Here are the most common specialised baby formulas:
1. Formulas for Lactose Intolerance
Lactose is the main carbohydrate found in breast milk and in most baby formulas. Lactose Intolerance results when a baby cannot digest lactose. For a formula fed baby with diagnosed lactose intolerance, your doctor may recommend an infant formula labelled “For Lactose Intolerance” or “LI”. These formulas are not recommended for all infants and should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
2. Formulas for Regurgitation
Thickened formulas – often labelled “AR” or “Anti-Reflux” baby formulas – are thickened using a starch (e.g. potato or corn). These formulas may be useful for formula fed babies who regularly vomit after feeding, however they are not recommended for general use and should be used under medical supervision.
3. Formulas for Allergy Management
I. Extensively hydrolysed baby formula
Extensively hydrolysed refers to the protein used in these baby formulas. The protein has been broken down into small pieces. These formulas are not recommended for healthy formula fed infants, they are used for the dietary management of specific dietary conditions and should only be used under medical supervision and may be available on a PBS script at a subsidised price. They are often used as first choice for the management of formula fed infants with cow’s milk allergy.
II. Amino acid-based or Elemental baby formula
Amino acid based also refers to the protein used in these baby formulas. The protein is a mixture of individual amino acids (the building blocks of protein). These formulas are not recommended for healthy formula fed infants. They are used for the dietary management of specific dietary conditions (i.e. severe allergies, metabolic conditions), and should only be used under medical supervision. These formulas may be available on a PBS script at a subsidised price.
III. Rice and soy baby formulas
These formulas are based on either rice or soy proteins. They are sometimes used for the management of diagnosed cow’s milk allergy and other metabolic conditions. These formulas should not be used without your healthcare professional recommendation. Soy infant formulas are not recommended until after 6 months of age.
4. Formula for Premature Babies
Premature babies have very different nutritional needs to a baby born full term. These formulas are often ready-made in bottles and used in hospital special care nurseries. The formulas themselves are higher in protein, energy and nutrients than standard formulas and are not suitable for full term babies (unless under medical advice). Preterm baby formulas are usually a hospital-only product and therefore aren’t readily available once you leave hospital.
5. Breast Milk Fortifiers
Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for all babies, including premature infants. These fortifiers are added to expressed breast milk and commonly used in special care nurseries within hospitals to support the growth of your premature/low-birthweight baby. These are used to provide additional nutrition (energy, protein and nutrients). Breast milk fortifiers aren’t readily available once you leave hospital, they are usually a hospital-only product.
6. Formulas for other medical and metabolic conditions or dietary intolerances
There are a number of formulas on the market which are labelled for colic, constipation or diarrhoea. If you believe your baby would benefit from one of these, you should first speak with your healthcare professional who can discuss this with you in more detail.