7 Best Baby Formulas for Colic in 2023: Buying Guide
When I introduced formula to my daughter, the initial brand I tried seemed to cause numerous issues. She experienced gas, restlessness, and prolonged crying spells, which left both of us feeling distressed.
Motivated to find a formula that would alleviate these discomforts while still providing essential nutrients for her growth and development, I embarked on a search.
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It’s important to note that baby formula should not be considered a substitute for breastmilk. However, it can be highly beneficial for babies dealing with colic and digestive problems. In this article, I will evaluate five baby formulas specifically designed to address colic and similar conditions. I will also provide guidance to help you determine the most suitable option for you and your baby.
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What Is Colic And What Causes It?
Colic refers to a condition observed in generally healthy infants, marked by persistent crying that lasts for over three hours per day, occurs more than three days per week, and persists for more than three weeks. While the precise causes of colic remain unclear, several factors are suspected to contribute to its development, including:
- Maturing digestive system
- Maturing nervous system
- Overstimulation from noise or light
- Food allergies
- Exposure to tobacco
- Infant acid reflux
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Signs Your Baby May Have Colic
Colic manifests in healthy infants, and it is important to recognize the following symptoms:
Persistent and intense crying:
The most prominent indicator of colic is excessive crying without an apparent reason. These crying episodes can occur around the same time each day, and the baby may be inconsolable. The duration of crying can vary from a few minutes to several hours, during which the baby may appear flushed and red-faced.
During crying episodes, the baby may exhibit signs of discomfort such as tensed muscles, clenched fists, an arched back, and drawing up of the knees. These postural changes may provide clues about the source of pain.
The baby may pass gas while crying, particularly if colic is triggered by indigestion or lactose intolerance. Pay attention to the timing of bowel movements, as they may occur shortly after the crying stops. Additionally, monitoring diaper expiration can be helpful.
Colic often disrupts the baby’s sleep, leading to irregular sleeping patterns punctuated by crying episodes.
Feeding habits generally remain consistent, but they may become irregular during crying episodes.
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Colic Remedies to Try
To alleviate colic, it is recommended to modify your baby’s diet and consider using a specialized formula designed for babies with digestive issues. Colic is often associated with difficulties in digesting lactose, a sugar present in milk, which leads to gas. Trouble digesting the proteins found in cow’s milk can also contribute to colic. The best formula for colic is formulated to break down these proteins into smaller, easily digestible parts. For babies with colic caused by lactose intolerance, a lactose-free or reduced-lactose formula can be beneficial.
In the meantime, there are several measures you can take to alleviate colic symptoms. Some babies find relief when gentle pressure is applied to their abdomen. Burping your baby and using anti-gas drops that help break up gas bubbles may also provide relief. If breastfeeding, monitoring your diet and avoiding foods that can cause gas, such as cauliflower, dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts, and fish, can be helpful.
While colic can be frustrating, it can usually be managed at home. It is important to distinguish between colic crying and crying resulting from a genuine problem. If you have concerns about making changes or the well-being of your baby, it is advisable to consult your pediatrician.
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What to Look For When Choosing Formula for Colic
When selecting a formula for colic, it’s important to consider various factors, including the ingredients, preparation method, feeding style, and any specific digestion or health concerns.
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Types of formula
There are different types of baby formula available:
- Ready-to-use liquid formula: This formula is pre-mixed and ready to be fed directly from the bottle. It is convenient but can be expensive.
- Concentrated liquid formula: This formula requires mixing with equal parts water before feeding. It dissolves well but can also be costly and needs refrigeration.
- Powdered infant formula: This formula needs to be mixed with water before feeding. It is the most common and affordable option in the market.
Milk or protein source
- Cow’s milk-based formula: It closely resembles breast milk in structure, but the proteins are broken down for easier digestion. It is the most widely used type of formula.
- Organic baby formula: This formula contains only organic ingredients, making it suitable for babies with specific intolerances.
- Lactose-free or reduced-lactose formula: Designed for babies with colic caused by indigestion or lactose intolerance, this formula substitutes corn syrup for lactose.
- Soy milk formula: This vegan alternative is suitable for babies allergic to cow’s milk. The plant proteins are modified for easier digestion.
Consider a colic formula that includes additives promoting growth, such as ARA, DHA, or iron.
Ease of digestion
Baby formulas are designed to be easily digestible through a good whey-casein ratio and hydrolyzation. Hydrolyzed formulas have smaller particles that are easier for the stomach to break down, making them ideal for colicky babies.
Infant formulas often contain prebiotics (galacto-oligosaccharides) that strengthen the baby’s immune system, and probiotics (beneficial bacteria) that promote healthy digestion, similar to breast milk.
If your baby has allergies, consider a hypoallergenic formula specifically designed for colic. Many brands offer hypoallergenic baby formulas.
When choosing a baby formula for colic, ensure that it is approved by the FDA. Avoid formulas with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) if that is a concern for you. Consulting a pediatrician can help you select a safe and suitable option.
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Reviews For The 7 Best Baby Formulas For Colic:
Enfamil NeuroPro Gentlease Baby Formula
This formula combines MFGM fat protein and DHA, which are unique to breast milk, to support development and provide relief for colicky babies. It has been clinically proven to promote cognitive development, similar to regular breast milk. The formula also includes natural prebiotics for immune support and easily digestible proteins, making it ideal for babies with colic.
Additionally, this formula can serve as a complete nutrition source for babies up to 12 months old. The Enfamil NeuroPro Gentlease formula contains a blend of essential nutrients, including omega-3 DHA, vitamins, and minerals, to support immunity and growth.
If you’re familiar with Enfamil, you’ll find that Similac is often considered to be of similar quality. If you’re interested, we have a detailed comparison of Enfamil vs. Similac in another article.
- Rich in vitamins and nutrients
- Available in various formats
- Breastfed babies typically transition well to this formula
- Does not contain GMOs
- Relatively expensive
- May cause gas in some babies
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Earth’s Best Organic Sensitive Baby Formula
Earth’s Best Organic Sensitivity Infant Formula is specifically designed for babies who are sensitive to lactose, which can contribute to colic and feeding difficulties. This formula contains 95% less lactose than regular milk-based formulas, making it easier for babies with lactose sensitivity to tolerate.
Lactose sensitivity can cause discomfort for babies, including stomach pains and gas. By significantly reducing the lactose content, Earth’s Best Organic Sensitivity formula allows babies with lactose sensitivity to enjoy their feedings. It is formulated with a blend of organic whey protein and organic milk protein to provide all the necessary nutrients without the lactose that may be causing colic symptoms.
For babies experiencing colic, an organic formula can have potential benefits. Organic formulas generally have fewer chemical exposures in their ingredients. Earth’s Best Sensitivity formula is organic and does not contain GMO ingredients or artificial growth hormones. It does, however, include important components like lutein, DHA, ARA, and prebiotics, which support the healthy development of the eyes, brain, and immune system.
- Organic: Being an organic formula, it reduces exposure to harsh chemicals.
- Reduced lactose: With 95% less lactose than regular milk-based formulas, it is easier to digest.
- Taste: Many parents have found that their babies enjoy the taste of Earth’s Best formula.
- Some parents have noticed inconsistencies in the texture of the formula from batch to batch.
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Similac Pro-Total Comfort Infant Formula with Iron
Similac Pro-Total Comfort provides a gentle and easily digestible formula for sensitive stomachs. This milk-based powder is formulated with whey protein hydrolysate, which makes it comfortable for even delicate tummies to digest.
Within just 24 hours, parents can notice a reduction in colic and gas due to the hydrolysate whey proteins used in this formula. Enriched with 2′-FL HMO, a prebiotic found in breast milk, it supports the development of a strong and healthy immune system. By alleviating the strain on your baby’s tummy, this gentle formula prepares them to combat potential stomach troubles.
To mimic the composition of breast milk, Similac Pro-Total Comfort includes a special blend of DHA and lutein, which are vital nutrients for brain and eye development. Additionally, this formula is free from GMO ingredients, artificial growth hormones, and palm olein oil.
- Whey protein hydrolysate: Naturally occurring protein in breast milk that is broken down for easier digestion.
- 2′-FL HMO: A prebiotic that supports the immune system to protect against illnesses.
- No palm olein oil: Palm olein oil can hinder calcium absorption.
- The powder may dissolve slowly and form lumps.
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Gerber Good Start Baby Formula Powder
This baby formula is highly recommended for colicky babies and serves as a great alternative to breast milk. It is specifically formulated to soothe colic and is gentle on the developing digestive system. The proteins in the powder have been broken down into small parts for easy digestion.
Colic can arise from a lack of probiotics in the baby’s digestive system. The Gerber Good Start powder contains probiotics, similar to those found in breast milk. These probiotics, particularly the L. Reuteri strain, have been shown through research to reduce crying episodes in colicky babies by half.
Additionally, the powder includes comfort proteins that are easily digestible, promoting soft stool and reducing gas when the proteins, carbohydrates, and lactose blend. It is rich in DHA, which supports eye and brain development. The formula is free from GMOs and is considered safe.
- Mixes evenly
- Contains easily digestible comfort proteins
- Soothes colicky babies
- Occasional constipation may occur
- Can cause gas in some cases
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Enfamil Nutramigen Infant Formula
This formula is ideal for babies with allergies and provides relief for colicky babies. It is a hypoallergenic formula that undergoes extensive hydrolyzation for easy digestion. The proteins in this formula, derived from cow’s milk, are broken down into small, easily digestible parts that do not trigger allergic reactions in the gut. It is particularly recommended for babies with multiple allergies and conditions like eczema rashes.
The formula contains Lactobacillus Rhamnosus CG or Enflora LLG, a specialized bacteria that helps babies who have experienced allergic reactions to cow’s milk develop tolerance. It allows babies to consume cow’s milk, which closely resembles the composition of breast milk. This formula can also be used for toddlers to maintain a consistent diet.
Additionally, the formula includes DHA and ARA, which are beneficial for brain and eye development. These omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids promote healthy growth. It also contains iron, promoting strong and healthy bones in your baby. Lastly, it is free from lactose and sucrose.
- Fast relief for colic
- Effective for allergies, including eczema
- No need for gripe water
- Strong odor
- Relatively expensive
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Baby’s Only Organic Sensitive LactoRelief with DHA & ARA Toddler Formula
The standout feature of this formula is its organic composition. It is free from GMO ingredients and does not contain hexane-processed DHA, making it a preferable choice for eye and brain development. The formula combines proteins, carbohydrates, essential fats, and vitamins necessary for optimal growth. It is made from natural ingredients, without the addition of corn syrup or palm oil, and is also gluten-free.
According to CleanLabelProjet.org’s testing, Baby’s Only organic formula was ranked as the best in terms of purity and superior nutrition among more than 500 baby foods and formulas. It is manufactured in the USA and the packaging is BPA-free.
- Provides fast relief for colic
- Contains essential ARA and DHA for development
- Organic formulation
- Relatively expensive
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PurAmino Hypoallergenic Infant Drink
If your baby is experiencing allergies to multiple foods, the PurAmino formula is worth considering. It can serve as a milk substitute when your baby is having allergic reactions. This formula can be used as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for up to 6 months and can be used as a supplement up to 2 years of age.
PurAmino is an amino acid-based hydrolyzed formula designed for infants and fortified with iron and other essential nutrients. It contains DHA and ARA, which support the development of the eyes and brain. It has been proven effective in managing allergies to cow milk proteins and can be used as a complete substitute. It provides complete nutrition for both infants and toddlers.
- Effective for managing protein allergies to various foods
- Suitable for infants and toddlers with allergies to cow milk proteins
- Contains additional nutrients for growth and development
- Unpleasant smell
- Relatively expensive
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Buyer’s Guide On Best Baby Formulas for Colic
When your baby is experiencing colic, finding a solution becomes a top priority. Colic can be frustrating and distressing for both parents and infants, and finding the right remedy is not always straightforward.
Before considering a formula change, it’s important to acknowledge that there is still some uncertainty surrounding colic. Colic is often characterized by excessive crying, fussiness, and crying without an apparent cause. It can also lead to gas, which further contributes to crying and fussiness.
The exact causes of colic are not fully understood, although there is a link to feeding. Food allergies or sensitivities can cause discomfort, prompting many parents to switch formulas in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms.
Here are some factors to consider when selecting a formula to address colic and gas:
Lactose sensitivities can contribute to colic symptoms, as lactose can be difficult to digest and can lead to gas. Many sensitive formulas reduce or eliminate lactose to make the formula gentler on the stomach and reduce fussiness.
Protein is essential for a healthy diet, but it can be challenging for a developing digestive system to process. Some colic-specific formulas use alternative protein sources, such as soy protein or hydrolyzed proteins that have been broken down into smaller, more easily digestible pieces.
During the first few months, a baby’s immune system is still developing, and illnesses can exacerbate colic symptoms. Choosing a formula with immune system-supporting ingredients can help strengthen their immune defense.
Premium formulas often include additional nutrients like DHA, ARA, 2′-FL HMO, and lutein to support overall development. Specific nutrients like probiotics and prebiotics, such as L. reuteri and LGG, can be found in some sensitive formulas to address colic symptoms.
Organic vs. Non-Organic:
While there is no guarantee that going organic will alleviate colic, organic formulas generally have fewer chemical exposures, which can benefit babies with intolerances. However, organic formulas tend to be more expensive, and their effectiveness in improving colic symptoms varies.
Strong-tasting formulas can sometimes contribute to feeding difficulties if babies dislike the flavor. Sensitive formulas may have a stronger taste and smell, so it’s worth considering the baby’s preferences when choosing a formula.
Some formulas naturally produce more bubbles when prepared, leading to increased gas. Thicker textures can be beneficial for babies with acid reflux. Carefully mixing the formula can help reduce bubbles, but it’s important to be mindful of the formula’s inherent characteristics.
Sensitive formulas often come at a higher price due to the careful selection of ingredients. If budget is a concern, trying alternative methods for addressing colic, such as adjusting feeding positions or engaging in soothing activities, before switching formulas might be worth exploring.
It’s important to remember that finding the right formula or approach to ease colic symptoms can be a trial-and-error process. Understanding your baby’s needs and consulting with healthcare professionals can help in making an informed decision.
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FAQs: Best Baby Formulas for Colic
Can Baby Formula Help With Colic?
Although there is no cure for colic, studies have indicated that formula-fed babies are more prone to experiencing colic compared to breastfed babies. Ideally, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by continued breastfeeding alongside the introduction of appropriate solid foods.
However, we acknowledge that breastfeeding may not always be feasible, and in such cases, using baby formula is a suitable alternative. If your baby is affected by colic, there are various remedies to consider that may provide relief, such as swaddling, rocking, rhythmic noise and vibration, or taking them for a car ride. Additionally, choosing an infant formula designed for colicky babies can be helpful.
There are excellent infant formulas available in the market that are formulated to be gentle on a baby’s developing digestive system. If you decide to switch formulas, it is important to follow your pediatrician’s guidance and recommendations, as changing formulas too quickly or frequently can cause further discomfort for your baby.
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Can Changing Formula Help Soothe Colic?
While switching formulas may provide relief from colic, it is not a guaranteed solution. Colic is often associated with digestive problems, and using the wrong formula can result in discomfort and increased gas. Lactose and difficult-to-digest proteins commonly found in formula can contribute to colic symptoms. Opting for a sensitive formula designed to address these issues can help alleviate discomfort and promote more enjoyable feedings.
However, changing the formula may not always be the appropriate approach. Modifying feeding techniques, such as slowing down the feeding pace or adjusting the feeding position, can also be effective in managing colic. These alternative strategies can help address the underlying causes of colic and contribute to a more comfortable feeding experience.
How Long Does Colic Last?
The duration of colic varies, but it usually starts around three weeks of age and may persist until the baby reaches three or four months old. While the timeframe for colic is relatively short, it can feel much longer when every feeding session becomes stressful and challenging.
To alleviate colic symptoms and provide essential nutrients for your baby’s growth and development, it is important to choose a suitable formula. With numerous infant formula brands available, our top recommendation, based on our review, is the Gerber Good Start Gentle Powder infant formula for colic.
This formula is not only cost-effective but also provides rapid relief from colic symptoms. Unlike other formulas, it contains probiotics that have been shown to reduce colic episodes by up to 50%. The formula also includes comfort nutrients to soothe your baby. Additionally, it is fortified with DHA, which supports the development of the eyes and brain. While it may occasionally cause gas, a content and happy baby outweigh the inconvenience of occasional gas.