Milk-based formula may lead to bigger babies than a protein-hydrolosate formula

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Monday, January 10, 2011; 7:45 PM


Milk-based formula may lead to bigger babies

THE QUESTION Might a baby's growth be affected by the type of formula he or she is given?

THIS STUDY involved 64 healthy infants, 2 weeks old, whose mothers had decided not to breast-feed but to use formula. The babies were randomly assigned to be given a standard cow-milk formula (Enfamil) or a protein-hydrolosate formula (Nutramigen), a type often given babies who cannot digest the proteins in milk- or soy-based formulas. Each month, the infants were weighed and measured and were videotaped during feedings. The mothers reported no differences in the babies' acceptance of the formulas, and the length of feedings did not vary between the groups. But infants given the hydrolized formula consumed, on average, less formula than the others before they were full. Differences in growth patterns emerged within two months, with infants given the cow-milk formula experiencing more-accelerated growth; the others gained weight at a normal rate. After seven months in the study, infants in the two groups had grown to virtually the same length. However, babies given the cow-milk formula were, on average, two pounds heavier.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Babies who are fed formula rather than breast milk. Some research has suggested that rapid growth during a child's first year increases the chances of developing such problems as obesity and diabetes later in life.

CAVEATS The study did not determine why weight gain differed by type of formula, but the researchers speculated that a baby metabolizes hydrolized proteins in a way that causes quicker satiation. Formulas used in the study were provided by their maker, Mead Johnson Nutrition.

FIND THIS STUDY January issue of Pediatrics (

LEARN MORE ABOUT infant formula at (click "Food," then "Food Safety") and

- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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