Help & Advice – Formula Options and Digestion

Yes, yes breast is best! Best for immunity and digestion but sometimes breasts just don’t work the way you’d expect. There’s a lot of pressure but not enough practical advice on breastfeeding, do check out my book 7pm to 7am Sleeping Baby Routine where you will find all you need to know about establishing breastfeeding, supply and bottle feeding.

Breastfeeding isn’t always an option for some mothers so mix feeding to supplement or bottle feeding may be the way forward.

Baby being fed formula under advice

For the newborn stage my go-to standard formula milk is Aptamil. Of the cow’s milk formulas, it’s not the best quality but has the least amount of lactose; which is the sugar that some newborns find hard to digest. Always use the powder not ready made; which was created for convenience so contains way more preservatives.

Better quality and organic formulas produced by grass fed cows are also very popular, but some are not as organic as advertised and for some babies they have been found to have increased vomiting until they are a little older and have matured digestively. For a higher standard of formula for the baby stage, but personally I wouldn’t recommend for the first month, Holle or kendamil are at the top. 

Stage 2 formulas are a bit of a gimmick because there is little to no difference in the make-up of the two stages so your baby can stay on stage one until moving onto fresh milk or a milk alternative. 

However hungry baby formula is different and a good addition for the bedtime feed if you are having trouble filling your baby up for the night. I often use this as a temporary solution (not advised for the first 4/6 weeks) for the bedtime bottle only, until baby is sleeping through the night. This would very much depend on the personal situation (see my book for more information). Hungry baby formula has the same number of calories per scoop but a different make up of protein, fats and carbs making it a “fuller-for-longer” milk. 

Formula nowadays are high tech nutritionally, with most brands offering alternative formulas for babies with gut sensitivity and complicated digestion.

A better understanding of reflux, dairy sensitivity and newborn immature gut issues has led to brands like Kendamil, Aptamil and SMA introducing their own specialist formulas. Not so long ago, the only available shelf stocked alternative to the cow’s milk formula was a goat milk-based brand called “Nanny’s Goats Milk”. This is a good alternative too but it’s still dairy and contains lactose just in a different formation which is easier to digest. Beware, your baby will smell of goat! 

Baby formula in tin and bottle

If your baby is diagnosed with CMPA or reflux by a specialist, you may be advised to move onto a hydrolysed formula such as Nutramigen, Enfamil or Neocate. These formulas I tend to avoid as they smell bad, taste sour and have a thinner or thicker consistency to regular formula, causing other feeding complications such as the flow of milk and unpleasant taste. 

Most newborns have some kind of digestive issue simply due to immaturity and inability to self-wind in the first 6-12 weeks of life. Following my routine alone, which is centred around baby’s digestion, will combat most feeding and digestion issues. I also recommend giving your baby a dose of probiotics daily to help boost good gut bacteria and the immune system. My recommendation is Babawest which is lactose free. 

Any digestive sensitivity will usually materialise by week 3-6 of age. If a baby is unhappy feeding or their stomach bloats during feeds, regardless of burping/winding every 1oz, you could try switching to a partially hydrolysed formula such as Kendamil medi or try a lactose free formula which could be a better option for reflux or CMPA than fully hydrolysed formula. Both have a similar taste and consistency to regular formula. 

Reflux formulas are usually just thickened formulas to help control projectile vomiting. The most common reflux is acid or silent reflux. These formulas will not help this condition. It is rare for a baby to have acid reflux but if this is the case then management by a combination of mild medication, probiotics and lactose free or partially hydrolysed formula usually makes digestion more comfortable. 

When trialling and changing formulas, do give each one at least 3-4 days before making your decision on whether it’s suitable or not. Maybe log the pros and cons. Also note that the teat shape, speed of flow and feeding position, rather than the actual bottle, play a huge part in your baby’s comfort whilst feeding. 

Happy Feeding! 

Hi I’m Charmian Mead, parent coach, baby digestion expert and author of the best selling parenting book 7pm to 7am Sleeping Baby Routine. Supporting new mums with baby digestion, bottle and breastfeeding.

My book and consultancy options can help you resolve any feeding or digestion issues.

For all consulting options and weekly bookings, please check out my consultancy page or contact me via my contact page.

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