The medical profession, all the nutritionists, and every granny that ever lived will tell you that breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby.
That is indisputably true, but the reality of the situation is that there are a number of reasons why that may not be feasible.
If you are one of the many parents who is not able to breast feed, you will need to choose a baby formula for your child.
How to pick the Right Baby Formula
This can be an extremely stressful decision, because there are dozens of different options to choose from.
No matter which one you eventually choose you’re always afraid it will never be as good as breast milk.
You will meet a distressing number of people who feel the need to remind you of this.
The best thing you can do is take a careful look at the available formulas, and pick what you think is the best one for your child.
Then hold your head high in the knowledge that you have done (and are doing) the best you can for your child, and carry on parenting.
Of course, actually choosing between the different types of baby formula is a daunting task.
Types of Formula for Babies
Do you go with soy-based formula? Milk based? What are these new formulas all about – the ones that say they are “protein hydrolysate”? What does that even mean?
Should you go organic?
What is different about organic formula?
There are so many choices – how do you know you’ve made the right one?
The questions that parents torture themselves with are endless, and many people have trouble finding answers.
This article will cover the basic things you need to know to choose the best formula for your baby.
All baby formula is designed to resemble breast milk, but not all are nutritionally equal.
Baby Formula Nutritional Concerns
You need to consider where the nutritional elements of each brand of formula come from.
Manufacturers make baby formulas with a source of protein, a source of fat, a source of sugars or carbohydrates, and added vitamins and minerals.
Human milk is made up of water, fat, lactose, and protein.
The fat provides about 50% of the calories in breast milk, while the lactose provides 40%.
Manufacturers design baby formula to mimic breast milk, so it contains a similar amount of each type of nutrient.
Ingredient Quality in Formula
Some manufacturers use higher-quality ingredients than others.
It is important to understand not only what is in the formula, but where it is derived from.
Cow’s milk-based formula uses whey and casein to provide protein.
Soy based formula uses soy beans to provide protein.
Protein hydrolysate formula contains protein that has been broken down – or hydrolyzed – into smaller particles that are easier for delicate digestive systems to tolerate.
The fats in baby formula can come from many different sources as well.
They can come from vegetable oils, such as palm olein oil, coconut oil, and safflower or sunflower oil.
The sugars or carbohydrates in infant formula usually come from lactose, corn syrup, maltodextrin, or glucose syrup.
Formula Vitamin Levels
The vitamins and minerals contained in baby formula can also come from various sources.
It can be impossible to determine what the added vitamins are made from.
Some experts advise parents to avoid soy in formula because soy contains phytoestrogens.
Phytoestrogens are a substance that acts like the hormone estrogen in the human body.
It is believed that elevated estrogen levels may contribute to certain health problems later in life.
That said, soy-based formula has been in fairly widespread use since the early 1960s.
There have been no conclusive studies showing that it harms babies or sets them up for health problems later in life, so it may not be as harmful as feared.
Avoid Corn Sweeteners
It is best to avoid baby formula that has corn-based sweeteners.
Nutritionists have been speaking out about the negative health effects of corn-based sugars for decades.
If they are bad for adults, they are probably much worse for babies.
Formula containing palm oil may also be a poor choice.
Babies who are fed palm oil in formula have been shown to absorb less fat and less calcium from their formula.
You should choose an organic formula.
Your baby will be exposed to chemicals in every other aspect of their lives, so avoiding them in food as much as possible can only be a good thing to do.
Baby Food Styles
Baby formula comes in 3 different styles: ready to use, concentrated, and powdered.
Ready to use formula only needs to be heated up and it is ready to feed to the baby.
You must dilute concentrated formula with sterile water before feeding.
Powdered formula should be carefully measured and mixed with sterile water.
Take great care when preparing baby formula to make sure that bottles, nipples, and all associated tools are thoroughly cleaned and sterilized.
A dirty bottle can result in anything from soured milk to salmonella or worse.
Pros and Cons of Baby Formula Types
All three types of formula have advantages and drawbacks.
Ready to use formula is expensive, bulky, and heavy to carry around in a diaper bag, but it is always at the correct concentration, and is easy to prepare.
Concentrated formula is easier to transport, but more complicated to prepare, as you will always need to have sterile water available.
Powdered formula is the easiest to transport with your baby, but it needs more equipment to prepare properly and is more prone to clogging the nipple due to undissolved lumps.
Parents have told me that powdered formula has a somewhat chalky taste, as well, but I have never tried it to find out.
Baby Formula Dangers
One of the most dangerous things about baby formula is the fact that producers of formula try very hard to market it to absolutely everyone.
They are in the business of selling formula, after all, so of course they would like every woman to feed all her babies formula instead of breast milk.
They have come up with all kinds of innovative pressure tactics and advertisement methods worldwide to try to get as many customers as possible.
This has created some truly catastrophic results – for people living in poverty, especially, the use of formula can be disastrous for children’s health.
Best Practices for Baby Formula
Bottles and formula must always be prepared in clean conditions.
Parents may find it almost impossible to properly clean and sterilize bottles when cooking fuel and clean, potable water are scarce commodities.
Formula is expensive, as well, and there is always the temptation to use a little less of the concentrate or powder than recommended to make it last longer.
In the 1970’s it became public knowledge that Nestle had been so successful at marketing baby formula to poor mothers worldwide that literally millions of babies were dying of malnutrition and other illnesses due to the improper use of formula.
Formula manufacturers directed aggressive advertising at women in poor countries.
Even though it was obvious that many mothers could not afford to feed their babies full-strength formula, and that they lacked proper facilities to prepare formula in the necessary conditions, they still faced a constant barrage of advertising and propaganda.
Advertisers worked to convince them that if they did not choose to feed their babies formula, they were failing to give their children the best possible start in life.
The advertising campaigns were successful, and as a result, millions of children suffered permanent harm.
World Health Assembly Input
This tragedy led to the creation of the International Code of Marketing Breast Milk Substitutes by the World Health Assembly.
Advocates designed the code to stop companies from pressuring mothers or providing samples of formula in hospitals.
Many health watchdog groups say it hasn’t made much difference due to inadequate enforcement of the rules.
Breast milk changes as the baby grows.
As breast milk changes, it gives the baby what it needs to grow properly at each stage.
Changes in breast milk also help babies get used to fluctuations in the composition of food.
Formula stays the same all the time.
Babies need different amounts of different nutrients at each stage of growth.
Therefore, formula may not provide exactly the mixture of nutrients needed at each stage.
How Baby Formula is Formulated
Manufacturers make formula to closely match the composition of breast milk naturally produced for a baby of about three months of age.
This means that formula is at a sort of happy medium in terms of developmental needs.
Formula may not provide the exact amount of each nutrient a baby needs at each stage of development.
That said, baby formula is still much closer to the composition of human milk than is plain cow’s milk, or even goat’s milk.
Formula provides better nutrition than either cow’s milk and goat’s milk.
Choose your Babies Formula
Choosing a baby formula is not an easy task.
Once you have chosen a formula for your baby, you may end up switching to something different.
Sometimes your first choice doesn’t suit either your baby or you for some reason, so you may need to change.
In both cases, my recommendation is that whatever type of formula you choose, it should be an organic one.
The modern world exposes your baby to an astonishing number of chemicals every day.
Babies should not eat food that contains even traces of chemicals that are designed to kill things.
Above all, when choosing what to feed your baby, always remember that the most important “ingredient” in any baby’s life is a parent who loves them.