If your baby has colic and is bottle-fed, changing formula may seem like a simple fix to stop the discomfort. And in some cases, switching from a cow’s milk formula to another type of formula is clearly warranted, such as if your baby has a milk allergy. But, will changing your baby’s formula actually help with colic?
The research on whether changing formulas is effective at reducing colic is mixed. A recent meta-analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews looked at several studies. Involving 1,121 infants who were up to 16 weeks old, researchers found there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend dietary modifications for colic. More research needs to be done on the impact different types of formula have on colic, the researchers said.
Switching from a cow’s milk formula to a hydrolyzed formula that’s gentler on a baby’s tummy has been recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for babies with colic. The AAP said parents could try a two-week trial of hydrolyzed formula to see if the gentler formula helps calm their baby.
Changing Formula OR Probiotic Drops
But before you change formula, there’s another option to consider that has been supported by research: probiotic drops. When researchers looked at data from several trials that included more than 1,300 newborns, they found that probiotics significantly reduced colic.
Even better, you can choose the specific strains of probiotics that have been found in studies to help with colic. The strains used in Colic Relief Plus® by Second to Mom have been studied and found to reduce crying in babies with colic by 60% after seven to 21 days of giving the drops daily. The supplement also improved the diversity of gut bacteria, which supports a healthy gastrointestinal tract and leads to less colic.
If you still want to change your baby’s formula
If you’d like to try a new formula, talk to your pediatrician first. Your baby’s doctor may recommend changing the brand of cow’s milk formula you’re using. And if you do decide to try a hydrolyzed or other type of formula, be sure to get advice on the brand of that formula to choose.
Here’s a guide to the different types of formula available and how changing formula might help your baby.
Cow’s milk formula.
Most formulas are made of cow’s milk that’s safe for infants. The milk has been heated and undergone processes to make the protein more digestible for babies. More lactose is also added so that the milk is closer to breast milk.
Also called “predigested” or hypoallergenic formula, hydrolyzed formula includes a protein that has been broken down so it’s easier to digest. These formulas may be partially hydrolyzed, extensively hydrolyzed, or completely hydrolyzed. They can help babies with allergies, including those who experience wheezing and rashes, and may help with colic. Hydrolyzed formula tends to cost more than cow’s milk formula.
Babies who have a rare disorder called galactosemia, in which their bodies can’t convert a sugar in milk to glucose, may be given soy formula or another formula that doesn’t contain lactose. Lactose is the carbohydrate in cow’s milk. Babies are screened for this disorder as newborns, so you’ll know if your baby falls into this category. Some parents choose soy formula because they prefer a vegetarian or vegan diet. Soy formulas are also sometimes given to babies who can’t digest lactose. It is rare for babies to have significant problems with lactose. Keep in mind that babies with a true milk allergy are likely to be sensitive to soy protein, as well.
This formula can be used for babies who can’t digest lactose.
These types of formulas are specially designed for babies with specific disorders or diseases. They may be given to premature infants, babies who have reflux and aren’t gaining weight, or to babies who have diseases such as heart disease. You shouldn’t give this formula to your baby unless your pediatrician recommends it.
If you decide to change formula
If you’ve discussed your baby’s colic with your pediatrician and decide to try something new, be sure to introduce the new formula gradually. Mix the new formula with the formula you’ve been giving your baby, adding more of the new milk incrementally over several days.