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How to Choose the Best Formula for Your Colicky Baby & What Worked for Us


An empty baby bottle on a high chair is clean and ready for infant formula.

When it comes to feeding your baby, I firmly believe that Fed is Best.

Whether you choose to breastfeed, use formula, or use a combination of the two, your baby is lucky to have a mama like you caring for them. Everyone’s situation is unique, so I wanna make it clear at the start: you do what’s best for you and your baby.


But I get it. It can be hard to know what’s best, especially when you’re knee-deep in colic and your baby’s screaming for hours on end. You just want to help her/him.


If you’re using formula, you’re probably wondering:

  • Does my baby have a milk allergy?

  • How do I choose the best baby formula?

  • There are SO many options for baby formula… which ones work for colic?

  • Do I need a hypoallergenic formula for my colicky baby?

  • Should I use liquid or powder formula?

Today, I’m sharing what worked for me and my two colicky babies. I finally found two formulas that worked for our little ones. But yikes! – what a long, frustrating road to get there.


**Hopefully, what I’m sharing can save you some time and headaches.** Keep reading for how to choose the best formula for your colicky baby!


Are There Baby Formulas Specifically Made for Colic?

A colicky baby cries while a mother tries to give her a bottle.

While there’s not a perfect “colic baby formula” on the market, many formulas do have ingredients that can help with colic symptoms such as reflux and bloating. Some formulas that may help address colic include:

  • Hypoallergenic formula

  • Lactose-free formula

  • Liquid formula

  • Non-dairy formula

  • Soy-based formula (*may or may not be recommended for babies with colic)

Formulas that include probiotics, prebiotics, and DHA can also be beneficial.


***Always check with your pediatrician when choosing a formula for your baby.


What Is Hypoallergenic Formula?

The others types of formulas are self-explanatory. But what does it mean for baby formula to be “hypoallergenic”?


Hypoallergenic formula is cow’s milk formula that contains broken-down proteins. These smaller proteins make it easier for babies with colic to digest. You may also see amino acid formulas, which are hypoallergenic formulas that can benefit babies with severe milk and/or soy allergies.


Why Is Hypoallergenic Formula Recommended for Babies With Colic?

There can be an association between colic and milk protein sensitivity. Colicky babies may have a milk protein allergy or sensitivity. (Though not all do.) This is one reason the hypoallergenic formula is a great feeding solution for colicky babies.


Hypoallergenic formulas are commonly made with cow’s milk, so it may be confusing why they can work for babies with a cow’s milk or milk protein allergy. These formulas are made so that the milk protein that is often the cause of a baby’s sensitivity is broken down to make it easily digestible for the colicky baby.


If your child has a severe allergy or you’re concerned about the ingredients in a formula, talk to your pediatrician. There are also lactose-free formula options available.


The switch to hypoallergenic formula can turn fussy babies into happy, content ones!


This type of formula has nutritional properties and can help grow healthy gut bacteria. Pre- and probiotics are important parts of most hypoallergenic formulas. These are also important for gut health in infants.


When Should I Ask a Pediatrician About Hypoallergenic Formula for Colic?

It’s never too early.


If your baby’s been diagnosed with colic, chances are your baby’s already experienced gas, reflux, bloating, clenched fists, or gone through the Period of PURPLE Crying.


Your doctor may have important insight into possible allergies (milk, soy, etc.) that could be making your little one uncomfortable.


Should I Try a Hypoallergenic Formula First?

No. It is not recommended to start a newborn baby with a hypoallergenic formula.


Dr. Kathy Chen, Pediatric Gastroenterologist, states that babies should, “start with standard formula or breastmilk. There is no evidence for hypoallergenic formulas as the first line even with family history. The hypoallergenic formulas are not recommended as a first start for babies. First formula trials should still be the standard one.”


My Experience With Hypoallergenic Formula and Why It Was a GAMECHANGER

First off, I went through A LOT searching for a baby formula that worked for colic. It was frustrating, confusing, and frankly… Sh%&.


So if you’re reading this and have searched or are searching for anything that will work to soothe your baby’s discomfort, you’re not alone.


My friend who also had a baby with colic told me about a formula that worked for her baby. She referred to it as “liquid gold.” I thought that was a funny nickname. I didn’t really understand until I actually tried it.


My friend said, “Put me on hold and tell your husband to stop typing whatever email he’s working on and get his keys right now. Because he needs to go pick up this formula for you.” And of course, he did just that. Thank goodness he was working from home that day!


Sure enough – I’d struck gold! This formula, Similac Alimentum, was:

  • “Ready-to-Feed”

  • A pre-mixed liquid (No stirring needed aka NO BUBBLES!)

  • More expensive, but TOTALLY worth it


We used Similac Alimentum for our daughter's colic, and it worked. These are the first three bottles of formula that arrived.

I’d switched her formula a handful of times and went down the pediatrician-recommended list. We even tried soy-based. To say it was frustrating would be an understatement. Everytime we switched, we had to slowly transition and have to give it some time before we were able to “rule it out.” Then once a formula didn’t help her colic and digestion, it was back to the drawing board. Again.

When I was pregnant with my second baby, I swore I wouldn’t waste time going through the recommended list of formulas. I promised myself I would go straight to the liquid gold one that worked with our first. Unfortunately, for our second baby with colic, it didn’t work right away.


A good reminder that all babies are different. And each colicky baby has different needs.


We ended up trying a powder formula called Neocate, but she hated the taste. This formula was even further broken down than Alimentum. But, unfortunately, while it is easier to digest, the taste is affected and oftentimes can be a new obstacle for the baby. She wasn’t taking in enough nutrients. So we switched back to the Liquid Alimentum brand. On the second try, she accepted it and it really helped her.


If you’ve tried a liquid hypoallergenic formula once with no success, it may be worth it to pause. Try another formula. Then try the liquid one again. Sometimes the baby’s tastes can change or giving another try can be beneficial.

Before choosing a baby formula, ask your doctor for their best hypoallergenic brand recommendation. See if they think this could be a good solution for your baby.



Here Are the Two Brands of Hypoallergenic Formula I Used With My Colicky Babies

I used both of these hypoallergenic formula brands with our daughters. These are both liquid formulas. I found that even the smallest amount of stirring with the powder formulas caused bubbles. Bubbles can create more gas and reflux, thus causing more fussiness and discomfort.


1. Similac Alimentum (liquid)

Photo credit: similac.com


Pros

  • Hypoallergenic liquid baby formula

  • Has broken-down proteins making it easier to digest

  • Formulated for babies with food allergies and colic

Cons

  • It’s on the pricier side: $71.99 for a pack of 6 32-fl-oz bottles (per the website)

  • Once opened, it needs to be refrigerated and used within 48 hours


2. Enfamil Nutramigen Hypoallergenic Liquid Infant Formula

Photo credit: enfamil.com


Pros

  • Lactose-free hypoallergenic formula

  • Milk-based

  • Amino-acid based

  • “Clinically shown to reduce colic due to cow’s milk allergy within 48 hrs.”(2)

Cons

  • It’s also on the pricier side: $85.99 for a pack of 6 32-fl-oz bottles (per the website)

  • Once opened, it needs to be refrigerated and used within 24 hours

  • Each bottle can only sit out for 1 hour. After that, we’d have to dump it if our baby didn’t drink it all.


A reminder that the powder form of Liquid Alimentum and Nutramigen ARE NOT the same as the liquid. The ready-to-feed aspect of these formulas is not only a timesaver, but it is key to helping a baby’s digestion.


A note about price points for both of these formulas: While more expensive than some powder or generic baby formula brands, it’s well worth the investment. Look at it this way – if the baby is throwing up or pooping more because the formula’s not right, you end up spending money on more diapers, supplies, etc. Might as well help their tummies feel better!


 

When it comes to colic, parents dread it when a little one’s experiencing stomach pain. This can ruin your baby's day and make yours difficult. All mothers want and deserve to provide their babies with a formula that works.


For many colicky babies, hypoallergenic formulas can help reduce digestive complications caused by a standard formula. For us, THIS WAS A GAMECHANGER! I hope it is for you, too.


References


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