No doubt, you’ve been advised that breast milk is best for your baby. Yes, this is true, but in some cases, breast milk isn’t an option, or it’s the choice of the mother to use formula instead.
There are a number of things to consider when choosing a baby formula. You should consult your family doctor or other health professional before commencing formula feeding as it’s important to select the right one for your baby’s needs.
All baby formula brands on the market in the U.S. are FDA-approved which means they are manufactured according to U.S. health standards, and contain at least the minimum nutrient requirements.
Concentrated, ready-made or powdered?
- Liquid concentrate formula is less costly than ready-made and easier to prepare than the powdered kind. If space is at a premium at your house, concentrate will be more practical for storage.
- Ready-made formula is the most convenient by far. You don’t have to mix or measure, you simply open the container and it’s ready. Ready-made is ideal for travelling if you’re going to places where the water quality is questionable. Everything you need is right there for your baby. Just remember though, the containers will take up space, whether at home or out and about. Ready-made has to be used within 48 hours.
- Powdered formula is the best in terms of economy and because it comes in a single can, it results in far less landfill, and you don’t pay for excessive packaging. You’ll spend slightly more time preparing powdered formula but with a shelf life of one month after opening, it’s a great option. You can prepare as much or as little as you need. Waste is avoided best with powdered formula, and you can take measured portions with you when you go out.
Types of formula
The most common formulation is based on cow’s milk. Since babies’ digestive systems have difficulty breaking down cow’s milk, the proteins have been modified sufficiently to make it easier.
Some babies even find modified cow’s milk formula difficult to digest or, if you are vegetarian, you might like to try a soy alternative. Always consult your doctor before using a soy-based formula.
If your baby is diagnosed as lactose intolerant (meaning he is unable to digest lactose, the sugar found naturally in milk), your doctor may suggest a lactose-free formula in which a different sugar, such as fructose or corn syrup may be substituted.
Currently, according to the AAP, all healthy babies who are not exclusively breastfed should be fed iron-fortified formula until they reach one year of age. This is to prevent iron-deficiency anemia.
For babies particularly prone to constipation for whatever reason, low iron formulas are recommended because iron is believed to be a contributing factor in constipation.
Babies with special needs and unique nutritive requirements may be prescribed a metabolic formula. These are specialized according to the kind of condition.
If your baby suffers from allergies or has difficulty absorbing nutrients, your doctor may recommend a hydrolyzed formula. The protein is broken down into smaller molecules that babies find easier to digest.
All formulas contain essential ingredients for growth and development. Some are found in higher percentages than others so you need to check the labels, and if in doubt, consult your doctor. Carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals are the primary concerns and manufacturers aim to replicate breast milk as closely as possible by quantifying these elements accordingly.
As you can see, buying a baby formula is not a simple matter. The best way to ensure you select one that’s right for your baby, is to consult your doctor, lactation consultant or child health nurse and you will be set on the right path.