The Signs of Formula Intolerance and What to Do About It
When breastfeeding your baby is not an option for you, mothers can often rely on formula to keep their babies adequately fed, hydrated, developing, and growing both naturally and nutritionally.
Yet, for an estimated 2 to 15 percent of babies, formula intolerance can make feeding time difficult – at least until the causes are identified and treated.
Not to be confused with an allergy (i.e., a milk protein allergy, which is rare in infants), formula intolerance means that your baby has a sensitivity to an ingredient in the formula you’re feeding her. This can lead to irritation within your baby’s digestive system. The condition isn’t life-threatening, but it can cause dehydration and slow weight gain and growth.
As raising a newborn can be a confusing and stressful time for parents, our team at Rainbow Pediatrics wishes to clear any confusion you might have regarding formula intolerance. This includes knowing the signs that your baby may be experiencing the condition, when she or he is likely not experiencing intolerance to formula, and when it’s crucial to bring your baby in for a thorough checkup.
What are the Signs of Formula Intolerance?
It’s been estimated that up to half of all formula-fed babies have their formulas switched up by parents within the first few months of birth. The reason? Parents often mistake common infant responses to feedings with formula intolerance in an attempt to proactively protect their babies.
Parents should be aware that as babies’ digestive systems develop, gassiness, crying, spitting up, and general fussiness are perfectly normal following feedings. These issues typically resolve within the first few months of life, yet continually changing and experimenting with your baby’s formula type can exacerbate the problem.
So, how are you supposed to know if your baby’s dealing with bona fide formula intolerance? Signs to watch for include:
- Blood or mucus in your baby’s stool
- The baby often pulls her legs up toward her belly because of pain
- Difficulty with weight gain or noticeable weight loss
- Constant crying and signs of discomfort
If you find your baby is regularly experiencing one or more of these issues, we recommend you bring him or her to Rainbow Pediatrics for an examination. Be prepared to answer questions about the formula(s) you’ve been using and the specific symptoms your baby’s been having.
During the checkup, we may also take a stool sample to test for a variety of possible health problems, and we may perform tests to see if he or she is experiencing an allergic reaction from the formula.
What if My Baby Has Formula Intolerance?
If we ultimately determine that your baby is suffering from formula intolerance, often, simply changing the baby’s formula will resolve the issue.
If your baby, for instance, is reacting negatively to the iron-fortified formulas made from cow’s milk, which the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, switching to a formula that uses soy or rice proteins may be beneficial. Formulas made with proteins that have already been broken down (called hydrolyzed formula) are also available and much easier on developing digestive systems.
Along with the formula issue, however, your baby may also require treatment for a health problem caused by the intolerance, such as dehydration or a loss of weight. So, it’s essential that even if you feel 100 percent certain your baby is dealing with formula intolerance, you still consult your pediatrician regarding dietary changes and treatment options.
If you feel your baby may be suffering from formula intolerance, please contact our Rainbow Pediatrics team today to schedule a checkup in one of our Fayetteville-area clinics. Call us at (910) 486-5437.