Breast milk is the best food you can give to your baby. But sometimes, a mother may decide to formula feed her baby on account of medical, family or career reasons. In that case, how do you choose the best formula for your baby?
There are many kinds of formula available in the markets these days. You have least allergic formulas, easily digestible ones, soy based formula, lactose free formula and a lot more. Essentially, all formulas contain the maximum and minimum amount of nutrients as recommended by the FDA. Only the brand name differs and which one you choose is entirely up to you.
As a rule, infants who are not breastfeeding should be fed a formula based on cow’s milk and fortified with iron. Most regular formulas like Similac and Enfamil are made using cow’s milk proteins and lactose. Lactose is a carbohydrate and helps meet the baby’s energy requirements. Sometimes, children may not tolerate lactose very well. Lactose intolerance can cause gas and diarrhea in infants. In such cases, you can switch over to cow’s milk based formula that is free of lactose such as Lacto Free. Soy based formulas are a good option for infants with lactose intolerance. Brands like Enfamil ProSobee, Similac Isomil, and Nestle Good Start Supreme Soy are made using soy proteins and are free of lactose. Some infants may be allergic to proteins at large. In such cases, go in for elemental formulas which do not contain lactose. They are made from hydrolysate proteins and are easy to digest.
The next question is whether you should go in for powdered formula or concentrate or ready to feed formula? The answer again is entirely up to you. Their nutritional content is the same and their difference lies in their prices and mode of preparation. Ready to feed formula is sterile and comes in bottles with a sterile nipple. All you have to do is attach the nipple and you can directly feed it to your baby. If you opt for formula powder, you will have to measure out powder and mix it with the correct amount of water. You also need to ensure that the baby’s bottles are sterile. Some infant formula powders are available in single serve packets. They contain just enough powder to make a 4 ounce bottle and they are great for use while traveling or at night times. Formula concentrates come in cans and need to be diluted before use. Make sure you discard any leftover concentrate within a day.
The best infant formula is one that matches the constitution of breast milk. All infant formula companies try their best to make formula resembling breast milk. These days, several cows’ milk and soy based formulas fortified with ARA and DHA. These substances are essential for baby’s development and are found in breast milk too.
Allergy to any protein present in formula milk can result in formula intolerance. Colic, diarrhea, constipation, gas trouble and the like are problems associated with formula intolerance. If your baby suffers from any such problem, consult your pediatrician. He will be able to diagnose the problem and recommend the course of treatment.
In addition to regular formulas, there are some formulas designed especially for babies with inborn errors of metabolism and premature babies. There are also follow up formulas which you can use after baby has started eating solids. Some infants are especially fussy about accepting solid foods. In such cases, you can give him follow up formulas which are enriched with more iron and calcium than regular formula. Always consult your baby’s doctor before you make the decision to use follow up formula.
Remember to choose the formula that best suits your child because this will be your child’s primary source of nutrition for at least 6 months.