Baby formula, or also known as infant formula, is a synthetic food that is designed and made to resemble mother’s milk. It belongs to the class of food known as dairy substitutes. Starting in the 1940s, technology advanced to the point where new processing techniques were available. This enabled techniques such as homogenization and fluid blending to be used in the production of imitation dairy products such as baby formula. Infant formula was even sold as pharmaceutical product up until the early 1990s where sales representatives would market their brand of formula to pediatricians who would then recommend it to their patients. Now, in the United States (US), the infant formula is worth about $3 billion a year in sales with another $1 billion outside US. There is also some controversy when it comes to the marketing of baby formula as many believe that formula may not be as beneficial for babies compared to breast milk. There is also the issue where if the formula is not stored, mixed, or administered properly, it can make the babies ill. Another issue is that once mothers start formula feeding regularly, it can be difficult to revert to breastfeeding. Many experts including the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months. Breast milk should then continue to be part of the infant’s diet at least until the child turns 2 years old.
If you are going to start or have started feeding your baby infant formula, you should know that there are several questions you should explore:
- Will you be exploring the various brands that are available out there? Or do you already have one in mind?
- Is there one brand that is better than the other?
- Are there different types of infant formula?
While I cannot help you with the first two questions as it usually involves a process of trial and error, I might be able to help you with the third question. If you have spoken to experienced mothers who have used infant formula, you will find that while one formula may work for one child, the next child may not be fond of it. Personally, I know that my mother said I was a picky baby as she tried six to seven brands of formula before I finally was in favor of one. For the types of formula, there are three main types that are available. These are:
- Cow’s milk – Most infant formulas are made from cow’s milk that is modified in terms of nutrition to resemble mother’s milk. This ensures that the baby gets the necessary nutrients from the formula while also making it easier to digest. The majority of babies thrive on formula that is made from cow’s milk. However, there are also some cases where some babies are allergic to the proteins that are in cow’s milk. This means that they require other types of infant formula. Some children can be allergic to cow’s milk and some of the symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, failure to thrive (unable to gain weight and grow), hives, coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and more. If you suspect allergy, stop feeding the formula immediately and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Click here to read more about cow’s milk-based formula.
- Soy based – If your child is allergic to cow’s milk or if you simply want to exclude animal proteins from your child’s diet, you can try a soy based infant formula. Lactose intolerance is a common allergy, and this is a great option for those who are intolerant to cow’s milk. However, there are also some children who are allergic to both cow’s milk and soy-based milk. There are also many people who are concerned about soy based infant formula as soy contains compounds known as isoflavones that are referred to as phytoestrogens. This means that it is a compound that mimics the abilities of the hormone estrogen. Animal studies have indicated that there is a possibility of early onset puberty. To learn more about the potential side effects and alternatives for soy based infant formula, click here!
- Protein hydrolysate – These are formulas that contain broken down or hydrolyzed proteins. The proteins are broken down either partially or extensively so that the protein sizes are smaller than those that are in cow’s milk or soy-based formulas. This type of protein is specifically meant for those who are not able to tolerate cow’s milk or soy-based formulas. It is an option for children who have protein allergies. To read more about it, check out this site that explains more in detail about protein hydrolysate infant formulas.
- There are also specialized formulas for children with specific medical conditions or premature infants.
Infant formula can come in several forms and your choice would depend on your budget and convenience. It can be available as powdered formula (this is the least expensive), concentrated liquid formula, and ready to use (most convenient and also most expensive) formula.
The Pros and Cons of Infant Formula & How to Choose One
Generally, breastfeeding is always encouraged as it has been proven to be more beneficial for both the mother and child as it provides the essential nutrition the baby and promotes bonding between mother and child. It also ensures that the baby is protected for the first few months through the mother’s antibodies. However, there are some cases where breastfeeding is not possible. In these cases, you should understand the pros and cons of infant formula as it can also help you choose the best formula for your child.
If you are not able to breastfeed or choose not to breastfeed your child, you should not feel guilty about it! While breastfeeding has more benefits, infant formula has improved over the last few decades. It is now much better and can be said to closely resemble mother’s milk. As a mother, you should not only decide what is best for your child but also what is best for yourself as a happy mother is the best mother. If bottle feeding your child is what suits you most, it is also the best thing to do as it will meet your baby’s needs.
If you have financial constraints, you can choose a less expensive brand as most formulas are similar. Just make sure to avoid a formula that has low iron (make sure the formula says iron fortified). This is important as iron deficiency in the first few years can severely affect brain development. If your child has no known allergies, you can start with cow’s milk-based formula.
How to Prepare Infant Formula
Since powdered infant formula (the commonest) is not sterile, there might be bacteria that can cause illness in infants. These are the proper steps to start the preparation of infant formula.
The equipment such as bottles, teats, and lids you use for the feeding of your child should be cleaned and sterilized to remove harmful bacteria. To start, ensure that you wash your hands with water and soap. Proceed to wash all the equipment using hot and soapy water. Try to use a teat brush to scrub the insides and outsides of the bottles and teat. You should rinse all the above in clean water.
To sterilize, you can submerge the bottles and other equipment in boiling water. Ensure that it is completely submerged and there are no trapped air bubbles. Keep the pan covered until you need the equipment.
Before storing your equipment, make sure that you have washed and dried your hands. It is best to use a pair of sterilized forceps to handle the sterilized equipment.
Preparing infant formula
Start by cleaning the surface where you want to prepare the formula. Wash and dry your hands. Boil some water. Prepare the formula according to instructions on the packaging of the formula. Avoid scalding by pouring the right amount of hot water (no cooler than 70⁰C). Add the required amount of formula to the water. Mix by gently shaking or swirling the mixture. Cool to feeding temperature by holding it under cold running water or by placing it in a basin of cold water. Make sure that the level of the cold water is below the lid of the bottle to avoid contamination. Dry the outside with a clean cloth. Check temperature of the formula by dripping it on the inside of your wrist. Once it feels lukewarm, you can proceed to feed the formula to your child. If there is any leftover feed, throw the feed that is not consumed within two hours.
Preventing Formula from Being Frothy
This can be done by gently shaking or swirling the formula. If it is excessively frothy, you can use a spoon to scoop and remove the foam. You can also use a spoon to stir the mixture instead of shaking it to lessen the frothiness.
What to Do If My Baby Won’t Take Formula
You can start slowly introducing the bottle by offering the bottle after regular feeding. This helps the association of the nipple to the teat of the bottle. You can also introduce formula by giving your child a little taste using a soft spoon. Some mothers also use a medicine dropper to introduce the concept that milk can come from another source other than the breast. Some pediatricians have also recommended to let another person try to bottle feed your baby (mother has to leave the room to increase chances of success). There are also some mothers who have more success introducing formula when using a sippy cup. Lastly, be persistent and try not to give up!