Feeding infants can be tricky as they are unable to eat like adults.
In their first six months of their life, they require special nutrition in the form of liquids. The best option is their mother’s breast milk. However, it does not always work out for everyone. If that is the case for you, rest assured that formula still provides adequate nutrition for your baby.
Infant formula is perfectly safe as it is held to strict safety standards by Congress and the Food and Drug Administration. All infants who are not breastfed should drink formula until they are one year old. After that, they may be fed whole/vitamin D cow’s milk. Children under 2 years old should not drink low fat or skim milk.
There are a variety of options for formula and it can often be confusing.
Here is a brief description of each to help you make the right decision for your baby:
Cow’s Milk-Based Formula
This is the most common type of formula sold today and should be a first choice if a baby is not breastfed. This formula has cow’s milk as its base, but it is treated through pasteurization and other methods to ensure it is safe for infants. It is modeled after breast milk with added lactose (milk sugar) and fats to make it easily digestible.
Most formulas also have DHA and ARA (fatty acids) added to them, which are considered beneficial to the development of a baby’s brain and eyes. Since most infants do not have enough natural iron reserves, cow’s milk formulas are also fortified with iron.
Cow’s milk formulas are available in sensitive and gentle formulations which may help with issues like gas and colic. These formulas are available in a variety of forms, including powder, liquid concentrate and ready-to-feed cans.
Hydrolyzed formulas are often called “pre-digested,” which means their protein content has already been broken down. This makes the formula easier to digest for babies who cannot tolerate standard infant formula.
Hydrolyzed formulas may be used if your baby has a cow’s milk protein allergy or has a high risk of developing eczema or other food allergies. Speak with your pediatrician if you feel that your child may need a hydrolyzed formula. These tend to be more expensive than standard varieties.
These formulas contain a different protein (soy) and carbohydrate (either glucose or sucrose) from milk-based formulas. However, half of all infants who are allergic to cow’s milk formula are also allergic to soy-based formulas.
They may be recommended if your baby is unable to digest standard infant formula from having an allergy either to lactose or a cow milk protein. A baby may have trouble tolerating lactose after a bout of diarrhea, but this is typically a temporary problem and does not require a change in your baby’s diet. It is rare for babies to have a long term allergy to lactose.
It is important to talk with your baby’s pediatrician before changing his or her formula.
The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend low-iron formulas, since iron is an important mineral for growth and development in babies. It is important to note that iron in formula does not cause constipation, as some parents believe.
Specialized formulas are manufactured for premature babies, and for infants with specific diseases and disorders. If your baby is put on a specialized formula, follow your pediatrician's advice about feeding guidelines, as these requirements may be different from regular formula.