What’s a mom to do?
Commercial formula? Homemade formula? Cow’s milk, Goat’s milk, or casein-free formula?
Particularly for babies that are sensitive to dairy, formula choice can be a difficult one.
As a nutritionist specializing in autism, I have a lot of clients looking for dairy-free (and soy-free) infant formula for their babies.
For a mother that has experience with an older child on a casein-free diet, the signs that their current baby is not tolerating dairy are often clear.
For GFCF families, I highly encourage breastfeeding. And it’s important for nursing mothers to avoid dairy and any other foods she finds her infant is sensitive to.
The most common alternative on the market is soy formula. However, there are a number of studies showing poor outcomes with soy formula for infants, so I do not recommend soy formula.
There are a few choices to consider and discuss with your child’s pediatrician.
Neocate is an elemental formula that contains vitamins, minerals, and individual amino acids. Elemental formulas do not contain whole food proteins that sensitive and allergic babies and children may react to. For children with multiple food allergies and live threatening conditions, these formulas are a lifesaver. However, a main ingredient is corn. Neocate is made with corn syrup solids; however, it’s non-GMO and they do not contain any corn protein therefore considered safe for children with corn allergies.
Elecare is another elemental formula, similar to Neocate. Some babies do better with one vs. the other so often parents will try both. While a lifesaver for some, many moms don’t want to give corn or corn syrup solids to their baby. Fair enough.
While not a formula, Metagenics has a powdered supplement called UltraCare For Kids made with rice protein powder that some mothers make into an infant formula.
On the other hand, many mothers prefer homemade formula made from fresh real ingredients (This is what I chose). Weston A. Price has created several infant formula recipes: a raw cow or goat milk formula, and one that is milk-free (the Liver-Based Formula). While not casein-free, the Liver-Based Formula can be adapted with the help of a nutritionist to be casein-free.
The goat milk contains casein, but the form A2 beta-casein is often better tolerated, so it may be an option for some children that need to avoid conventional milk but can handle goat milk. This recipe can adapted to be free of cow milk containing ingredients.
What I love about their recipes is that they have calculated the nutrition in breast milk and in their formulas and have a comparison chart. If you adjust the recipes to be casein-free, you will want to make sure to recalculate nutrient levels so ensure the new formula has a similar nutrition profile. I often help clients with this.
Many new babies (with a sibling with autism) are perfectly healthy and thriving and do not need a special formula. However, some new mothers with family members that are intolerant to casein may want to explore whether a casein-free formula is the right choice for their infant.
Work with a holistically oriented pediatrician that can think outside of the box and advise you on the best formula option for your infant.
Photo credit: by Enokson, Flickr, Creative Commons, July 20, 2011