When it comes to feeding your baby, all doctors agree that unquestionably, breastfeeding should always be the first choice as breast milk is far superior to any formula designed for babies. However, sometimes, breastfeeding just isn’t in the cards and that is when baby formula comes into the play. Choosing the best infant formula can be a daunting task for parents because it is going to be the primary source of nutrition for the first year of life meaning that it is important to make sure all their adorable needs are met. Getting enough nutrients from either of the baby formula options well help promote your baby’s growth and prevent nutrient deficiencies. ( Image Credit: Tung256/Pixabay)
But how to decide which one you should get home when there is such a vast array of products on the store shelves? Dozens of brands and a multitude of types of baby formula are available on the market.
What is infant or baby formula?
Most baby formula is made from cow’s milk that has been modified so that it suits your baby’s nutritional needs.
How long should an infant drink baby formula?
Pediatricians generally recommend infant formula until age of 1 year old, followed by whole milk until the age of 2 years old. However, each infant may have certain needs regarding their health and nutrition, thus it is important to always talk to your child’s doctor for specific guidance.
Types of baby formula
Baby formula is designed to be similar to breast milk, but ingredients may vary to cover certain needs and preferences of all infants. Baby formula comes in three different forms such as powdered, liquid concentrate, and ready-to-feed. Ready-to-feed baby formula is often more convenient for parents, it tends to be the most expensive and once opened, it needs to be used more quickly. Powdered formula is the least costly type you can buy on the market. Liquid concentrate formula is slightly faster to prepare than the powdered one as there is no powder to dissolve, but the cost is also a bit more expensive. There are several basic formula types that you can choose from to be more suitable for your infant’s needs:
- Cow’s milk-based formulas: this type is usually suitable for most babies if they are not allergic or have an intolerance to its ingredients. It consists of cow’s milk that has been treated to be more digestible by and suitable for infants.
- Gentle formulas: gentle formula options have less lactose than regular milk-based formula. These options are more suitable for babies who experience problematic symptoms such as gas or fussiness.
- Lactose-free formulas: it is a milk-based formula with lactose sugars removed for babies with potential lactose intolerance.
- Added rice starch formulas: added rice starch formulas have been designed for babies with excess spit-up or acid reflux which can be very uncomfortable for the infant. The added rice starch helps keep the formula down.
- Soy formulas: for babies with galactosemia, lactose intolerance, and milk protein allergies, pediatricians recommend this alternative of soy formula.
- Hypoallergenic formulas: babies with milk protein and soy allergies should be fed with hypoallergenic formulas as they feature pre-digested proteins for easier absorption.
- Amino acid-based formulas: suitable for infants with milk protein and soy allergies who don’t tolerate an elemental formula.
- Formula for premature babies: Premature babies have certain needs for healthy growth and development. Therefore, formula options for premature babies contain more calories and added nutrients.
- Toddler formulas: As babies grow up, parents need to provide them feeding options that will provide them with the necessary amount of nutrients and calories they need according to their body. Toddlers between the ages of 9 and 24 months can progress to this type for richer nutrition.
Signs of formula intolerance
Distinguishing what is normal from potentially abnormal in babies can be challenging for parents. Parents tend to be overprotective with their infants because they are aware that they are more sensitive to everything, so they might perceive any sign as a problem. Pediatricians commonly hear parents worrying for everything that their babies do such as crying or spitting up. But these behaviors are often normal but can also indicate an underlying problem such as formula intolerance. Formula allergy and intolerance often display similar symptoms including:
- Spitting up and vomiting – all babies have harmless episodes of spitting up small amounts after being fed. Yet, vomiting may be a sign of formula intolerance when it is persistent. Moreover, it is usually accompanied by poor weight gain and abdominal bloating.
- Diarrhea- New parents usually have a hard time distinguishing normal baby stools from diarrhea. While infant stools are normally slightly loose and frequent, watery stools and excessively frequent stools may signal formula intolerance. Formula allergy also displays symptoms such as bloody stools.
- Skin rash- itchy, scaly rash usually accompanies food allergies so it can also be a sign for a formula allergy. The rash primarily makes its appearance in the face, scalp, arms, and legs of infants.
- Fussiness- this symptom is usually characterized by inconsolable crying, abdominal distension, gas, and signs of abdominal pain. It often appears as a sign of baby formula intolerance.
If your infant is having problems with their formula due to intolerance or allergy, simply choose another type of baby formula. Only changing the brand of the baby formula may not be good enough to stop the problematic symptoms.
The top ten baby formulas, ranked by HMHB include:
- Enfamil Infant Formula
- Similac For Supplementation Non-GMO
- Earth’s Best Organic Diary Infant Powder
- Gerber Good Start Soothe Non-GMO Infant Formula
- Alfamino Infant Amino Acid-Based Formula Toddler Formula
- The Honest Co. Organic Premium Infant Formula
- Baby’s Only Organic Non-GMO Dairy
- Similac Go&Grow
- Gerber Good Start Soy Non-GMO Powder
- Similac Expert Care Alimentum Hypoallergenic Infant Formula
Until your child is about 6 months old, the baby formula will take care of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and those middle-of-the-night wake-up calls. That is what your baby needs to grow healthy and strong. It is important for parents-to-be to not stock up before birth because the best choice will depend on their infant’s specific needs.