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Colic is the medical term used to describe excessive crying in babies who are otherwise healthy and well. The crying is usually very intense and continues for at least three hours a day, more than three days a week, and lasts for three weeks or more. It is never a serious condition and thankfully disappears on its own by 4 to 6 months.

Reflux is when a baby brings up milk or formula from the stomach through the nose or mouth. It is also referred to as spitting up. It is a common condition that affects about half of all babies. Most children are not bothered and may only be fussy or cry for a few minutes. But in rare cases, some develop severe symptoms that require medical attention from too frequent spit ups. 

If your child suffers from either of the conditions or both, you need to keep reading because we will discuss the conditions in detail and the best formulas that can help.

Below is a video by Mayo Clinic on Colic and Acid Reflux on babies:

Is Formula better for reflux?

As mentioned earlier, reflux is very common, and it happens to both breastfed and formula fed babies.

Acid reflux is particularly common to infants three months and below. It happens when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle that connects the stomach and esophagus fails to close properly because it is underdeveloped or weak. When this happens, the stomach contents flow back into the esophagus. Other causes of acid reflux are hiatal hernia and food allergies.

Some studies demonstrated that reflux occurs more frequently to formula fed children than breast fed babies. This is because most formulas contain ingredients that the baby is sensitive to, which triggers reflux. So to answer this question, formula may not be the better option.

Symptoms of Colic

As we said, Colic happens in healthy babies. You can tell your child has colic if she shows following signs:

  • High pitched crying that seems like an expression of pain
  • Inconsolable crying without any obvious reasons like hunger or need for a diaper change
  • Extreme fussiness even after crying has ended
  • Predictable timing, with episodes often occurring in the evening
  • Reddening of the face
  • Gassiness and bloated tummy
  • Expressing bodily tension while crying, such as stiffened legs, stiffened arms, clenched fists, and arched back.

Since symptoms of inconsolable and excessive crying can also indicate an illness that causes pain and discomfort apart from Colic, it is a wise idea to see a doctor for your child to be evaluated.

Signs of Reflux

The only symptom is spit-ups for babies with mild reflux after feeding with the milk or formula coming out from the nose or mouth. Most babies are not bothered by it and outgrow it as their digestive system matures. However, some babies experience severe reflux, which causes other symptoms. Reflux that causes symptoms is also known as GERD (GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease)

Below are signs that a baby has severe reflux:

  • Crying and irritability
  • Refusing to eat
  • Frequent or forceful vomiting
  • Arching the neck and back as if in pain
  • Choking while spitting up
  • Spitting up blood
  • Slow weight gain
  • Cold-like symptoms such as wheezing and coughing when feeding

If your baby shows these symptoms, you need to visit your doctor for treatment.

What’s the Difference between Colic and Allergy?

Colic has no known cause, but according to experts, it’s associated with sensitivity to cow milk proteins. You will notice that if your baby has Colic, they will have inconsolable crying for prolonged duration. They may stiffen their arms and legs, pass gas, arch their back and have a bloated tummy.

Allergy on the other hand, is much more severe. If a baby has allergy for cow milk or Soy, Colic would only be one of the symptoms among others such as:

  • Frequent spitting up
  • Vomiting
  • Colic-like symptoms such as excessive crying and irritability (especially after feedings) signaling abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Blood in stool
  • Hives
  • A scaly skin rash
  • Coughing or wheezing and other cold like symptoms

What is the Best Formula for Acid Reflux?

Before considering any formula to address your child’s reflux, it is important to first discuss your options with your child’s healthcare provider.

Next, consider how much you are willing to spend on formula. If your budget is already stretched thin with all the needs that come with a newborn, you may want to start by thickening the formula you already have or buying a pre-thickened formula. A thick formula will make the stomach contents heavier, making it harder for them to come back up.

The other thing to consider is if your child has any other digestive issues such as intolerance or constipation. If your child has lactose intolerance, for example, you could choose a Soy based formula. If they have constipation, a goat milk based formula might work better.

If these changes do not work, a hypoallergenic formula may be your last card. These formulas are super expensive but also highly effective in dealing with all sorts of digestion problems, including cow milk intolerance, reflux, allergies, and mal-absorption issues.

Let’s now look at some of the best formulas to help deal with reflux.

Reviews of the Best Formula for Colic and Acid

1. Holle Organic Goat Formula

As earlier said, some cases of acid reflux in babies are triggered by sensitivity to cow milk. Choosing a cow milk free formula is a sensible way of eliminating reflux. That’s why our first recommendation to help you deal with your baby’s acid reflux is a formula based on goat milk, the Holle Organic formula.

Looking at the picture above, you notice it is not your usual can package (if you are in the US) because it is a European brand from Germany. If you wonder why it is important, well European formulas follow stricter safety standards than those of the FDA. For example, this formula is organic with a Demeter label, uses lactose and maltodextrin instead of unhealthy sweeteners like corn syrup, glucose, sucrose, etc. It also has probiotics and prebiotics (US brands mostly only have prebiotics). So you know it is safe, and the probiotics will promote digestive health.

Holle Organic Goat Formula

If your baby has lots of reflux, Holle organic formula is one of the best options you may consider. Being a formula based from goat milk, it forms soft curds that are easier for your baby’s tiny tummy to digest. It also has only traces of casein, an allergen found in large amounts in cow milk. Even the lactose in goat milk is half of that in cow milk, making it all the more easily to digest.

Apart from reflux relief, this formula also provides high quality vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy development, including Calcium, Choline, Vitamin B, Vitamin E, and more.

Pros

  • Cow milk free
  • Gluten free
  • Organic
  • Easy to digest

Cons 

  • Expensive

2. Gerber Good Start Soothe Infant Formula

Gerber Good Start is our second-best option and one of the best formulas to help with reflux. This is because the formula is specially formulated to be easily digested by developing tummies. The formula blend contains probiotics, prebiotics, Comfort Protein, and a carbohydrate blend with 30% lactose to help address digestive issues that cause your baby’s fussiness, gas, and Colic. 

This formula is great for reflux problems because the proteins are hydrolyzed (broken into smaller sizes) for easier digestion. Additionally, it also has probiotic L.Reuteri, a type of good bacteria that has been shown by research to help reduce Colic by half and reduce reflux.

Your child will also benefit from essential nutrients like those found in breast milk such as DHA, which is vital for eye and brain development. 2′-FL HMO, a prebiotic which supports the immune system in the gut. You can also check out formula that tastes like breast milk

If your baby is having lots of spit ups try this formula, reviewers whose babies use this formula have seen a reduction and are also happy that it reduces gassiness, fussiness and promotes soft stools.

Pros

  • It has comfort proteins (hydrolyzed)
  • Has probiotic to help with digestion and reflux
  • Contains prebiotic to soothe the tummy
  • Contains reduced lactose (30%) to help ease fussiness and gas. If you are looking for a formula for lactose intolerant babies, I have them here
  • Non-GMO
  • Easy to mix
  • Affordable pricing

Cons

  • Some people may not like the flavor
  • Some babies may react differently

3. Enfamil Prosobee Soy

If your baby is having reflux and all sorts of troubles from formulas based on cow milk, you will be glad to know that Enfamil may have just the solution you need. Enfamil Prosobee is a soy formula, which means the plant proteins are easy for your baby to digest. Also, it does not have lactose, which is another cause of gassiness and fussiness due to lactose intolerance in cow milk formulas.

If you feed your baby with this easy to digest formula, chances are you will see great improvement with reflux or Colic for that matter. Better still, it’s nutritionally balanced, providing important nutrients like DHA and Choline for brain development and a whole lot of special vitamins for a strong immune system.

Pros

  • It is available in ready-to-feed form.
  • Does not contain milk proteins or lactose
  • Powder dissolves completely
  • It has a sweet flavor that babies love

Cons 

  • Some babies get constipated
  • It is a bit expensive

4. Earth’s Best Organic Sensitivity Infant Formula with Iron

Earth’s Best Sensitive formula is another option you might want to consider if your baby has reflux and mild lactose intolerance. This formula has hydrolyzed proteins and reduced lactose, making it easy for tiny tummies to digest, consequently reducing gassiness, fussiness, and spit ups.

It is also beneficial nutrients, Omega 3 DHA, which helps to support brain and eye development. Iron for healthy growth and prebiotic fructooligosaccharide, for supporting immunity. 

And you can be sure it is a healthy and safe formulation, seeing that it is organic with USDA certification.

Pros

Cons 

  • It is foamy
  • It is expensive
  • Might react differently with some babies

5. Similac Sensitive Infant Formula Powder with Iron

Remember how we mentioned that thick formulas help with reflux? Well, Similac Sensitive is a great example of one such formula. This formula is thick, and it sits heavy in the stomach, preventing flow back to the throat.

While this formula is specially designed for gas and fussiness from lactose intolerance, parents also mention it has helped reduce reflux with their babies. The only set back is that it causes constipation. You can check out these formula for gas and constipation. Still, if your baby has mild reflux, it is worth a shot.

It is also very nutritious with Similac special blend OptiGro, containing DHA, Lutein, and Vitamin E. As you know by now, DHA helps with brain development, lutein promotes eye development, and Vitamin E is vital for cell development. It also contains 2FL-HMO, an immune nourishing prebiotic that is naturally present in breast milk.

Pros

  • Thick formula to help with reflux
  • Reduced lactose helps with gas and fussiness

Cons

  • It is foamy
  • Some find the flavor unpleasant
  • May cause constipation

Formula for silent reflux baby

Silent reflux is a type of reflux that does not always cause outward symptoms. It sometimes occurs when the baby’s stomach is full, and milk and acid come back up the throat. The baby then swallows the milk before it gets into the mouth. Although it is “silent,” it can cause double the harm because the acidic contents burn on the way up from the stomach and back down the throat. One way you would know is if your baby suddenly starts crying while feeding or grimaces as if she has tasted something awful.

The first step to alleviate silent reflux is to feed the baby with smaller quantities to prevent being too full and holding her in an upright position for a while.

Second, try checking if your child is cow milk or lactose intolerant. If that is the case, we have listed above some good formulas that will help address these issues as well as reflux. Beyond that, we suggest seeking your doctor’s advice.

EleCare formula for reflux

EleCare is one of the best hypoallergenic formulas, but it is usually given under medical prescription. If your child has severe reflux associated with allergy to cow milk proteins, this formula will work great for them. It is mostly recommended for a small number of children that can’t tolerate any type of whey protein, whole or hydrolyzed. Since the proteins in this formula are pre digested into amino acids (the most basic form of protein), it is unlikely to cause any reaction and is easily absorbed by the digestive system.

Enfamil formula for reflux

Enfamil is a premium brand that has several formula variations that can help with reflux. They include:

Enfamil A.R Infant Formula for Spit-ups – specially formulated to help with reflux and other digestive issues

Enfamil Nutramigen Infant formula– a hypoallergenic formula that uses hydrolyzed proteins.

Enfamil Prosobee– Soy based formula instead of using cow milk (our choice and listed above)

Enfamil Gentlease– milk based formula with hydrolyzed proteins

Enfamil NeuroPro Gentlease– milk based formula with hydrolyzed proteins

The hypoallergenic formula for reflux

Hypoallergenic formulas are great at dealing with all sorts of digestion issues, including reflux. Below are a few hypoallergenic formula brands you might want to check out:

Similac Alimentum

EleCare Infant Formula

Enfamil Nutramigen

Nutricia Neocate Infant formula

Formula for acid reflux and milk allergy

If your child has both reflux and milk allergy, the best formulas for them would be hypoallergenic formulas.

FAQs

Can formula cause reflux?

Formula may not be the only cause of reflux, but research shows formula fed babies experience longer and frequent reflux episodes than breastfed babies.

How to thicken baby formula for reflux

Feeding your baby with a thick formula can help to reduce the frequency and severity of reflux. It is a great first option to consider if your baby has reflux without other serious symptoms. However, if your baby is below three months of age or has allergies, you need to consult their doctor before starting on a new formula or adding a thickening agent.
Some good thickening agents include rice cereal, oatmeal, barley flour, carob flour, and locust bean gum. 
Watch out for the ingredients such as soy protein in the thickening agent, which your child may be allergic to or intolerant to.
To thicken the feed, add one tablespoon (15 ml) of infant cereal to 1 ounce (30 ml) of formula or breast milk and mix. You will need a nipple with a larger hole to allow the thickened feed to pass, but it comes with a risk of the baby choking if the flow is too fast. Opting for a nipple that allows adjusted flow is safer.

How much rice cereal in formula for reflux

If your infant has mild, frequent reflux episodes, your doctor may recommend adding one to two teaspoons of rice cereal to the formula.

Formula for preemies with reflux

If you have a preemie who suffers from reflux, a hypoallergenic formula such as Enfamil Nutramigen or Similac Alimentum can help. But always seek your doctor’s guidance first.

Can formula cause Colic?

There is no known cause of Colic, but experts suggest that it results from an allergic reaction or intolerance to cow milk proteins, typically found in formula.

Does switching to formula help reflux

If your child has reflux, switching to easy-to-digest formulas such as hypoallergenic formulas or formulas that have the proteins already broken down can help reduce reflux. But of course, you must talk to your doctor first

Best formula for reflux and colic Australia 

Aptamil Prosyneo Sensitive Infant formula-has hydrolyzed proteins

Bub’s Advanced Infant formula– it is goat milk based

Aptamil Gold + Reflux baby formula– it is pre-thickened with carob and bean gum.

Novalac Reflux Premium Infant Formula– a pre-thickened formula

Aptamil Gold+ Reflux Baby Infant Formula– a pre-thickened formula

Can Similac Alimentum make reflux worse?

It is highly unlikely for Similac Alimentum to make your child’s reflux worse because it is hypoallergenic. In any case, you should see improvement within 24 hours. This is one of the best formulas for babies who suffer from protein sensitivity and allergies from cow milk or Soy.

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