Amanda Davey

There is no convincing evidence for hydrolysed formulas in the prevention of eczema, food allergy, asthma or allergic rhinitis in infants and children.

Nor is there any evidence that soy or goat’s milk formula reduces the risk of allergies.

Hydrolysed formulas are made from cow’s milk, but the milk proteins are broken down into smaller components, so that the baby’s immune system is less likely to react to them. They are generally labelled “hypo-allergenic” or “HA”. Hydrolysed formulas are often recommended for formula-fed babies who have a family history of allergy, with the objective of preventing the baby from developing allergies.

This new advice that there’s no need for the more expensive hydrolysed formulas comes from the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology, in an update of its guidelines on the prevention of allergies in infants.

“If an infant is not breastfed or is partially breastfed, commercial infant formula should be used until 12 months of age,” the guidelines state.

However, based on a recently published review, there is no consistent evidence to support a protective role for partially hydrolysed formulas or extensively hydrolysed formulas for the prevention of eczema, food allergy, asthma or allergic rhinitis in infants or children, they add.

Dr Clever Banda, a consultant paediatrician and senior lecturer at the University of Queensland, says the new recommendation “should reduce costs for families who have been buying the generally more expensive hypoallergenic brands”.

“Again it puts breastfeeding rightly back in the limelight.”

However, the guidelines do note there is no consistent evidence that breastfeeding is effective for preventing allergies.

“Breastfeeding during the period that complementary ‘solid’ foods are first introduced to infants from 4 to 6 months may help reduce the risk of the infant developing allergies, although evidence for this is low,” they say.

But if breastfeeding is not possible, a standard cow’s milk based formula will suffice, they add.

Last Reviewed: 14/04/2016