My baby is 3 months old. At 3 weeks her doctor told me to put her on Alimentum formula. She has been doing GREAT on it, but it is very expensive. I would like to know if she will ever be able to eat regular formula? If so, when can I switch her? Should I go to soy, or would regular formula be OK?
To start off with good news, let me first say that most babies who require hypoallergenic formula due to allergies often end up outgrowing the allergy. That said, I find it’s usually quite helpful to review the main types/categories of formula and explain why babies are typically put on hypoallergenic formulas (like Alimentum) in the first place.
Most parents are quite familiar with the conventional cow’s milk and soy protein-based formulas (such as Enfamil® and Similac®) and fortunately, a majority of babies do just fine drinking these types of formula. Unless babies show signs of or are at high risk for allergic reactions, there is no evidence that one type of formula is any better than another.
Some babies, however, are found to be allergic to cow’s milk protein—an allergy that may present with such general symptoms as rashes or fussy/colicky behavior. Any concerns of allergy definitely warrant a visit to the pediatrician, who can help make the diagnosis and recommend a hypoallergenic formula. Alimentum is one of three hypoallergenic formulas (along with Nutramigen® and Pregestimil®) currently available in the United States, all of which contain proteins that are already broken down, or “pre-digested.” Presuming that your pediatrician recommended hypoallergenic formula because your baby was found to be allergic to conventional formula, it’s not surprising that she’s doing well on Alimentum, since at least 90 percent of allergic infants tolerate hypoallergenic formula well.
While this is nutritionally reassuring, you’ve clearly identified one of the major disadvantages of hypoallergenic formulas: their expense, which may be three times that of standard cow’s milk or soy-protein formulas.
Regarding how long you will need to continue using (and buying) hypoallergenic formula, it’s important to continue to work in close partnership with your pediatrician in order to determine when it’s appropriate to try switching back to a conventional formula. In general, babies who are diagnosed with true symptoms of cow’s milk protein allergy may remain on a hypoallergenic formula for at least six months, or until 9 to 12 months of age.