11 Dairy Free Formulas 2023: The Easy Guide for parents will support you with finding a formula that is suitable for your baby with cow’s milk protein allergy.
Milk allergy or cows milk protein allergy (CMPA) is one of babies’ most common food allergies. It affects 2-3% of babies under 6 months old and unfortunately, it can lead to a very unsettled baby in some circumstances if not managed properly.
I’m here to help!
As a new parent, I found it very difficult to navigate the different types of formula. I struggled to produce enough breast milk and didn’t know what was the best option for my baby. As a Dietitian I also chat with mums daily who need guidance and support to help them understand the various formulas on the market today for babies with milk protein allergy (CMPA).
After doing my research, I created this blog to provide mums like you with the information they need as quickly and efficiently as possible.
*blog updated on 20/7/2023*
11 Dairy Free Formulas: The Easy Guide for parents
Extensively Hydrolysed Formula (eHF)
Extensively hydrolysed formula contains cows milk protein but it is broken down into smaller peptides instead of the long chain of proteins found in regular formula. This makes the protein less allergenic.
In simpler terms, if you think of a standard cow’s milk protein-contained formula as a large bead necklace, eHF is like smaller groups of beads.
Studies have shown that approximately 90% of babies with milk allergy experience symptom relief with extensively hydrolysed formula.
Extensively Hydrolysed Formula Brands
Common brands of extensively hydrolysed formula are:
- Aptamil pepti
- Nutramigen LGG
- SMA Althera.
Extensively Hydrolysed Formulas
These brands may have differences in;
- Protein content (casein or whey protein based)
- Size of peptides – the groups of beads
- Taste – All hydrolysed formulas can taste a little bitter, but some can be more palatable than others. This can depend on how much the milk protein is broken down (the size of the peptides), whether lactose is in the formula, and where the protein is from (casein or whey)
Amino Acid-Based Formula (AAF)
AAF is a formula for cow’s milk protein allergy that contains individual amino acids. It is also sometimes called hypoallergenic baby formula and is only advised for babies with severe cows milk allergy. The severity of your babies allergy will depend on their medical history and should only be advised by your medical team or a specialist dietitian. AAF may also be advised if your baby has multiple food allergies.
Research shows us that AAF is only required in around 10% of babies with cows milk allergy.
Brands of Amino Acid Formula
Here are some common brands of amino acid formula available:
- Nutramigen Puramino
- SMA Alfamino.
Additionally, some formula companies have started to add probiotics to their formula, which may also help support digestive problems.
Abbott who make Similac Alimentum have now started to produce ready-made formula for milk allergies alongside the powder form. However this is only currently available in the united states.
What about soy formula?
Soy formula is a final formula that is dairy free but it is not recommended for babies under 6 months. Although it has been available on the market for many years, there has been a lot of conflicting information about whether they are safe.
“There is some uncertainty about the safety of soya-based formula and there is no scientific basis for a change in the current government advice: there is neither substantive medical need for, nor health benefit arising from the use of soya-based infant formula and it should only be used in exceptional circumstances to ensure adequate nutrition.”
Yes this is a bit ambiguous but what this means is if you can use another formula for your baby then advice is to do so.
Soy formula is free from cows milk protein but it is only advised to be used in exceptional circumstances and when doing so this should be with the support of a healthcare provide.
The reason for the caution is that we don’t know enough about whether a large amount of soya formula for a baby can affect their hormonal and sexual development due to the high level of phytooestrogens that may be consumed.
However advice is that when your baby is over 6 months of age that you can provide this as their primary formula if they have cows milk protein allergy.
Soya Formula Brands
Here are three common brands of soya formula:
- Gerber Soya Formula
- Similac Soya Isomil
- SMA soya formula
*Soya formula is not advised to be given to infants under 6 months of age*
What about lactose-free baby formula?
When it comes to cow’s milk allergy there can be a lot of confusion over lactose-free formula and whether it is suitable for babies with milk allergy. The answer is it’s not. Why? Because lactose intolerance is different to cows milk protein allergy. Lactose intolerance is related to the sugar lactose found in milk, whereas cows milk protein allergy related to the protein part of milk. When it comes to lactose-free formula they will be free from lactose but will still have milk protein contained and therefore aren’t suitable for a baby with milk allergy.
Can I give goat’s milk formula for milk allergy?
Goat’s milk formula isn’t suitable for babies with milk allergy. Why? This is because goats milk protein has a similar structure to cows’ milk protein and therefore may also cause similar symptoms that your baby experiences with cows milk contained formula.
Does dairy free formula meet my babies nutritional needs?
Yes, the formula contains all the essential vitamins and minerals that your baby needs as they are specially formulate for milk allergy.
What to Expect When Switching Formula
When you start your baby on extensively hydrolysed formula, you may notice that it has a slightly different taste, smell, and appearance than your standard cow’s milk-based formula. It may take some time for your baby to adjust to the new formula.
It is important to trial this new formula for at least 2-4 weeks to allow time for symptoms to settle.
Switching your baby’s formula to a new brand can be a daunting prospect. You may find yourself questioning whether it really is better for them and wondering if it will make any difference. However, I’d always advise you to persist with the change. This will give time for your little one to adjust and you can then start to see any potential improvements in their symptoms.
If after this time you don’t see any improvement, then of course it’s time to consult a doctor for further advice. But remember that it may take time so remain patient and stick with it if you can – consistency is key!
If your baby doesn’t tolerate the first formula given, another may be advised by a healthcare professional.
3 Tips for switching to dairy free formula
Switching to dairy free formula can be a little tricky. This can be generally due to the different taste for your baby.
Here are some tips to help you make the move:
- Try mixing it with their current formula milk.
- Slowly increase the amount of milk allergy formula and reduce the amount of standard formula.
- Sweeten it slightly with natural sweeteners like vanilla extract – make sure that this doesn’t contain alcohol and only add a small drop.
CMPA is one of the most common allergies in babies but it is important to get the correct diagnosis under medical supervision. Alternative formulas are available including extensively hydrolysed and amino acid formula but remember if your baby continues to have an adverse reaction then speak with your healthcare team.
Remember when switching to a new formula it may take some time for your baby to adjust. My top tip is to mix the new formula with your babies original formula to get them used to the taste.
Soya formula is only suitable from when your baby is 6 months old. It’s not to be given before 6 months.
This 11 Dairy Free Formula: The easy guide for parents, should give you perfectly to the best formula for your baby.
Finally, if you need any support, do not hesitate to get in touch.
Hannah is an Expert Registered Dietitian specialising in Vegan Family Nutrition and Cows Milk Protein Allergy.
She is a respected figure in the field of nutrition and a captivating speaker and sought after media spokesperson being featured in esteemed publications including the Sunday Times, Independent and Huffington Post.
- Registered Dietitian
- First Class Degree in Nutrition
- Over 15 years experience working in the field of nutrition
- Respected Media Spokesperson both in the UK & USA; quoted online, TV and in local and international news
- Writer & Researcher, supporting the BDA and PEN Nutrition