Special Formula Milk for Babies: What You Should Know

Michael Chitty · December 27, 2022
This article has been written and endorsed by the pharmacist Sara Viruega Encinas
Breastfeeding for the first 6 months is the ideal scenario, but there are sometimes reasons why this can't be done. We'll now have a look at special formula milks developed to help babies with different needs.

In some cases, pediatricians can recommend special formula milk adapted for babies with more specific needs, for which normal artificial milk isn’t adequate or sufficient.

During the lactation stage, the best food for a newborn baby is undoubtedly breast milk. However, on many occasions, and for different reasons, the mother will need to turn to formula milk. These days, there are also special types of milk available for babies with specific needs, such as premature or lactose-intolerant babies, for example.


As we’ve said, breast milk is the ideal food for a baby during the first 6 months of life. It has many special properties, including the following:

  • Adapts to the needs of each child, both in quantity and composition
  • Helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases
  • Helps the newborn’s immune system
  • Can help the mother to recover after childbirth, and accelerate the contraction of the uterus
  • Increases the mother-child bond

However, it’s not always possible for the mother to breastfeed the newborn baby. There are many complications that can arise, such as:

  • Mastitis
  • Cracking in the nipples
  • The inability of the baby to latch on to the nipple
  • Breast milk deficiency

It may also be the mother’s personal decision not to breastfeed.

Special Formula Milk for Babies: What You Should Know

Whatever the case, there are always alternatives perfectly adapted to the baby’s needs, such as artificial or formula milk. There’s also the option to do mixed feeding, when you alternate between breast and formula milk.

Artificial or formula milk

Special formula milk has been carefully designed to mimic breast milk as closely as possible. In the same way that breast milk changes to adapt to the needs of the baby as he or she grows, artificial milk also adapts to each stage of the baby’s feeding.

There are three main types of formula milk:

  • Starter: for the first 6 months of life.
  • Continuation: from 6 months to 1-year-old. After 6 months, you need to start supplementing the diet with cereals, fruits and vegetables, as milk on its own isn’t enough.
  • Growth: from 12 months to 3 years.

If you opt for artificial feeding, or if you have no option about it, then you need to be careful with hygiene. You’ll need to always properly wash the bottle, using mineral or boiled tap water.

Formula milk comes in powder form, and you need to add a cup of powder for every 30 milliliters of hot water. You need to be careful how you heat the bottle, since sometimes microwaves, for example, don’t heat evenly and can cause burns.

Special formula milk

As we’ve said before, within the range of formula milk, there are special types of milk adapted for babies with more specific needs for which a normal artificial milk isn’t sufficient or adequate. The pediatrician, in these cases, will recommend the most suitable milk.

Some of the cases in which it’s necessary to use special milk are:

  • Premature babies. For these cases, you can use formula milk with higher caloric density, higher protein intake, higher fat and better absorption. These are enriched with phosphorus and vitamins A and D. These are for babies with low weight.
  • Lactose intolerance. Here we use lactose-free formula milk, because these children don’t have lactase, which is the intestinal enzyme responsible for digesting this carbohydrate. Instead of lactose, experts add another carbohydrate, usually maltodextrin.
Special Formula Milk for Babies: What You Should Know

  • Allergy to cow’s milk protein. This formula milk contains protein hydrolysates – with an altered structure so they don’t cause an allergic reaction. Milk proteins are already partially digested, in smaller pieces, so that the intestine absorbs them more easily.
  • Regurgitation. There is anti-regurgitation formula milk that carries a thickener to increase the viscosity of the milk in the stomach to avoid or improve this problem. They also have lower fat content to favor gastric emptying. They used to be called anti-reflux formulas, but it was shown that they didn’t improve gastroesophageal reflux, but only regurgitation and vomiting.
  • Malabsorption
  • Inability to digest fat
  • Heart disease

Other types of formula milk

There are also other types of special formula milk for babies, such as soy formulas, useful in cases of galactosemia, although doctors don’t recommend them in children under 6 months. Other types of formula milk are for improving minor digestive problems or frequent symptoms, such as constipation or cramping.

In each specific case, the pediatrician will assess and determine the most appropriate type of milk for each baby. These types of special formulas shouldn’t be used without medical advice, as we can compromise the health of the little ones by exposing them to nutritional deficiencies or undue excesses.

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