The Ins and Outs of Hypoallergenic Formula

Newborn (0-4 months)

Your baby’s doctor may recommend a hypoallergenic infant formula If cow’s milk protein allergy is suspected. Hypoallergenic or "HA" formulas are made with proteins that have been broken down into very small pieces called “peptides” and/or “amino acids”. These smaller proteins in infant formula greatly lower the chances of causing an allergic reaction. These types of infant formulas have been used to manage cow’s milk protein allergy for over 50 years.

Hypoallergenic Formula for baby

In order to be labeled “hypoallergenic,” studies must show that babies with cow’s milk protein allergy are able to drink the formula with a low risk of having an allergic reaction.


Different proteins, different formulas


There are two types of formulas usually recommended for cow’s milk protein allergy: Formulas made with extensively broken down proteins and those made from amino acids, very small compounds that are the building blocks of proteins.

Extensively hydrolyzed formula


Extensively hydrolyzed infant formulas go through a process called “hydrolysis” to extensively break proteins down into very small pieces. It’s basically a form of “predigesting” these proteins in order to lower the chances that the proteins will cause an allergic reaction. For most infants and young children with an allergy to cow’s milk protein, this type of formula is effective and well tolerated.


Amino acid formula


Amino acid formulas, sometimes also called elemental formulas, contain amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. Amino acid infant formula may be a good option for babies who are more sensitive to milk protein, have multiple food allergies or if their symptoms are not improving on an extensively hydrolyzed infant formula


Regular milk-based
infant formula
Milk-based partially
hydrolyzed formula
Milk-based extensively
hydrolyzed formula
Amino acid formula
Not hypoallergenic Not hypoallergenic Hypoallergenic Hypoallergenic


Always use hypoallergenic formulas under doctor supervision


Hypoallergenic formulas are lactose-free, and some even contain a special type of fat called “medium chain triglycerides” or MCTs, which are easily absorbed by babies. In some cases, formulas with MCTs can even help fat absorption in babies whose digestive system has been damaged from the allergy. This makes hypoallergenic formula with MCTs a good option for babies who may have cow’s milk protein allergy.

Soy-based infant formulas are not recommended for infants with cow’s milk protein allergy, because many infants with cow’s milk protein allergy will also have an allergy to soy protein.