Formula, while it does provide all of the necessary nutrients to help your baby grow, is not what nature intended for your baby to eat. A baby has a very delicate digestive system, and breast milk is designed to accommodate that system and provide it with the easiest to digest and most complete source of food possible.
Because infant formulas will never be able to replicate the composition of breast milk, it will never be as easy on a baby’s system. Most babies, however, do tolerate it well. In some cases though, a baby may be sensitive or even allergic to ingredients found in formula.
Milk Allergies and Lactose Intolerance
Most baby formulas are made with a cow’s milk base. The proteins in this base are harder for the baby to digest, but this is not the most serious problem babies may encounter when being fed a milk-based formula. Some babies are allergic to cow’s milk, or may be lactose intolerant. These are not the same thing, but both can mean a cow’s milk formula won’t be tolerated by the baby.
Lactose intolerance occurs when the body is not able to process lactose, a form of sugar found in milk and milk products. This is caused by a lack of the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for breaking down lactose. People who are lactose intolerant experience a great deal of gastrointestinal distress when they consume milk products.
A milk allergy occurs when the immune system responds strongly to something in the milk and can be very serious. Signs may include hives, eczema, diaper rash and also gastrointestinal distress. Any signs of a response to a milk-based protein should be reported to your doctor immediately.
Babies who are allergic to milk may also be allergic to soy, which is the second most popular protein base for infant formula. The signs of an allergy are similar to the reactions to milk based formulas. If you have tried both and your baby can’t seem to tolerate either, talk to your doctor about switching to a more specialized formula.
Formula designed for babies who are sensitive, allergic, or lactose intolerant is available and is known as hypoallergenic formula. Talk to your doctor before making the switch to one of these formulas. They can be very expensive, and it’s best to be sure that your baby’s symptoms are indeed caused by the formula before putting a lot of money into trying pricey hypoallergenic versions.
Some babies simply have very sensitive tummies. It isn’t necessarily an allergy or lactose intolerance, but simple a digestive system that isn’t up to the task of digesting formula. You may need to try numerous formulas before finding one that is tolerated well. Some formulas for sensitive babies now exist, which are easier to digest.
The best way to avoid formula sensitivities is to breast feed your baby. Breast milk is not only healthier for baby, but it is the easiest baby food to digest. It was made for your baby’s body, and as hard the formula companies try, they simply can’t replicate what nature has created for your baby.
For babies who can not tolerate formula but whose mother is unable to provide breast milk, especially premature babies, donated breast milk is available. Talk to the hospital or your doctor about using banked milk for your baby.