As a new parent, choosing the right formula for your little one can be overwhelming. We’ve put together an expert guide to help you find the best formula for your baby.
Choosing infant formula is quite a tough call, especially for first-time parents. Walking down the baby aisle of any supermarket, you’ll be bombarded with so many options. Essentially, doctors recommend that moms breastfeed their babies. Baby formula is an excellent alternative to breastmilk. The right formula contains vitamins, nutrients and calories that meet your baby’s nutritional requirements. Below is what you need to know about infant formula.
Types of Baby Formula
The US law and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all commercial baby formula production. The FDA ensures that infant formula manufacturers meet the set safety standards. There are various types of infant formula.
Cow’s milk-based formulas
Often, doctors recommend infant formula made from cow’s milk. Cow’s milk-based formulas are the most common in the market today. They account for about 80% of the available infant formulas.
Cow’s milk is the primary basis and ingredient for such formulas. The milk undergoes thorough treatment procedures to make it safe for babies. These treatment processes, including heating, alter the milk’s appearance. Consequently, cow’s milk-based formulas resemble breast milk. These treatment processes also break down milk protein. Thus, the formula is easily digestible for your baby.
For cow’s milk-based formulas, the addition of lactose ensures an equal concentration to that found in breast milk. Vegetable oils replace the cow’s milk butterfat, enhancing digestion and infant growth.
Cow’s milk-based formulas have immense benefits for your baby’s growth. According to research, the iron-fortified formula prevents iron deficiency and anemia during infancy. Some babies lack sufficient iron reserves, inhibiting their growth and development. The iron-fortified formula is particularly essential for infants who aren’t breastfed and those who are partially breastfed. Ensure that you consult with your pediatrician before settling for iron-fortified infant formula.
The iron present in these infant formulas doesn’t cause constipation for the baby. Cow’s milk-based formulas also contain fatty acids that are beneficial for brain and vision development. Some formulas contain probiotics—the good bacteria found in the gut. Prebiotics-fortified milk formula stimulates the growth of a healthy intestinal lining.
However, cow’s milk-based formulas aren’t friendly for lactose-intolerant babies. They cause diarrhea, damaging the intestinal lining.
Soy-based infant formula comprises soy and carbohydrate. Unlike cow’s milk-based formulas, soy formulas have glucose or sucrose as the carbohydrate. Usually, babies may develop lactose intolerance for brief periods. During such periods, soy formula comes in handy as a perfect alternative. Before adopting a lactose-free infant formula, it’s best if you consult with a pediatrician.
Often, cow’s milk allergy causes colic and bloody diarrhea for babies. Milk allergy, to a great extent, slows a baby’s growth and development. However, babies allergic to cow’s milk might equally be allergic to soy formulas. For these allergic babies, specialized infant formula might be a useful option.
Additionally, soy formula is free from animal protein. If you want to introduce a strict vegetarian diet to your baby, soy-based formula is ideal. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends soy-based formulas for babies with galactosemia. Galactosemia is a rare disorder where babies become allergic to galactose. Such babies are intolerant to breast milk. Consequently, they require a lactose-free formula. Healthcare specialists conduct newborn galactosemia screening right after birth.
Protein Hydrolysate Formula
Protein hydrolysate formulas consist of proteins that have been broken down. Essentially, the protein is broken down partially or extensively for easier digestion. These formulas are ideal alternatives for babies allergic to cow’s milk or soy-based formulas.
Also known as predigested formulas, extensively hydrolyzed formulas are easily digestible for babies with protein allergy. However, these formulas are more expensive than the standard infant formulas.
Specialized Baby Formula
Specialized formulas are available for babies with certain conditions and disorders. Pediatricians recommend specialized formulas for premature babies. For specialized formulas, the feeding requirements are somewhat different from the usual infant formulas. Make sure to consult with your pediatrician regarding the amount, preparation and scheduling of formula feeding.
Infant Formula Preparations
Infant formula preparations come in three primary forms. Your choice depends on your budget and desired convenience.
- Powdered formula: It’s among the cheapest infant formulas. For powdered formula, you mix every scoop with water.
- Concentrated liquid formula: Similar to powdered formula, you should also mix concentrated liquid formula with water.
- Ready-to-use infant formula: As the name suggests, this formula is ready to use. It’s the most convenient formula option. However, it’s also the costliest infant formula.
Doctors recommend infant formula until the baby turns one and whole milk up to age two. When choosing a baby formula, ensure the container is sealed and in excellent safety conditions. Most importantly, do not purchase expired infant formula.