Which of these expensive hypoallergenic formulas should you feed your baby?
Elecare and Nutramigen are two of the biggest name brands when it comes to sensitive formulas for allergy-prone babies. So which one works best? Well, the answer is: both. These formulas are different, and they are for slightly different needs. Nutramigen is made specifically for children who have a cow’s milk allergy. Elecare is made more for children with allergies to not only cow’s milk but other things like soy as well. Here’s how the two formulas stack up next to each other.
Babies cry. That’s just a fact of life. But babies with colic cry a lot. They spend most of their day crying. And it’s usually because they have a lot of tummy troubles. Things like gas, indigestion, vomiting, and diarrhea plague their day. And since every eating session just makes it worse, they usually can’t find any relief.
One common culprit for these symptoms is cow’s milk proteins. Just like some adults are lactose intolerant, so are some infants. When your baby can’t handle cow’s milk protein, they usually can’t handle any of the popular formulas on the market. That’s why you get Nutramigen. This formula is specifically made for little babies with a cow’s milk allergy. Here’s what this formula has that will help it be gentle on your allergic baby’s tummy.
- Made with mostly corn syrup solids and vegetable oils, this formula should be gentle on your baby’s tummy because these ingredients are easy to digest. It does have some hydrolyzed casein from cow’s milk, but that’s designed to help your baby build up a tolerance to this protein so that they can eventually enjoy regular dairy products.
- LGG, which is lactobacillus GG, is added to this formula to help further break down that milk protein. This probiotic should help soothe your baby’s upset tummy and help prepare them for a future full of dairy.
- Made with 27 vitamins and minerals, including inositol and iron. Both of these are found in breast milk and help too contribute to your baby’s healthy growth.
- You’ll also find DHA, ARA, and choline in this formula. These nutrients are so important in your baby’s brain growth. Since its formula can be used from 0 to 12 months, it’s important that they get these nutrients during these brain formative years.
- Broken-down proteins contained in this formula are easier for your baby to digest and will work to make their tummies less upset after consuming this formula. In fact, most babies will see a big difference in symptoms within 48 hours of taking this formula.
- The inclusion of some milk protein in this formula helps baby to build up their tolerance. It also helps to reduce the incidences of allergy-related challenges, like asthma, eczema, eye problems, and other skin problems, later on in life. That means relief now and prevention for later.
Some babies have more than just simple colic or slight irritation from cow’s milk protein. Some babies are highly allergic to many different ingredients, and can’t handle any type of whey protein, whether intact or hydrolyzed. That’s when Elecare comes in. The proteins in this formula have been broken down into the amino acids, which are the basic building blocks of protein. This is pretty much as far as you can break down a protein and have it still be a protein.
This formula is completely hypoallergenic. Since soy is another common irritant, along with cow’s milk, it has been mostly removed from this formula. Any baby with an intolerance to standard proteins will find relief with this formula. Even babies who are on formulas like Alimentum and Nutramigen find relief when they switch to this project. Here’s at this formula has that makes it so fantastically smooth and gentle for baby’s digestive system.
- Corn syrup solids are the main ingredient in this formula. Next is high-oleic safflower oil and triglycerides. Then, some small amounts of process soy oil and L-glutamine, which is an important amino acid. All of these provide the protein, carbohydrates, and fat that your baby needs to survive and thrive during the first year of life.
- 32 different vitamins and minerals can be found in this formula, including the all-important iron, choline, and inositol. These are all designed to mimic the nutrients found in breast milk and give your baby every single building block they need to grow their mind and body.
- Like all good formulas, this formula still contains DHA and ARA. These are typically found in human breast milk. They are added to this formula to help support the brain and even eye development of your baby.
- This formula is completely hypoallergenic. All allergy-inducing ingredients have been removed. Although it does contain some soy oil, this soy has been shown not to provoke an allergic reaction in soy-sensitive children. That means that this formula works particularly well for babies that have multiple food allergies.
- Free amino acids are both a readily available source of protein for baby and an easy-to-digest nutrient. Since the proteins are so broken down, your baby won’t have to suffer through bouts of colic while their body tries to absorb this important nutrient.
Biggest Issues: Elecare vs. Nutramigen
Surprisingly, both of these formulas tend to have the same problems. So instead of going over the problems twice, I’ll just condense the cons into one section for both formulas.
The first and most obvious drawback of these sensitive formulas is that they are very pricey. The Nutramigen, at the time of this writing, was running between 50 and 60% higher per ounce than most regular formulas. The Elecare was running at closer to 230 to 240% higher per ounce. This is a ton of money! When you calculate how much more that can be on a monthly basis, you start to understand the possible impact on your budget.
I think the reason that the Elecare is more expensive is that it can’t use a lot of cheaper ingredients, like the cow’s milk derivatives and soy ingredients. Nutramigen is a tiny bit cheaper because it can use those ingredients, but it’s still pricier than regular formula. Hopefully, insurance can help purchase these special formulas!
Now that we’ve covered price, let’s talk about the biggest issue that people have with these formulas. Number one: the taste and smell of this formula is terrible. Now, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting any type of formula at all, you know that it doesn’t exactly taste great. However, this type of formula seems to be especially bad for that. There is no sweetness or creaminess to this like there is in some regular formula.
The amounts of iron and other nutrients in these formulas and make it smell horrible. We’re talking about more than just that metallic sort of smell that most formulas have. We’re talking about borderline rancid scent. Many users report that their babies won’t even take these formulas because it tastes and smells so awful. If you’re lucky enough, you might be able to mix this half and half with another, cheaper, non-hypoallergenic formula. Your baby might tolerate it better this way. If your baby has to have this formula straight up, you’ll probably have to do whatever it takes to get them to eat this.
Speaking of smell, the other place that you’ll notice a bad smell this formula is in your baby’s stools and spit-up. Maybe it’s the way that it’s broken down, but this formula seems to make babies spit up smell extra sour. It also seems to make their stools have a much stronger and more distinct smell. However, the good news is that your baby will be doing less spitting up and less pooping, so you won’t have to smell it as often.
The final issue that you’ll probably notice if you try one of these formulas is how hard it is to mix. It’s kind of funny because you think that since some of the proteins and things were already broken down to make them easy to digest, it would also make them easy to mix. That’s just not the case. You really have to shake these bottles like crazy to get them even somewhat mixed. If you’re able to, you might want to find a small mixer to use on this formula. If not, you’re going to have to probably shake it multiple times during feeding to get it to dissolve.
Once it does dissolve, the texture of this formula is a little bit different too. It’s a lot thinner than other formulas. I think that’s because of the lack of milk proteins because this seems to be more noticeable in the Elecare than the Nutramigen. The texture is very thin and runny, more like breast milk than like traditional formula. This is good for some babies and not good for others. Thinner formula is usually not good for reflux, but since these are sensitive formulas, you might not have to deal with that problem.
One tiny issue worth mentioning when it comes to both of these formulas is that they are not non-GMO. Since both of these formulas use corn syrup solids and other vegetable oils as their main ingredients, finding a non-GMO source would be very good. Especially since these formulas are targeted for kids who have allergies, and lingering pesticides and herbicides could potentially irritate a sensitive child GI tract. This isn’t a complete deal-breaker, I just wish I could find non-GMO versions of these formulas. I feel like that would make them nearly perfect.
Enfamil vs. Similac
You may also want to compare formulas at the brand level. Read Enfamil formula vs. Similac formula for an overview of the main products by each of these leading manufacturers.