Choosing the right formula milk
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Does your baby need one of the many specialist milks on the market? Read our expert guide to find out.
In addition to infant formula and follow-on formula, there are a number of other baby formulas on the market that supposedly deal with specific conditions. Here, we look at the different types available and ask whether the claims made about each are backed up with evidence.
If you’re bottle feeding your baby, you can use our guide on buying bottles and teats to help you choose between the variety of options available. And whatever the age of your child, make sure you’re using a Best Buy car seat to keep them safe.
Hungry baby milk
Hungry baby formula is marketed to parents for babies who aren’t satisfied by standard infant formula. It can be used from birth and 51% of parents in our research had used hungry milk*.
The difference is found in the protein make-up of the milk. Standard infant formula has a whey:casein ratio of 60:40, which is very similar to breast milk. Hungry baby formula has a whey:casein ratio of 20:80, which is similar to cow’s milk.
The theory is that the higher casein content helps to slow digestion and results in the baby feeling more satisfied and less hungry soon after feeding. Some of the formula manufacturers claim hungry milk can delay the start of weaning.
Do I need hungry baby milk?
No. The studies that support the claims of slower gastric emptying are based on small sample sizes and on infants with digestive issues. Other studies have found no support of the above claims.
Good night milk
HiPP Organic claims its good night milk is ‘especially satisfying’. It can be used from six months onwards.
The composition of good night milk is similar to infant formula, but with cereal added to it. The cereal (rice and buckwheat) thickens the milk and adds bulk - the modern-day equivalent of adding a rusk to your baby’s bottle.
10% of parents we surveyed told us they had used good night milk*.
Do I need good night milk?
No. HiPP advises that good night milk can be given in place of your baby’s normal feed and should only be used once a day. However, the evidence that it helps settle babies at night and helps them to sleep longer (as may be implied by the name) doesn’t exist.
HiPP Organic good night milk is expensive - it costs 45p per feed compared with HiPP Organic Combiotic Infant formula, which is 27p per feed.
Milks for special medical purposes (SMPs)
There are some formulas targeted at babies suffering from colic or reflux. These formulas still meet the compositional criteria of The Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula (England) Regulations 2007, but their make-up is tweaked slightly by changing the type of protein or adding starches to thicken the milk.
Infant formulas for colic
Aptamil, Cow & Gate and SMA all have a range of milk that is marketed as ‘comfort’ or ‘easy to digest’.
These formulas are based on 100% whey protein, which has been partially hydrolysed (broken down), and contain less lactose than standard formulas.
Aptamil and Cow & Gate’s versions also contain a thickener and, as stated on their websites, are for ‘a more controlled intake’ and ‘helps your baby take in less air when feeding’.
Do I need formula for colic?
No. The effectiveness of comfort milks over infant milks in reducing the symptoms of colic is not established and one large randomised trial showed no difference in the tolerance between the two.
Comfort milks cost more than infant formula - Aptamil Comfort costs £10.99 per 900g (£12.21/kg) compared with £9.49 per 900g (£10.54/kg) for Aptamil First Milk. SMA Comfort Easy to Digest costs £10.99 for 800g (£13.74/kg) compared with SMA Infant formula £8.99 per 900g (£9.99/kg).
Formula milks for reflux
Aptamil Anti-Reflux, Cow & Gate Anti-Reflux and SMA Staydown are all marketed as helping reflux, posseting and regurgitation.
These milks contain added ingredients, such as corn starch or carob bean gum, which thicken the milk, either on preparation or once in the tummy. The manufacturers say that the thicker milk helps it stay in the tummy.
Do I need formula for reflux?
No. The use of these milks is not supported by the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) as there’s no available information on the effect these thickeners have on other nutrients in the milk and how well they’re absorbed.
Most babies grow out of reflux and many researchers suggest it would be more useful for parents to be given advice and information on how to deal with simple reflux.
* Online survey of 727 mothers with children under the age of three between November and December 2012