When it comes to baby formula, one size does not fit all—every baby is different. And while formulas have the nutrition to support your little one’s growth and development, some are specially designed for specific concerns, like excessive fussiness, spit-up, allergies, and other issues. Is it time to ask your pediatrician about switching to a more optimal formula fit? Let’s explore.
When should you switch baby formulas?
Most formula-fed babies start with an everyday milk-based formula. However, if you notice your baby is experiencing one or more of the following issues, check with your pediatrician. It’s possible that your little one may not be tolerating their current formula.
Whether you call it spit-up or reflux, the experience is the same—a teaspoon or two of milk or formula will dribble out your baby’s mouth after feeding, often accompanied by a burp. The good news is that spit-up is usually not harmful, and most babies don’t even mind it. Plus, it’s expected—typical spit-up occurs in half of babies.
However, if your baby is spitting up after every meal or seems uncomfortable, talk to your doctor. They can rule out complications or see if something else is going on. Your doctor may recommend switching to a formula designed to help ease spit-up issues. These formula types usually have added rice and starch for a thicker consistency, which can help the formula stay down.
Almost all babies experience moments of fussiness. After all, crying is how babies communicate if they are hungry, sick, or need a diaper change. Excessive fussiness, though, could point to a food sensitivity that’s causing uncomfortable gas.
Some babies may be sensitive to the lactose in everyday nutrition milk-based formulas. To help identify if the formula is the fussiness culprit, keep a diary of when your baby cries and how long it has been since the last feeding. If you think there’s a formula-fussiness correlation, talk to your pediatrician, who may suggest transitioning from your current formula to one with easier-to-digest proteins.
Cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA) is a common food allergy among infants. It’s when the immune system overreacts to one or more proteins found in cow’s milk. Since most formulas are cow’s milk-based, a baby with CMPA can experience a wide range of issues, including:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Excessive crying/colic
- Frequent spit-up
- Skin rashes
- Respiratory issues such as wheezing
CMPA is managed by eliminating cow’s milk protein from your baby’s diet because even a tiny amount could potentially trigger an allergic reaction. If you suspect your little one has CMPA, talk to your doctor. If they confirm your baby has CMPA, they’ll probably advise switching to a hypoallergenic infant formula.
Little ones sometimes struggle with pooping, and that can lead to occasional constipation. Some indicators that your baby may be constipated include:
- Reduced bowel movement frequency
- Showing discomfort during bowel movements
- Arching their back or squeezing their buttocks while attempting to poop
- Swollen and tender abdomen
- Hard, small, pellet-like stool or occasional liquid stool in the diaper
- Unusually large, wide poop
While constipation is not uncommon in babies, you’ll want to keep an eye out for constipation accompanied by other issues, such as:
- Excessive fussiness
- Dramatically fewer bowel movements
Constipation can sometimes be an indication of a cow’s milk protein allergy, which means you might need to switch to a hypoallergenic formula. If your little one doesn’t have CMPA, a formula with easier to digest proteins and prebiotics might help make their poops softer and easier to pass. A visit with your doctor can help you determine the next steps.
Healthy baby poop can take on a variety of colors and hues, from yellow to brown to even green. However, red stools are not typical and might indicate cow’s milk protein allergy or another health concern. Consult your pediatrician. If it turns out your baby has CMPA, your doctor will likely recommend switching to a hypoallergenic formula.
Talk to your pediatrician before switching formulas
With so many infant formulas available, knowing which is the right one for your baby can be a bit overwhelming. It can be even more confusing if your little one shows indications they aren’t tolerating their current formula. Your pediatrician is your best resource for identifying issues that may necessitate a switch and guiding you and your baby through the transition process. So, trust your instincts and lean on your pediatrician’s expertise as you work together to ensure your baby gets optimal nourishment.