I hear this question all of the time: What is the best formula for a baby with acid reflux? It certainly is an important question because we know diet can be an important part of a reflux treatment plan. Whether or not your baby has acid reflux, it is still very confusing to walk up and down the infant formula aisle of the store and see the variety of infant formulas available, all making nutritional claims and more.
I am not sure if this is the proper term for it, but I know a lot of parents who have switched from one formula to another hoping that a change of diet will magically “fix” the reflux. This is often referred to as “formula hopping”. In essence, it is an attempt to fix the reflux by changing the diet. Unfortunately, it often leads to trying several formulas over the course of weeks or months with mixed results.
I am concerned when I hear a parent has tired several formulas without consulting the doctor. It is very important to discuss the formula options and any changes to the reflux treatment plan, including diet with the doctor. The doctors are very familiar with the different types of formulas and can assist you in making decisions and evaluating each option.
Fixing Reflux with Formula
We know adults with reflux experience better digestion and fewer symptoms when they avoid foods that trigger heartburn. So it makes sense that we would look at the formula options for an infant to see if there is any benefit of one formula over another. I think the idea of “fixing” the reflux through diet has some basis in fact since a baby with a true allergy or intolerance such as Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI) will often show rapid improvement when the diet is changed. But here is the tricky part: Milk Soy Protein Intolerance and reflux have very similar characteristics namely crying and fussing. It might seem that changing the diet has “fixed” the reflux while in fact there was an underlying and maybe undiagnosed intolerance that was actually to blame. We often hear stories about how a baby suddenly stopped crying and slept for hours and hours after a formula change. Well, doesn’t that sound like a dream come true? Send hubby out to the 24 hours super store right away! But wait; wouldn’t all of the doctors just change the baby’s diet if that was the most effective reflux treatment? In reality, diet is often an important part of a reflux treatment plan however; diet is rarely the treatment plan. I think it is more realistic to look at changing formula as a means to increase digestive comfort and decrease reflux symptoms.
Milk Based Formula
Milk based formula is by far the most common type of infant formula available for all babies. The options are endless from what one doctor described as the fancy “boutique” brands to the generic store brand. There is no significant benefit from one to another and they are all FDA approved. Most of the time, the doctor will recommend a milk based formula for a baby with or without reflux. If your baby with reflux does not have allergies or intolerances, a milk based formula may be just fine.