It is one of the first thoughts that may cross your mind shortly before your new little one makes an entrance into this world: Breast or bottle? Many parent’s-to-be find themselves leaning towards one option or the other without having much information on either feeding style. Most don’t realize just how important it is to be informed on exactly what is going into your developing infant’s body. For a lot of people the thought of mixing up a bottle of formula offers convenience in many different situations however, have you ever thought of what exactly is in infant formula?
Types of Formula
First of all, a new parent may want to consider the different types of formula available. Cow’s milk-based formula can be used by the average healthy infant. Soy formula can be used for babies that are lactose intolerant. Elemental formula is made to be used by infants with both milk and soy allergies. There are also special types of formula made for premature babies and toddlers that target specific needs for different developmental stages. Parents may also choose formula in a pre-mixed liquid or powdered form. Depending on your baby’s specific needs and level of toleration to a certain type of formula, choosing can be a risky game.
The Risks of Using Powdered Formula
While ready-to-use and concentrated liquid formula is available, powdered formula will be the most inexpensive choice. What could be so risky about using powdered formula? In an article in the The Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics, they reported a fatal case of meningitis linked to contaminated infant formula. The manufacturer voluntarily recalled the product but the incident brought light to the fact that infant formula is not sterile. As with any man made product there is always the risk of human error. Properly mixing and heating your baby’s powdered formula is very important to insure your baby’s safety. Contaminated formula can cause your baby to have stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Formula can also become easily contaminated if not stored properly after mixing, causing bacteria to multiply.
What is Formula made of?
Regular cow’s milk is too harsh for an infant’s digestive system. To make it more easily digestible, cow’s milk undergoes a process to make it into infant formula. The FDA requires that all infant formula produced in the United States meet certain requirements. Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that all infant formula include the following: protein, fat, Len oleic acid, Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, thiamin, riboflavin, B6, B12, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, phosphorus, iodine, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, carbohydrates, and nucleotides. Each brand of formula is made differently than the other but they all meet the minimum requirements by the FDA. Small amounts of melamine (a compound found in Chinese infant formula in 2008 in toxic amounts) have been detected in trace amounts in the U.S. however, the levels were found to be well within the margins of safety. Trace amounts of cyan uric acid were also detected in U.S. infant formula but were reported to be low enough to not be a safety concern.
Formula vs. Breast milk
Using infant formula is only one of many choices a new mother has before deciding how to feed her newborn. “Breast milk is best” can be found on many cans of infant formula and is the most ideal source of nutrition for an infant. Pediatricians will recommend breast milk for at least the first 6 months of life. In the event that it becomes medically impossible for a mother to breastfeed or if the mother chooses not to, the WHO has a list of recommended alternatives. The recommendations are as follows: nursing from the mother, expressed milk from the infant’s mother, breast milk from a screened and healthy wet nurse, breast milk from a human milk bank, and infant formula. Human milk is specifically made to meet the nutritional needs of your baby at each stage of his or her life. Breast milk provides essential antibodies to help your child develop and fight off infection. It can also change as your baby’s health requires by “grows” as your baby grows and adjusting it’s content from infant breast milk to milk for a growing toddler. While infant formula has continued to improve over the years, it is scientifically impossible to replicate the amount or quality of ingredients found in human milk.
Which Option Should You Choose?
The decision of which way to feed your child in the end is a very personal one. Being well informed on the choices that are out there is the first step. Beyond that, factoring in the mother’s health, financial constraints, and personal beliefs can help lead you in the right direction. Learning about what you will put into your infant’s body will be the first of many big decisions and precious gifts you give your child upon entering into this world. A combination of education and careful consideration should help in making the decision that is best fit for you and your baby.