Does Your Baby Need a Sensitive Infant Formula?


Read time: 5 minutes

What should I know about switching to a sensitive formula?

  • Symptoms of needing a sensitive formula may include diarrhea, extra gas, and extra fussiness

  • Often babies who are lactose sensitive or intolerant may do well on a sensitive formula

When it comes to our babies, we always want to make the right choice – and what we feed them is no exception. There are so many things we worry about: Are we feeding them the right formula? Are they getting enough?

Most babies do well on standard formulas, but occasionally a different one is needed. Knowing what symptoms to look for and chatting with baby’s pediatrician can help guide your decision to choose a sensitive formula.

Read on to learn what to look for before switching formulas.

Is baby satisfied and growing well?

Diapers, weight, and disposition tell us so much about how well our little one is doing.1,2 These are also some of the most important things to consider before switching formulas.

Note that how many stools your baby has per day is often influenced by the type of formula they are on.3

You’ll know your baby is thriving if:
  • They are making at least 5 wet diapers per day (after the fifth day of life)

  • They have 2 to 4 stools per 24 hours in the first few weeks, then at least 1 dirty diaper per day after that.

  • Your pediatrician is happy with baby’s weight gain

  • Your baby is acting relaxed and satisfied after a feeding1,2

Read more: Feeding Tips for Healthy Weight Gain in Babies and Toddlers

Learning Center - More info on formula

Does my baby need a sensitive formula?

Sometimes even if your little one is gaining weight well and making enough diapers, they may not be tolerating their formula well.

While gassiness and fussiness are normal for many babies, occasionally these may indicate your little one needs to change formulas.2

If you notice a change in baby’s behavior, symptoms that do not seem normal, or your parenting instincts are telling you something is not right, speak to your pediatrician. They can help you understand what could be going on with your little one and may advise you to use a sensitive formula or formula for gas.

Read more: Should I Switch My Baby's Formula?

Here are signs and symptoms that may indicate your baby needs a sensitive formula

1. Diarrhea

It can be difficult to tell if your baby has diarrhea, but it may be the case if you notice an increase in the number of stools.4 Looser stools may also be a sign of diarrhea.5

Sometimes if your little one is not digesting formula well, it may trigger diarrhea.2 This is particularly true if the baby has difficulty digesting lactose.11

Loose, frequent stools may also be caused by an intestinal bug, so be sure to call your pediatrician should you think your little one has diarrhea.5

2. Extra gas

Gas can be a very normal part of an infant’s life. Their digestive system is not fully developed and passing gas may require more straining and grunting, especially for younger babies.6 

Abnormal gassiness may also be from swallowing too much air while crying or feeding.7,8

However, if baby’s gassiness is above the normal amount and is not from swallowing too much air, it could be from difficulty digesting lactose.9,10,11

Extra gas may make the stomach look bloated or feel hard.11,12 Your pediatrician can help you decide if should switch to a sensitive formula or a formula for lactose intolerance.

Read more: How Do I Relieve Gas in my Formula or Bottle-Fed Baby?

If you are unsure if your baby is swallowing too much air during feeding, reach out to our team of registered dietitian nutritionists and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday through Friday, from 8am–6pm ET. Chat Now!

3. Extra fussiness

Some fussiness in babies is common, especially in the evenings.14

However, if your baby is fussy throughout the day, particularly after a feeding, speak with your pediatrician. This type of consistent infant upset may suggest that your little one is not doing well with their formula.

Fussiness could be your baby’s way to show their discomfort when experiencing symptoms like gas and bloating, such as from lactose sensitivity. These symptoms may appear within a few minutes to a couple hours after feeding your baby.13

Read more: How Can I Manage My Baby’s Colic

What should you do before switching to a sensitive formula?

Try small, frequent, slow feedings

Sometimes symptoms can be exacerbated by big feedings. Feeding baby more often but with smaller amounts may help provide some relief.15 Slowing down how quickly your little one feeds may help as well.16

Apply  gentle pressure on baby’s belly

Some gentle pressure can help push out trapped gas. This can be done using tummy time or even a gentle belly massage.16 Be sure to wait at least 30 minutes after a feeding before putting pressure on baby’s belly.

Read more: How do I Give my Baby a Massage? Benefits and Techniques

Chat with your baby’s pediatrician

If you are unsure when or if to switch to a sensitive formula, your pediatrician can talk you through the process. They may recommend that you switch to a sensitive formula that has reduced lactose, such as Happy Family Organic Sensitive Formula.

While some babies may have a temporary sensitivity to lactose, most can tolerate it in small amounts, so cutting it out completely is not always necessary.

Some studies indicate that reducing the amount of lactose in a formula, using a sensitive baby formula, or formula for lactose intolerance, may help moderate a baby’s extra fussiness and gas.7,10,11

Read more: Does my Baby or Toddler have a Milk Allergy or Lactose Intolerance?

Know that you are doing your best!

We can feel so helpless when watching our little ones experience extra fussiness and gassiness. With the support of your pediatrician and a lactation counselor and/or registered dietitian, you can find the path that works best for your family.

*Note that an allergy to milk protein is different than an intolerance or sensitivity to lactose and should be diagnosed by your pediatrician. A baby with a milk protein allergy will require a different line of action.

Let’s Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too! They’re here to offer personalized support on our free, one-on-one, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET). No appointment needed, no email or sign-up required. Chat Now!

Read more  about the experts that help write our content!

For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

Does my Child Have a Food Allergy or a Food Intolerance?

Is your baby reacting to something in your milk?

How can I manage my baby’s colic?

Introducing Major Allergens to Your Infant