula only be used in infants with clear medical symptoms. Babies with sensitivities might not need a hypoallergenic formula. That is unless they have a true allergy.

Signs your baby needs a hypoallergenic formula

To best determine whether your infant needs hypoallergenic formula or not, look at some of the symptoms.

  • Your baby is struggling with acid reflux
  • There is blood in the stool and you should always contact the doctor
  • You see snot-poo, or thick stingy mucus often bridging the folds of the diaper
  • Pooping is a full-body sport that your baby hates. And that is because of inflammation in the intestines that lead to spasm and cramping, making it uncomfortable for your baby
  • Your baby has constant diarrhea, and it is a sign of unhealthy bowel
  • Your baby is plagued by eczema
  • Your baby seems to have a chronic stuffy nose and wheezing. Talk to the doctor about reflux or a milk allergy

Types of hypoallergenic formulas

As we said before, depending on the severity of the allergy, your baby should use a different type of formula. That being said, these are the formulas you can choose from.

Soy-based formula

Soy-based formula is a great alternative to cow’s milk. But it is not considered 100% hypoallergenic. According to statistics, 50% of children with intolerance to milk protein can develop soy protein intolerance if they are fed soy-based formula.

That means it is not a viable option for babies with cow’s milk allergy and intolerance.

Partially hydrolyzed formula

In this formula, the proteins are only partially broken down. They should not be used for babies with a milk protein allergy because they are not truly hypoallergenic. Babies can still have a reaction.

Extensively hydrolyzed

This formula contains protein that is extensively broken down and very small in size. Babies do not usually display a reaction to this type of formula. The tiny milk protein size makes it normal for babies to digest it.

According to some statistics, 90% of babies with an allergy to cow’s milk can tolerate the extensively hydrolyzed formula.

Amin acid-based

This formula is also known as the elemental formula. It contains absolutely no protein molecules. No small or tiny or extremely small proteins. Instead, the proteins are broken down into their building blocks, which is amino acids.

It is 100% non-allergenic and used for babies who cannot tolerate extensively hydrolyzed formula.

Is hypoallergenic formula safe?

As we talked about before, the American Academy of Pediatrics calls for strict rules and research before it can approve any hypoallergenic formula. These products meet strict standards of safety to ensure the growth and development of your baby.

To be labeled hypoallergenic, a formula has to prove it doesn’t cause an allergic reaction in 90% of infants or children with confirmed cow’s milk allergy.

For a baby with a severe allergy that isn’t breastfed, this type of hypoallergenic baby formula is the only safe way to feed.

What can you expect when you start using it? Parents will notice a few changes in their babies once they start using the hypoallergenic baby formula. Mainly, parents notice changes in the stool. They include a change in color, consistency, or frequency of a baby’s poop. The new formula will help with bowel movement.

Remember, this type of formula should only be used in babies with clear medical symptoms that would benefit from it. If not, do not use a specialty formula.

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